It’s better to be proactive when it comes to your cybersecurity as hackers in threat landscapes are always finding new vulnerabilities that haven’t been discovered yet while security teams aim to create threat detection solutions to predict what hackers will do next. How does one understand what a hacker’s next move will be and how do you create solutions for managed threat detection to protect businesses from threats that have not yet emerged? To find an answer first one has to know what is cyber threat intelligence. This article will explore what cyber threat intelligence is, how it is gathered, and why businesses need it.

What is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) is the actionable knowledge of cyber threats that can be used to better inform decision-making about mitigating risks to protect an organization’s network. It provides meaningful information for understanding cyber risks and answers the “who, what, when, where, and why” of all cyber attack incidents. In ransomware prevention, vulnerability management, incident response, and security strategizing, cyber threat intelligence is used. Data for CTI can be generated internally from an organization's data sources or externally from third-party providers.

Advanced Threat Detection

Taking CTI one step higher is advanced threat detection which is a proactive method of identifying and stopping cyber threats before they cause harm. Advanced threat detection uses a variety of techniques that include anomaly detection, event correlation, pattern matching, statistical analysis, and machine learning or artificial intelligence.

Threat Hunting

A common topic also discussed by CISOs regarding threat intelligence is threat hunting. This is the proactive search for Indications of Compromise (IOCs) and malware within an organization's network infrastructure and data stores. Unlike traditional cybersecurity approaches that focus on known threats, threat hunting searches for unknown threats that have evaded detection. Threat hunting begins with building a comprehensive baseline understanding of what "normal" looks like for an organization’s network. This allows threat-hunting teams to identify patterns that deviate from the norm and investigate them further for possible malicious activity.

Cyber threat intelligence, advanced threat detection, and threat hunting are all important aspects of proactively identifying and stopping cybersecurity threats before they cause damage.

What Is threat intelligence

How is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important for Businesses?

  • Better Decision Making: CTI enables organizations to anticipate, identify and understand potential threats and vulnerabilities that could impact their operations. Armed with this intelligence, businesses can make informed decisions about their long-term strategies, investments, and risk management.
  • Impactful Employee Training: CTI helps businesses identify specific threats and vulnerabilities relevant to their industry and technology stack. This information is valuable for tailoring employee training programs, ensuring that staff is equipped with the knowledge to recognize and respond to potential cyber threats.
  • Strengthening IT Infrastructure Without Pressure: By providing insights into emerging threats and attack vectors, CTI allows IT and cybersecurity teams to focus their efforts on the most critical areas. This helps alleviate the pressure on staff and ensures that resources are deployed efficiently to address the most pressing security concerns.
  • Updating Intel for Security Solutions: CTI provides real-time and up-to-date information about the latest threats. This allows organizations to promptly update their security solutions, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software, to better defend against evolving cyber threats.
  • Avoid Bad PR and Financial Losses: In the event of a security breach, having access to CTI can help organizations respond swiftly and effectively. By understanding the nature of the attack, businesses can minimize the impact, avoid prolonged downtime, and reduce the likelihood of reputational damage.

Types of Threat Intelligence

Three distinct categories of threat intelligence are:

  • Tactical threat intelligence: This is focused on short-term threats and how to mitigate them. Using knowledge of the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) of attackers, this technique offers solutions to specific threats. Front line security personnel, IT admins and security professionals use these quite-technical solutions.
  • Operational threat intelligence: This approach is primarily concerned with the motivations and tactics that the cyber threat actor employs. By understanding the attacker behind the threat, this method helps to mitigate breaches as they develop or entirely preempt one by using data to predict the next move. Besides, cybersecurity professionals this technique the most.
  • Strategic threat intelligence: Unlike the other approaches, strategic threat intelligence is geared towards long-term goals. This, together with it usually being less technical in nature, makes it perfectly suited for executive leaders. Using this technique can steer the company into a more secure position.

How is Cyber Threat Intelligence Gained?

The process works in a cyclical manner which forms a healthy feedback loop. This is because threat intelligence exposes more vulnerabilities which help to make better-informed decisions, which can then uncover more vulnerabilities - and so on. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the threat intelligence process:

Step 1: Planning

The first step is proper planning to set out a scope and specific goals. Intelligence like this can be used for a diverse range of purposes, including the identification of specific weaknesses in existing security systems. Additionally, a variety of people within a company and IT teams use cyber threat intelligence to mitigate the risk of a breach. On the other hand, broader pieces of information are ideal for business executives and decision-makers who want to push the business in the right direction. The planning stage should take this into consideration.

Step 2: Aggregation

Once there is a clear roadmap in place, it’s time to collect all the raw data needed. This data can come from a range of sources, including but not limited to:

  • Internal traffic logs
  • Public data sources
  • Recent incident responses
  • Social media, and forums

Step 3: Processing

Raw data might contain all the necessary components of good cyber threat intelligence, but it is not coherent enough to understand. The raw data collection processing stage aims to take this raw data and transform it into something that can be read and interpreted properly. Those in charge of the threat intelligence operation or security operations center will process the raw data using spreadsheets, translations, decryption, and much more. This allows it to be moved to the next stage for analysis.

Step 4: Analysing

Analysing organized data is one of the most crucial parts of the threat intelligence operation. This is where answers are formed, theories are developed, and recommendations are made. Relating back to the planning and research phase, the team will come up with a series of analytical insights of the threat landscape, that can be easily understood and shared with all the relevant parties.

Step 5: Sharing

The sharing stage can take varying formats. However, the core principle here is to present intelligence in a way that is easily understood. After the reports are shared, organizations should act swiftly and concisely without confusion.

Step 6: Feedback

The sixth and final step of the cyber threat intelligence cycle is feedback. In the feedback stage, it will be decided if the results of the operation satisfy the goals set out in the planning stage. This is also the stage in which the results can be applied to real-life scenarios and used to make decisions. The cycle repeats later on when more threat intelligence is required.

What is Threat Intelligence Used For?

Threat intelligence can be diverse depending on its purpose and requirements. Security, analytics, and incident response teams, along with managers and many others can use it to their advantage. Here are some more tangible examples:

  • Incident Response - Incident response plans are a complex and integral part of cybersecurity for any organization. Cyber threat intelligence plays a small yet significant role in incident response as the knowledge gained may be used in any stage of IRPs - from planning and preparation to identification and more. Knowing more about what you are up against puts you in a better security position.
  • Decision making - Business leaders make decisions that affect the future and growth of a company all the time. Cyber threat intelligence plays a big role in making those executive choices. Two key areas that can benefit from threat intelligence are risk and vulnerability analysis. The former refers to the process of risk modelling which is a method of understanding the likelihood and potential severity of an event happening. Here, cyber threat intelligence can inform and provide statistical evidence to reinforce the integrity of claims. The latter is the process of analysing weaknesses in an organisation's security system. In this case, threat intelligence helps inform analysts and empower them to identify vulnerabilities more easily, quickly, and accurately.
  • Security teams - IT and security teams rely on accurate data for most of their work. Security teams do everything from suggesting new technologies that may benefit the business and alerting management of potential risks to filtering through alerts and much more. Threat intelligence empowers them to work more accurately and efficiently - which has the potential to make their jobs more automated and less monotonous. With more information, these teams can quickly identify false alarms, real threats, and keep tabs on movements in the industry.
  • Providing external analysis - A lot of threat intelligence pertains to the inner workings of a business. However, A large portion of intelligence applies to everything surrounding the business. This includes employee training, communications to media houses and publications, investor relationships, and your overall brand image. For example, organizations commonly use threat intelligence to analyse current cyber-attack trends. A noted rise in website spoofing and phishing attacks may prompt businesses to introduce a training course to educate employees on the dangers and warning signs of such an attack. Similarly, threat intelligence can include preventative information and fraud prevention tactics deployed by businesses in your industry. It will help a company stay up-to-date and prepared.

Sangfor Neural-X

Sangfor Neural-X is an AI-powered cloud-based intelligence and analytics platform. Cyber threat intelligence is at its core - organising, processing, and analysing an array of information to understand and defend against threats. Its specific design allows it to work together with other Sangfor solutions, such as the Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) and IAM to provide a more robust and protected system.

Click here to learn more about Sangfor Neural-X and Threat Intelligence. Alternatively, get in touch with a member of our team to get more assistance.

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