Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI)

Cyber threat intelligence

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is a framework for collecting, processing and analyzing data to detect threats and attack patterns that help defenders protect their networks against cyberattacks.

Tactical CTI provides real-time event and activity tracking to support daily security operations such as vulnerability management, incident response and threat monitoring.

What is Threat Intelligence?

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) is the practice of using advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to synthesize multi-source cybersecurity data into actionable information that enables security teams and tools to detect current threats as well as predict their next moves, providing knowledge to help protect systems, employees and customers from severe attacks that would otherwise go undetected.

Cyber Threat Intelligence starts with direction and planning: understanding which sensitive information or business processes need protecting, as well as what security operations need to be in place to detect breaches. Once this has been accomplished, then prioritizing what needs to be protected along with resources needed for its protection will follow. Once direction and planning have been implemented data collection can take place from various sources including traffic logs, open-source feeds, in-house threat intelligence services vertical communities commercial services dark web intelligence etc.

Analysis is key in creating actionable cyber threat intelligence from raw data. This step usually encompasses three components – actors, intent and capability – such as attacker motivations, target access rights and TTPs employed against them; network vulnerabilities which might be exploited and potential exploit vectors for exploited vulnerabilities in a system.

What are the types of Threat Intelligence?

Cybersecurity threats have become more complex over time, with thousands of attack techniques and millions of malware variants that pose threats to organizations. To manage this complexity effectively, organizations are investing in more advanced defense technologies as well as setting up Security Operations Centers (SOC).

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is an integral component of today’s cybersecurity programs, but what exactly is it and how does it function? Threat intelligence refers to any information regarding potential attackers provided from either external providers or collected internally within an organization and used to prevent and mitigate attacks.

Threat intelligence requires contextual data. This includes TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) used by hacker groups as well as types of attack vectors targeted by attackers. This data can either be integrated directly into security tools or provided as a feed directly to security staff in order for them to better comprehend and prioritize potential threats against their organization.

Next comes processing data to make it actionable for its target audience, either through human analysis of information or technical processes such as reverse engineering to understand malware workings. Once processed, information may then be packaged and disseminated via various channels – automatically integrated into security systems, delivered as feed to SOCs/analysts/feeder SOCs/analysts etc, email/webinar etc etc.

What does Threat Intelligence do?

Threat intelligence tools gather raw data on existing and emerging threats and threat actors, including indicators of compromise (IoCs) such as malicious URLs or emails, malware hashes, suspicious IP addresses, unexplained network traffic spikes, unusual file activity or any other common signs of cyberattacks. Once collected, this data is then analyzed and structured to produce intelligence feeds and reports for consumption by automated security solutions that will detect or stop future attacks.

Strategic intelligence provides high-level insights on trends within the cyber threat landscape, helping executives with no security background to understand how these threats could impede business processes and make decisions that align with organizational goals and objectives. Furthermore, this type of threat intelligence helps reduce future attacks by understanding which tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) adversaries employed during past attacks.

Operational threat intelligence provides SOC analysts and threat hunters with insight into adversarial tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). IoCs can then be used to identify specific threats which can then be analyzed further for details such as nature, timing, motive and intent of attacks – with reports being distributed through dashboards, alerts or reports to security teams, management, customers, stakeholders or any other internal or external audiences in order to improve cybersecurity visibility and effectiveness.

Why is Threat Intelligence important?

Threat intelligence assists organizations of all sizes to gain a deeper insight into their attackers and make data-backed security decisions. For small to midsize businesses (SMBs), this can make all the difference between reacting to cyberattacks or taking proactive measures against them before it has an impact. At larger enterprises, threat intelligence helps reduce costs associated with hiring expert security analysts while simultaneously giving existing resources more value by giving them context needed for quick identification and mitigation of threats.

Defense against attacks is a complex undertaking and requires an ongoing, proactive strategy. Without the appropriate tools, it would be impossible to stay ahead of an attacker who constantly tries to outwit defenders. Threat intelligence platforms combine precise analysis tools, machine learning capabilities and extensive threat history data in order to detect and block threats automatically.

Threat intelligence teams utilize a structured process for direction, collection, processing, analysis, dissemination and feedback that is borrowed from military and governmental intelligence agencies. This provides them with a standardized framework for organizing, filtering and presenting data to their audiences; for example tactical threat intelligence involves gathering evidence of attacks such as indicators of compromise (IOCs). Cybersecurity solutions then use this evidence to detect and eliminate the threat. Strategic threat intelligence provides high-level analyses for non-technical audiences focused on overall attacker trends and motivations that drive broad business risk management decisions.

Types of threat intelligence

Cyber threat intelligence helps businesses of all sizes understand how they can protect their systems from attacks and improve their security posture. Utilized automatically via integration with security tools or manually via threat intelligence feeds, this information can identify vulnerabilities quickly, respond proactively to incidents quickly, make better staffing, equipment and budgetary decisions and more effectively plan staffing needs and costs.

Gathering cyber threat intelligence encompasses six stages, starting with planning and direction and continuing through collection, processing, analysis, dissemination and feedback. The initial stage involves setting goals and objectives for the threat intelligence program while simultaneously determining what data must be protected and prioritized accordingly.

Next comes collection, or gathering raw threat intelligence from multiple sources – open source intelligence, vendor feeds and self-sourced. Once collected, information must be processed – this involves verifying and validating data points before aggregating into meaningful views for stakeholders in an easy-to-use format. Tactical cyber threat intelligence often features technical details that identify indicators of compromise (IOCs) such as IP addresses, URLs, file hashes or malicious domain names – often delivered as feeds with limited shelf lives.

What are the common indicators of compromise?

Cyber attackers leave many indicators of compromise (IoCs) behind when breaching an organization’s systems, which can help detect cyber attacks as they happen and defend against future ones. IoCs provide valuable evidence against further cyber-attacks.

IoCs may include traffic to unfamiliar IP addresses, outbound connections to malicious websites, spikes and dips in network traffic as well as cybersecurity incidents associated with known threat actors and malware. By understanding what methods attackers are employing against them, organizations can better defend against attacks.

Recurring IoCs can indicate that an organization is being targeted by the same attacker or type of attack. For example, multiple instances of malware that utilizes standard mutex objects could signal that this attack requires further analysis and more robust responses from cybersecurity teams.

IoCs can be used to identify potential attackers and their motivations. If an organization is being attacked by hackers from one country or region in particular, this information can help strengthen defenders’ understanding of them as well as their methods.

What are the available Threat Intelligence tools?

IT teams can use threat intelligence platforms to quickly and automatically gather information that alerts them of possible threats in their networks. These platforms do this by comparing data across sources across their networks and then relaying this information directly to security staff for review.

Operational threat intelligence enhances your security posture by identifying attack patterns, enabling you to swiftly respond to potential threats. This form of intelligence is usually seen by individuals and teams responsible for network security, architecture and administration as well as IT service managers or incident response and protection team leaders.

Strategic Threat Intelligence encompasses your entire threat intel program and may include research, historical observations and trends that affect your business. It’s typically presented in report form with recommendations to decision makers and strategists.

ManageEngine Log360 (FREE TRIAL) detects threats in system log file data as well as by combining external STIX/TAXII-based threat feeds to rapidly speed up threat identification. In addition, Log360 monitors systems other than Windows such as those running Linux or Unix as well as messages generated by hardware like firewalls and switches; it even connects with Heimdal security products on site.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.