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What is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

As organizations inch more toward digitization, the threat landscape is also proliferating with time. It is becoming a daunting task for every organization to address both emerging and existing cyber threats mainly due to the complex and dynamic nature of the cloud. 

Traditional tools provide protection to a certain extent, but they don’t cut in when it comes to emerging cyber threats. What could be done to address modern cyber threats? Cyber threat intelligence has emerged as a key tool to address all the challenges. It enables security teams to collect, process, and analyze data to get clarity on the attacker’s motive, attack behavior, and targets. 

It not only helps organizations to efficiently prevent threats but also guides them to make faster and data-driven decisions against threats. In this blog, we will dive deep into cyber threat intelligence along with its type, key components, golden rules for implementation, and other vital details. 

Let’s get started! 

What is Cyber Threat Analysis?

Cyber threat analysis refers to the methodology or process of identification, evaluation, and understanding of the properties of potential cyber threats that might attack the cloud environment or network. This security process involves security intelligence, forensics, and data analysis that helps evaluate potential threats in the system and prioritize them. 

An effective cyber threat analysis lays the basic foundation for actionable and proper cyber threat intelligence. When it is combined with an organization’s security strategy, it helps in assessing the security protocols, procedures, processes, and infrastructure to identify threats and gather information regarding future threats. 

As cyber threats evolve with time and gain sophistication, threat analysis helps organizations understand the threat strategies and gaps, thus helping them stay ahead of attackers. It is a proactive security measure that performs a continuous assessment of files to discover threats. When it discovers a threat, the threat gets documented and blocked before it can make any impact.

Why is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?

In the modern cybersecurity world, attackers and cybersecurity teams are constantly coming up with new processes to outmaneuver each other. Threat intelligence serves as a vital tool for the cybersecurity team by providing them with knowledge about attackers’ next work, which helps the team customize defenses and prevent attacks. 

Basically, cyber threat intelligence is the end product of threat analysis as it provides the threat data needed to enhance the overall security posture. What makes it more important? The huge threat intelligence information it provides to organizations helps them to take corrective measures and remediate gaps that might be exploited by future vulnerabilities. 

Besides, cyber threat intelligence prepares organizations with predictive capabilities and takes necessary security measures to prevent unknown cyber attack. Importantly, it alerts security stakeholders by revealing the attacker’s motive, tactics, techniques, and procedures, ultimately helping them to get insight into the attacker’s decision-making process. 

Another factor that makes cyber threat intelligence important is that it empowers CISOs, CTOs, and other business stakeholders to make corrective decisions and achieve better mitigation efficiency. Threat intelligence also has the capability to integrate with enterprises at every stage and help in containing attacks quickly.

What is a Threat Intelligence Platform?

A threat intelligence platform is a technology that automates the process of collecting, aggregating, and organizing threat data in a centralized repository from different sources and formats. A TIP collects a huge amount of threat intelligence data, which is first aggregated in one place and then presented in a usable format. 

It plays a vital role as it provides the security team with the necessary information regarding possible threats, enabling the team to make accurate threat identification, investigation, and mitigation. Leveraging this platform, threat analysts can focus on potential security threats and take corrective measures to prevent all possible attacks. 

Through this platform, you can share all your threat intelligence data with your stakeholders and security system and make data-driven decisions. Moreover, it also shares insight into SIEM, firewalls, EDR, and SOAR, helping in delivering better threat management. Even though many industries utilize TIP as software as a service, it can also be utilized as an on-premises solution.

What Does Threat Intelligence Do?

What Does Threat Intelligence Do

Threat intelligence is not only about providing the organization with valuable information regarding possible threats; it helps an organization in many other ways. Here are some aspects that threat intelligence does to an organization:

Enhancing Defense Mechanism:

Threat intelligence allows your organization to enhance the defense mechanism by helping you to identify potential threats and understand the motive and process of threat actors. Leveraging this information, your security team can make changes and enhance the security posture.

Threat Hunting

Using the threat data, the security team and threat analyst can proactively hunt for potential threats that can jeopardize the workflow of the organization. It helps in discovering unknown threats that can exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access.

Shift in Security Approach

It enables organization to bring a change in their security approach against threats actors and transform their behavior from reactive to practice. It allows them to proactively look for threats and take necessary steps before they can make any impact.

Mitigating Risks

By identifying the potential threats and understanding the threat actor’s motive and process, your team can devise the mitigation strategy to prevent the attack. By mitigating the risks, it helps the organization prevent huge financial and reputational damage.

Strategic Decision Making

Threat intelligence data is vital in the strategic decision-making process of your organization and helps you move in the right direction. By providing insight into potential threats, it helps you in deciding resource allocation, security control integration, security policy implementation and future security planning.

Information Sharing

Using threat intelligence, your security team can share threat data with your stakeholders and other organizations to make better decisions. It promotes collaborative effort and enables you to help your peers enhance overall defense against advanced and unknown threats.

Who is a Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst?

A cyber threat intelligence analyst is a security personnel whose task is to monitor, collect, and analyze external threat data to help organizations with actionable threat intelligence. These security experts are also known as CTI analysts, who assess all the data collected from different sources and understand the pattern of attack and motive behind the threat. 

Then, they process all the data to create threat intelligence feeds and provide actionable reports to the security teams and other stakeholders. These analysts leverage their knowledge and experience on malicious software and other security tools to accurately identify, measure, and counter potential security threats. 

These individuals not only closely monitor indicators of compromise but also assist teams in taking necessary steps to secure assets that need immediate protection. Rather than making a generalized report, analysts prioritize threats and focus on the one that can make the most impact. Besides gathering data and analyzing threats, cyber threat intelligence analysts also provide recommendations on mitigation processes and future security strategies.

Types of Threat Intelligence

Types of Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence empowers organizations with critical data regarding potential as well as existing threats. 

However, every organization has its specific intelligence data requirement, and it can use simple threat data regarding a malware variant or complex data regarding a malicious actor’s motive and processes. Due to varying requirements, threat intelligence is categorized into four different types: 

Operational Threat Intelligence

Operation threat intelligence is all about tracking and focusing on tools and methodologies that attackers utilize to carry out a successful attack. It enables analysts to identify threat campaigns and understand the nature, motive, timing, and process of an attack. 

Unlike others, operational intelligence requires a lot of resources, and they have immense usability because attackers don’t easily shift from existing TTPs, leading to longer usable life. Usually, the information is sourced from adversaries’s chat rooms or community discussions. From SOC, incident response, and threat monitoring to vulnerability, operational threat intelligence is suitable for many cybersecurity domains.

Strategic Threat Intelligence

On the other hand, strategic threat intelligence gives every organization an overview of its cyber threat landscape. This intelligence is mainly meant for executive-level professionals who need to understand the organization’s threat posture for the organization’s strategic planning. 

It provides executives with insight into vulnerabilities, potential risks, and other threats along with attackers profiling, goal, and severity of the attack. It is considered hardest to generate as intelligence gathering requires human data collection and assessment with intricate knowledge about cybersecurity. 

Besides, strategic intelligence also provides an overview of how global events, international activity, foreign policies, and other events can impact the cybersecurity of an organization. 

Tactical Threat Intelligence

Tactical threat intelligence mainly focuses on detecting specific malware types and details of attackers’ TTP through indicators of compromise. The details generated by this threat intelligence are mainly consumed by cybersecurity solutions and security teams to detect and mitigate potential threats. 

The organization utilizes intelligence to build its defense strategy and remove vulnerabilities in the network that attackers can take advantage of. This threat intelligence is easiest to generate, and most of the time, the process is automated. 

However, the lifespan of the data is short because IOCs can become obsolete within days or hours. The biggest challenge is finding the right source to generate data and minimize false positives.

Technical Threat Intelligence

It is a specialized type of threat intelligence that emphasizes specific evidence of a threat or incident and provides a base for a thorough investigation. The analysts assess the evidence for indicators of compromise that encompasses phishing email contents, malware samples, malicious URLs, and quarantined IP addresses. 

The analysts have to be quick in their investigation and share them with the stakeholders because IOCs have a very short lifespan. The data are hard to get as technical threat intelligence looks for certain evidence in an attack. It is quite different from operational threat intelligence as it is adaptable and allows analysts to adjust their tactics.

Key Components for Actionable Cyber Threat Intelligence

Cyber threat intelligence is a vital aspect of every modern organization because it helps them identify, analyze, and block potential cyber threats. However to make the threat intelligence actionable, there are certain key components that must come into play. Here are those key components:

Threat History Data

For an actionable threat intelligence, your security and threat intelligence team will need a lot of threat history data sets that will help them in investigation purposes. Machine learning and cyber threat analysis put forward a lot of valuable insight into various threats. 

Threat intelligence can offer an increased amount of threat information when it is fed with large datasets which ultimately help in blocking more threats. With increasing data sets, the ML-based analysis algorithms also improve and provide more accurate insight.

Cyber Threat Analysis

Cyber threat analysis plays a crucial role in cyber threat intelligence as it provides the data needed for intelligence. A cyber threat intelligence is actionable when it is backed by an effective and efficient cyber threat analysis. As modern threats are getting sophisticated, advanced cyber threat analysis techniques are coming up to provide actionable intelligence.

Automated Detection and Mitigation

A cyber threat intelligence system needs the support of specialized tools that will automate most of the tasks. It should be able to identify threats automatically and take proactive steps to block all the detected threats. 

In modern times, manual detection and blocking of threats won’t simply cut it, as the number of threats is increasing with time. Having a unified threat management can help automate a lot of tasks and block threats across the globe.

Machine Learning Capabilities

An actionable threat intelligence needs to have the support of machine learning capabilities as the number of threats is increasing with time, and common threats are evolving rapidly. Machine learning benefits threat intelligence in many ways, as it can quickly identify patterns and predict threats from a large data set, which can be used by analysts to identify advanced threats. 

However, developing machine learning capabilities for threat intelligence systems is not easy as the organization needs to consider certain requirements. An organization requires proper dataset diversification, where it should consider malware impacting organizations of different types, sizes, and locations. 

It requires multilayer processing, which improves detection accuracy and enables the security team to achieve context-rich and prioritized detection. By augmenting the result of multilayer processing, machine learning can improve its self-learning curve and achieve better precision and detection speed. 

To build effective machine learning capabilities, organizations also need to work on domain knowledge and continuous learning because it will help in improving the overall detection capability.

How to Implement Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Implementing cyber threat intelligence in your organization is not an easy task, but following certain steps can easily achieve the task. Here are the steps to implement the threat intelligence:

  • Step 1: The first thing you will have to do is define the primary requirement and objective of the implementation.

  • Step 2: It is important that you should identify threat vectors before you start gathering threat information.

  • Step 3: You will also have a list of all the personnel who will be involved in the implementation process. You should consider experts who have experience with threat intelligence tools and techniques.

  • Step 4: After defining the threat vector, your next task is to gather all the required threat information from a huge threat data set. Various techniques are involved during the extraction process to gather the information accurately.

  • Step 5: The extracted information is then analyzed by threat intelligence analysts utilizing various technologies and tools, providing accurate information of possible threats. The extracted threat information also goes through structured processing that aids in identifying and blocking threats.

  • Step 6: Your next task is to share the accurate information about security threats with stakeholders, security teams and other executives. The information is then utilized to harden the security controls against possible security attacks. The information sharing also helps the organization across the world to block the attack.

Golden Rules for Implementing a Cyber Threat Intelligence Program

Implementing a cyber threat intelligence program is a vital requirement for most organizations as it will help them stay ahead of potential and emerging security threats. 

However, there are some golden rules you need to follow to properly establish a cyber threat intelligence program. Here are those golden rules:

  • You need to create a plan before you start the implementation of a cyber threat intelligence program.

  • To successfully implement the program, you need to involve the right experts, especially individuals with experience in threat intelligence.

  • You need to understand how threat data is different from threat intelligence. Threat data is the large data set that is sourced from different repositories which is then processed, aggregated and analyzed to extract threat intelligence.

  • You also need to build communication so that you can seamlessly share all the threat intelligence.

  • You need to identify who will require the threat intelligence you extracted and then share it with them.

  • Implementing the right TTP will ensure effective implementation of the threat intelligence program.

  • You need to integrate the cyber threat intelligence program with your organization’s existing security technology for a successful implementation.

Planning for a Threat Intelligence Program

When planning for a cyber security threat intelligence program, there are many aspects that you need to take into consideration, which will ensure successful alignment with the organization’s security strategy. Here are the key aspects we are talking about:

Defining the Scope and Objective

The first thing you need to consider when planning for a threat intelligence program is to define the scope and objective behind the program. 

To define the scope, you need to identify the type of vulnerabilities and threats your program needs to cover so that you protect your organization from such attacks. Once you define the scope, you need to specify the objective and make sure it aligns with the organization’s overall security strategy and goals.

Building The Team

You need to consider building a threat intelligence team when planning for a CTI program as they are one who will help in establishing the program. You need to gather a team threat intelligence analyst and define roles and responsibilities according to their capability.

Creating the Threat Information Collection

To help the program gather all the relevant threat information, you will have to identify the threat intelligence sources. When you select the right sources, it enables the program to identify the emerging and potential threats you need to prevent. The sources can be internal or external as long as they are collected using the right TTP.

Establishing Processes for Analysis

It is important to include which analysis process would be utilized to analyze the collected threat intelligence data. You need to consider the right tool and techniques for the analysis that would not only extract accurate threat intelligence information but also prioritize them based on severity. 

Along with the processes, you also need to consider technologies that would be involved during analysis which will enhance the accuracy. Involving automation will help you quickly identify the threat and block them.

Communication Plan For Sharing Information

While planning for the threat intelligence program, you also need to devise a communication plan so that the threat intelligence is shared with the right stakeholders at the right time. You also need to identify the stakeholders with whom you will share the threat intelligence and the format so that it is easily accessible and actionable.

Choosing the Threat Intelligence Platform

You also need to take into account the threat intelligence platform that you will utilize. There are numerous threat intelligence platforms in the market and you need to select based on your requirement and budget.

Threat Intelligence Program Review

It is best to review the threat intelligence program to understand whether it will be successful or not. The review will help you get an overview of the areas where you need to make changes, and implementing corrective measures will help you to improve the program.

Final Words

Cyber threat intelligence has become a priority for most organizations in the world because it provides the right information required for cybersecurity solutions. It not only helps organizations to identify potential threats but also aids in making strategic decisions for the future. 

Through this article, we have explained in detail what is cyber threat intelligence along with associated information that will give you an in-depth idea. A thorough read will help you to understand cyber security threat intelligence and how you can utilize it. 

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Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, currently co-founds CloudDefense.AI, a cybersecurity solution with a mission to secure your business by rapidly identifying and removing critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code. With a background in Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, they contributed to various software and security roles.
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