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The What, Why, And Who Of Threat Intelligence

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By: Prasanna Peshkar

July 23, 2021

In the world of cybersecurity, the ability to predict imminent attacks even before they enter targeted networks can assist companies in prioritizing their responses and speed up the decision-making method and response period, giving better security collectively. This is why cyber threat intelligence was launched.

Unknown enemies have seemingly unlimited resources, putting stress on security leaders to constantly evaluate every phase of their security program. People, methods, and technologies must be evaluated to assure each important element is optimized to fight advanced attackers. But without extensive cyber threat intelligence (CTI), this can seem like a firefighting exercise rather than a stopping effort.

What Is threat intelligence?

Threat intelligence, or CTI, is data a company applies to recognize the threats that have, will, or are currently disturbing the company. This data is utilized to plan, stop, and identify cyber threats looking to take hold of resources. In other words, threat intelligence is data that is gathered, prepared, and examined to determine a threat actor’s goals, objectives, and attack operations. Threat intelligence allows companies to make quicker, more knowledgeable, data-backed decisions and improve their performance from reactive to proactive in the battle against threat actors. CTI is evidence-based information about attackers– their goals, plans, abilities, actions – concentrated on an event, series of events, or inclinations, and implementing decision support to the defender.

Most common cyber threats

A cyberattack is a malicious and intentional effort by a person or company to breach the system of another person or company. Normally, the attacker explores some interest by disturbing the victim’s network. Below are some of the most common cyber threats:

Malware: Malware refers to malicious apps, such as spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. Malware breaks a network via a vulnerability. When a user clicks a malicious link or email attachment, then that installs malware on the system.

Phishing: Phishing is the use of false information that seems to come from a reliable source, normally through email. The aim is to snatch sensitive information like credit card and login details or install malware on the victim’s computer. Phishing is a frequent cyberthreat.

Man-in-the-middle (MitM): It is also known as eavesdropping attacks, which happen when attackers inject themselves into a two-party deal. Once the attackers disrupt the traffic, they can separate and steal data.

Denial-of-service: A denial-of-service (DoS) attack overflows systems, servers, or channels with traffic to drain resources and bandwidth. As a result, the server is incapable of satisfying genuine requests. Attackers can also utilize various compromised machines to launch this attack.

SQL injection: A Structured Query Language (SQL) injection happens when an attacker injects malicious code into a machine that utilizes SQL and commands the server to disclose data it usually would not. For example, an attacker could perform a SQL injection by putting malicious code into a weak website search box.

Zero-day exploit: A zero-day exploit strikes after a network vulnerability is published but before a patch is completed. Attackers target the exposed vulnerability during this period. Zero-day vulnerability warning disclosure needs continuous awareness.

DNS Tunneling: For malicious practice, DNS requests are manipulated to withdraw data from a hacked machine to the attacker’s servers. They can also be utilized for command and administration callbacks from the hacker’s machine to a compromised machine.

Why Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?

Today, the cybersecurity world encounters various difficulties — determined and devious threat actors, false alarms over various unrelated security practices, and a severe deficiency of skilled professionals.

Some companies try to include threat data feeds into their system but don’t understand what to do with additional data. This additional data creates difficulty for analysts who may not have the tools to determine what to prioritize and overlook.

Cyber threat intelligence can solve each of these problems. The most reliable solutions combine automated information gathering and processing, current solutions, ingesting unorganized data from different sources, and then connecting the dots by giving information on indicators of compromise (IoCs) and the plans, methods, and procedures of threat actors.

Lifecycle of Threat Intelligence

So, how does CTI work? It is important to understand that unorganized data is not like intelligence — CTI is the complete product of a cycle of data gathering, processing, and interpretation. This method is a cycle because new problems and holes in knowledge are recognized while improving intelligence, driving new gathering conditions configured. An efficient intelligence plan is iterative, becoming more subtle over time. Here is the lifecycle of threat intelligence:

Planning: The first move to generating actionable threat intelligence is to ask the correct questions. The problems that best approach the formulation of actionable threat intelligence concentrate on a particular event, situation, and widespread movement.

Collection: The next move is to collect unorganized data that meets the conditions established in the first step. It’s most helpful to gather data from a wide variety of sources — in-house ones like network event logs and reports of a past incident, external ones like the dark web, and technical causes.

Processing: Just collecting data is not sufficient. That data also needs to be ordered, arranged, and refined to help further investigation. Metadata tags are attached at this stage, while unnecessary, inappropriate, and inaccurate data is excluded. Teams may also create data into spreadsheets, decrypt encrypted files, and interpret data from external sources.

Analysis: Once data is processed, the next step is analysis. The main intentions here are to know the data, examine it to detect if it meets the conditions and goals recognized in the first phase and seek possible security issues.

Dissemination: The results of the analysis are given to the relevant stakeholders. To keep the flow between one threat intelligence cycle and the next, every detail of intelligence distribution must be followed. A ticketing arrangement that various people can use is highly beneficial in this respect.

Feedback: Once the report is submitted, stakeholder feedback is sought to decide whether modifications must be made to goals, conditions, report plans, threat intelligence services and systems, and/or preferences.

The Three Key Types of Threat Intelligence

Three key types of threat intelligence are:

Strategic: It gives a complete picture of the company’s threat scene, such as uncertainties, trends, and threat actor goals. Since the team comprises senior officials and other important decision-makers, this intelligence is less specialized. It normally needs huge amounts of research, so a solution that automates data gathering will be beneficial.

Operational (Technical): Technical threat intelligence concentrates on getting essential operational features, such as cyber-attacks and threat actor capacities, infrastructure, and TTP. It usually involves technical data from threat intelligence services that allow security teams to optimize cybersecurity services through more focused and prioritized activities.

Tactical: Tactical threat intelligence involves contextual data about TTP and focused vulnerabilities. It allows security teams to accurately identify threat vectors and how the company can stop or decrease possible attacks. Teams can also use this data to improve current security processes and expedite incident response.

Who is A Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst?

A CTI analyst is a security expert who advises and interprets cyber threat data to give actionable intelligence. These specialists triage data from security incidents gathered from various threat intelligence sources. They then analyze the pattern of attacks, their system, angle, sharpness, and threat aspect. This data is then interpreted and refined to generate threat intelligence feeds and reports that enable the administration (security officer) to make appropriate judgments about organizational security. Usually, these people are Certified Threat Intelligence Analysts who have both the experience and skills required for the job role.

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