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How Threat Intelligence Can Improve Your Security

Threat intelligence

A new cyberattack occurs roughly every 39 seconds. Each of these attacks leaves behind a variety of evidence, including IP addresses, log events and malicious files. This evidence can be incredibly valuable to security teams but only if it’s analyzed and placed in context. There is simply too much attack data from too many sources to be useful when data is in a raw format. 

Threat intelligence is the solution for making raw data actionable. Threat intelligence is the result of analyzing billions of attack data points into meaningful insights. Applying this intelligence to your security processes can help you ensure that your system remains protected. 

In this article, you’ll learn what threat intelligence is. You’ll also learn some best practices for integrating threat intelligence into your security, and how to make sure your system remains protected.

What is Threat Intelligence?

Threat Intelligence is actionable information about the context, mechanisms, indicators and implications of threats and threat activity. Threat intelligence is used to guide security teams and solutions in identifying, evaluating and eliminating threats. You can also use it to identify and repair vulnerabilities before an attack occurs. 

There are three types of threat intelligence you can use:

  • Strategic—trends that administrative, executive and other non-technical users can use. Strategic intelligence informs security strategies and budgets.
  • Tactical—general information about Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP). Security personnel can use TTP as a guide for prevention, identification and response.
  • Operational—detailed specifications about existing threats and vulnerabilities that security personnel can integrate into policies, tools and solutions.

Threat Intelligence is used to create two measures:

  • Indicators of Compromise (IOC)—bits of data that result from malicious activity on a network or system. These bits of data are identified through matches to known data. IOCs include malware, log entries, IP addresses and tampered files. IOC data provides a record of what has happened at a specific point in time.
  • Indicators of Attack (IOA)—patterns of activity that occur when a system is or is going to be attacked. These patterns are not based on known data, but on suspicious patterns and behaviors. IOAs include code execution, lateral movement and the use of compromised credentials. IOA data enables you to see a string of events in real-time.

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Sources of Threat Intelligence

You can gather threat intelligence from a variety of sources. You can also develop threat intelligence yourself through analysis of threat data or events and pieces of evidence from your systems. In general, you should start with threat intelligence gathered by security professionals. You can then refine or add to this intelligence with your own data. 

Sources of threat intelligence include threat intelligence feeds, vulnerability databases and whitepapers or reports produced by security organizations. Often security services and tools can incorporate threat intelligence information for you, via inclusion in policies or detection strategies. 

When you wish to develop threat intelligence, you need to work with raw threat data. Sources of data include nation-state or NGO policy documents, industry and expert news sources and threat data feeds. These sources often include intelligence and actionable steps, as well as raw data. 

Raw data can also come from the interception of threat group communications, hacking forums, or chat rooms. These communications can provide direct information about tools and strategies attackers can use.

To create threat intelligence customized to your systems, you need to collect data internally. You should also monitor external sources for threat data related to any components or tools you’re using. You can use tools that generate a list of your components and dependencies. Often, these tools can then automatically return relevant information which can provide additional context for your analyses.

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Four Best Practices for Integrating Threat Intelligence

There are many ways you can incorporate threat intelligence into your security practices. The following best practices are a good place to start.

  1. Use Intelligence Proactively

You should use threat intelligence as a guide for security policies and identifying vulnerabilities before an attack. 

Intelligence can provide guidance on how to:

  • Limit permissions
  • Set up access controls to restrict or block any attacks that occur
  • Identify patches or updates that you need to apply

For early detection, threat intelligence can help you categorize risky activities or events and guide your response. Intelligence is particularly useful when integrated into automated response procedures, as it can help you anticipate the flow of an attack. Knowing an attacker’s intent or what they might do enables you to block their next steps and mitigate damage.

  1. Integrate With Existing Security Tools

Threat intelligence is less effective as a stand-alone tool. It can be difficult to manually match to events in your system. Instead, you should incorporate threat intelligence into automated systems and use it to define suspicious events or patterns of behavior. 

Threat intelligence works well with solutions such as System Information and Event Management (SIEM), which provide centralized collection and monitoring of system data. In combination with threat intelligence, SIEM tools can serve as earlier alerts, as well as provide alert context. 

Incident management systems are another solution, which provide encrypted communications between engineers. Critical alerts or messages remain protected both in transit and at rest. These systems alert the right, on-call engineer at the right time, ensuring that security threats are addressed or resolved in time. 

  1. Use to Reduce “Alert Fatigue”

Alert fatigue” is when security teams stop responding to alerts effectively or at all. It occurs when too many alerts are provided in an unmanageable way. “Alert fatigue” is common when you use multiple security tools that all issue alerts or when your alert threshold is set too low. 

Threat intelligence can help you sort through alerts and eliminate or lower the priority of less relevant alerts. You can use it to prioritize alerts and ensure that high-priority issues are handled first. Effective prioritization can help ensure that your security team never misses critical notifications. 

Additionally, incident alert management solutions provide on-call rotations and escalations. Web console administrators can select or task engineers, while creating “turns” if the first person is unavailable. This helps eliminate engineer burnout. These solutions also provide distinguishable high-priority alerts. Essentially, on-call engineers will always know the severity of alerts. 

  1. Combine With Threat Hunting

Threat hunting is the process of proactively searching for threats that have bypassed your security measures. Threat hunting can help you identify attacks and vulnerabilities that might otherwise go undetected, such as insider threats. It is performed as a complement to any defensive or offensive measures you already have in place. 

When threat hunting, security analysts use threat intelligence to narrow the field of their search. They can also use intelligence as a basis from which to begin a hunt or as a guide for interpreting any evidence they find. 

Conclusion

Threat intelligence can be a powerful tool for securing your systems, diagnosing threats and responding to attacks effectively. It enables you to evaluate security events in context and to identify and respond to threats more quickly than otherwise possible. 

Hopefully, this article helped you understand what threat intelligence is and how you can benefit from it. By adopting the best practices covered here, you can ensure that your team leverages threat intelligence successfully. Effectively leveraging threat intelligence enables you to keep your systems and your data more secure.

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