Leveraging Threat Intelligence to Enhance Cyber Security

Joshua Horton

Threat intelligence is cyber-security data that has been collected and analysed to help an organisation understand the motives, attack behaviours and targets of a threat actor. Using this evidence based knowledge, an organisation can make security decisions that are informed that are fast and proactive as it moves to counter threat actors.

Unfortunately, APTS (advanced persistent threats) and cyber security defenders are always trying to outsmart each other. Therefore, information on the next likely move of a threat is vital in tailoring your defences early enough to pre-empt any future attacks.

The Importance of Threat Intelligence

Cyber security threat intelligence solutions gather data on the current and emerging threats and actors from several sources. This data is then processed, filtered and tabulated to produce information that an organisation can act upon in creating automated security systems. If the organisation implements such information well, it is able to achieve the objectives listed below.

  • It removes the element of surprise by becoming proactive in future cyber threats.
  • It keeps the organisation up to date in terms of recognition and defences against tons of threats, vulnerabilities, bad actors and targets.
  • Threat intelligence helps stakeholders understand the likely repercussions of threats and plan for the worst-case scenarios.
  • Security professionals can also know the decision-making process of the threat actors to determine where they are likely to hit next.
  • Businesses can invest wisely in solutions to help mitigate risk and make fast, efficient decisions.

Threat Intelligence

Indicators of Compromise (IOC)

Unfortunately, the threat landscape is always evolving. Organisations are usually under unrelenting pressure to manage new vulnerabilities. Threat intelligence can help identify indicators of compromise and suggest steps that the organisation can take to prevent attacks. Here are some of the IOCs.

  • Email addresses, attachments, links and email subjects: Threat actors may use email addresses to entice users to click malicious links or attachments and start an infection command.
  • IP addresses, domain names and URLs: Actors can use any of these to inject malware where an internal host communicates with a threat actor’s website.
  • DLLs, file hashes and filenames and registry keys: Threat actors may use infected parent or external hosts to attack a local network of terminals.

Who Uses the Threat Intelligence Information?

As indicated above, threat intelligence may help organisations of various sizes and shapes to understand and proactively respond to imminent security threats. Unfortunately, most organisations treat threat intelligence as a separate function in the security apparatus resulting in many positions not getting access to the vital information. The following positions can benefit greatly from threat intelligence and should get timely access to it.

IT Analysts

Security analysts are in charge of incidence response in organisations. Threat intelligence can help them automatically identify and dismiss false positives. It can also enrich threat alerts with some context and risks scores in real-time. Besides, they can also use intelligence reports to compare information from various sources. Finally, it enables faster identification of risks, thereby getting more time to act.

Security Operations Centre (SOC)

SOC teams can benefit from threat intelligence in several ways:

  • It helps simplify incidence analysis and filter out false alarms.
  • Help in triaging threats and pick the real threats
  • Filter out threats that the organisation has sufficient defence against or not relevant to the organisation.

Intel Analysts

Analysts are tasked with determining threat actors that are targeting the organisation. Threat intelligence helps in the following:

  • Uncover the real security threats to the organisation
  • Prioritise the biggest threat against which the organisation is vulnerable
  • Communicate evidence-based information fast to other IT security teams

Executive Management Teams

These teams create policy and allocate resources to specific departments in the organisation. Threat intelligence helps them in the following ways:

  • Determine the biggest risks that the organisation faces
  • Ares that require policy review and additional financial support

How to Choose a Threat Intelligence Solution

There are tens of threat intelligence services in the market today that offer diverse solutions, including threat intelligence feeds, intelligence platforms and tailored threat intelligence solutions. There are also open-source (OSINT) solutions that can also offer insights. This makes it hard for most organisations to zero in on the best solutions. This is complicated by the fact that no provider offers all the solutions in one package. Here are a few tips for choosing the best solution.

What Information Do You need?

It is important to prioritise areas for which you need information assistance and use them as the base to pick the best solution. Determine the most valuable threat feeds to your organisation, the objectives of your security teams and the most vulnerable targets that require active defences. Pick a tool that offers information for each of these concerns.

Active Threat hunting

By the time you detect an active threat, it may be too late. You must look for a product that regularly updates its detection systems so that it actively hunts for threats before they target your organisation. One important feature is dark web monitoring. The feature helps identify any likely threats to customers’ or organisation data in the dark web

Threat and Vulnerability prioritising

There can be tens of vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit. A good TI solution should prioritise these vulnerabilities according to the apparent risk. On the other hand, it should arrange threats from the most likely or destructive to the least ones for structured responses.

Ease of Use

A tool may collect information but does not present it in a way that the security teams can use to make quick, informed decisions. Other solutions provide information that is too broad that it is hard to sort. An ideal tool should collect lots of security information and present it in a way that it is actionable.

Go for a comprehensive threat intelligence solution that meets your need and offers valuable, actionable information to your cyber-security teams.

Joshua Horton