Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is a branch of cybersecurity related to the collection and analysis of information about potential attacks currently targeting the organization. It is a proactive security measure that an organization implements to prevent data breaches, and thus prevent further consequences. The main purpose of CTI is to provide in-depth information on the threats that pose a greater risk to the organization’s infrastructure. Simultaneously, it also guides the management on preventative measures to protect the business from potential attacks. The information given by the CTI team is used to identify, prepare, and prevent cyber threats that can make data vulnerable. It provides the ability to develop a targeted defense against targeted threats and the understanding to use the right cyber threat tools and solutions to protect your business.
Why Is CTI Important?
TI collects raw information on external and upcoming threat actors from various sources. The data gathered are analyzed and filtered to prepare management reports that are beneficial to automated security control solutions. The crucial purpose of TI is to feed organizations with the risks associated with advanced persistent threats as well as zero-day threats. The challenges that cybersecurity teams of organizations are facing are:
- Devious threat actors: Persistent and devious threat actors are flooding data, which are full of extraneous information across various security systems, that are unconnected due to a shortage of skilled professionals.
- Threat data feeds: Even though organizations are trying to incorporate threat data feeds into their network, in reality, they have no clear understanding of how to manage the extra data. This extra data adds burden to analysts who may have no proper tools to analyze the significance of data.
CTI can address these issues. When implemented properly, the process of TI can help to achieve the following objectives:
- Becoming proactive with upcoming cybersecurity threats
- To stay updated with the vulnerabilities and threats, methods and bad actors.
- Keep management and stakeholders posted with the news on the latest threats so that they should be aware of the threats that can affect their business.
Key Findings on the Importance of TI
According to Ponemon Institute, about 40% of the organizations who were part of the research had a potential security breach in their last 24 months of which 80% believed that TI would have prevented or minimized the consequence of the attack.
How TI is implied in an organization?
How companies manage threat defense throughout the organization?
CTI is a finished product that goes through a six-part cycle making it iterative and refined over time. To get the best from TI, it is important to define your objective and identify your use case before implementing it.
Planning and Direction
The first step is to prioritize your objectives in adherence to your organization’s core values. It is important to understand how time sensitive it is and what the impact of the decision will be. It is also important to consider the ultimate consumer or the beneficiary from the finished product of TI. It is good to know whether the intelligence goes to a technical team of analysts who want to know about the new exploits or to the managerial executives who are planning for their investment decisions for the next quarter.
In this step, the data are collected, as defined by the requirements in the first stage. The data collected can be internal data, such as previous incident history, or external, such as technical sources or the dark web. The threat data may include malicious IP addresses, vulnerability information, such as personal data of customers, text from social media, and much more.
After collecting the data, it is then sorted, organized, and filtered for false and redundant information. However, even the smallest organization receives heaps of data that becomes humanly impossible to be analyzed efficiently. At this stage, data collection and processing are automated for accurate and fast results. Processes, such as SIEM, are often implemented here as it makes it relatively easier to structure data for a few different use cases.
In this step, potential security threats are found, and the relevant teams are notified in a specific format that can suffice with then requirements laid in the first stage, that is, planning and direction. TI output varies based on the initial objectives and the intended audiences with the motive of formatting the data to make it easier for the audience to understand.
TI, in the true sense, should get to the right people at the right time. It also needs to be properly tracked to maintain the continuity between different intelligence cycles without losing the loop in between. The ticketing system can be implemented to track each step of the intelligence cycle. A ticket is submitted, recorded, and reviewed for every new intelligence request. The responsibility of closing the ticket will be shared by people from various teams in one place.
The final stage in the cycle of TI relates it to the first stage, planning and direction phase. The one who made the initial request would determine whether the final product is as per the requirement. This is how the objective of the next intelligence cycle is derived along with documentation.
Types of CTI
The final product of TI is influenced by the sources of information and the intended audience. For better understanding, TI has been broadly categorized in the following types:
It is a broader type meant for a non-technical audience, such as executives from management whose role involves less technicalities. It is intended to feed executives through briefings and reports about the threat landscape that would then be considered for high-level decisions.
This type of TI is technical, encompassing the techniques and procedures of threat actors. It provides deeper insight into the organization’s understanding of how they have been and can be attacked and the ways to mitigate those attacks. It is used by technical cybersecurity staff, such as system administrators, system architects, and much more.
It is about details of specific events or campaigns related to the cyberattack. It helps to explain the nature, severity, timing, and intent of specific attacks.
Who Can Benefit from CTI?
Everyone! CTI adds real-time value to security functions at all levels of the organization. It is considered to be the domain of elite analysts. TI should be made accessible to everyone who can benefit from it. By treating it as a separate entity and not an essential component augmenting other functions, the concept of TI turns out to be restrictive.
The cybersecurity team could not be able to process alerts without TI. CTI in integration with security solutions filters, prioritizes, and provides expert context. The security team prioritizes the vulnerabilities with the help of TI with access to external insights on them.
With an understanding of the current threat landscape risk analysis, fraud prevention, and other security processes can be implemented. TI provides key insights on threat actors, techniques, procedures, and data sources across the web.
Does This Inspire You?
As you have seen the criticality of planning a cybersecurity strategy and integrating TI in any business, do you want to play this key role in enabling this process? Take a look at our Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst program (C|TIA), which is a comprehensive specialized program, designed and developed in collaboration with cybersecurity and TI experts across the globe. C|TIA enables individuals and organizations to prepare and run a TI program and initiate predictive capabilities rather than only proactive measures beyond defense mechanism.
Sources: https://www.recordedfuture.com/threat-intelligence/  https://www.computerworld.com.au/whitepaper/372511/the-importance-of-cyber-threat-intelligence-to-a-strong-security-posture/?type=other&arg=0&location=featured_list