Cyber threat intelligence can be defined as knowledge (intelligence) obtained by analyzing evidence (context, indicators, implications, advice, etc.) and related to hazards (threats) compromising data or information.
In other words, threat intelligence provides organized and analyzed information on attacks and threats that have already occurred within networks of different companies and their environment to help organizations better understand and be prepared to face security risks.
Threat Intelligence Platform
The most common issues facing today’s cybersecurity landscape include massive data volumes, lack of analysts or comprehensive analysis, the growing number of increasingly complex cyberattacks.
Network infrastructures offer many tools to manage various security-related information, but little integration. Many companies choose to implement a threat intelligence platform to solve this problem. Such a platform can provide integration of information from many existing security systems, data enrichment and risk scoring, threat intelligence analysis and sharing.
Some of the most common network security threats of today are malware attacks, phishing, ransonware, botnets (zombie networks), MITM (man-in-the-middle), DDOS (denial of service), etc.
A threat intelligence platform (TIP) can be integrated with the existing security tools to provide a management system that automates and simplifies much of the activities that traditionally had to be done by analysts.
This solution provides a single information center that makes decision-making on security-relates issues faster and easier, ensuring the integrity of the company’s data and correct functioning of its processes.
A threat intelligence platform has features that help specialists analyze potential threats and come up with corresponding mitigation measures by taking all the available information, enriched data, and other context, and displaying them in the most effective way using dashboards, rulers, alerts, and notifications.
With it, cybersecurity analysts have the ability to visualize high-level technical reports, which allows them to share and analyze data effectively as security incidents or attacks occur in computer infrastructures, information systems, and data networks.
A threat intelligence platform automatically collects and aggregates data in different formats from multiple sources. The ability to process information from a variety of sources, both within and outside the organization, is essential for a strong security infrastructure.
Data can come from public (free), paid, internal, third-party sources, government agencies, trusted sharing communities, etc. Data formats include: STIX and TAXII (specific to threat Intelligence systems), JSON or XML, emails, text files (.txt,), comma-separated values (.csv), PDF and Word documents.
Threat intelligence platforms can be integrated with the following internal security solutions:
- Security information and event management (SIEM) systems
- Intrusion detection system (IDS)
- Intrusion prevention system (IPS)
Data collected from multiple sources in different formats has to be made compatible. This challenging task can be performed using three main processes:
- Standardization: Converting data from different sources into one common format
- Deduplication: Identifying and eliminating duplicate or redundant information
- Data enrichment: Filtering out false positives, classifying indicators, and adding context
As a threat intelligence platform performs these processes automatically, analysts can concentrate on investigation rather than managing collected data.
Adding machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to threat intelligence opens up great opportunities for organizations. It helps reduce analysts’ workload by integrating elements capable of successfully learning from the past threats and accurately identifying attempted attacks or security breaches.
After it has been standardized, examined, and enriched, data is used for monitoring and analysis with the ultimate goal to create a blacklist based on background knowledge. This list restricts access to certain web addresses, domains, email addresses, malicious files, and other resources.
The functions of a threat intelligence platform go beyond simple monitoring: apart from providing organizations with the information needed for efficient detection of incidents, it also enables real-time analysis and containment of security threats that may compromise the operating environment.
There are three key requirements that must be met for a threat intelligence platform to be effective: adequate processes, qualified team, and correct technology.
First of all, specific processes must be established to make sure the team is clear about what actions are to be carried out at all times.
These processes allow security analysts to work in a coordinated manner, to remain informed, and to improve their performance.
The next thing organizations must do is to build a team of highly qualified professionals since they will be the ones responsible for the platform’s proper functioning.
Analysts have to make sense of information originating from different security solutions used by the company and other external data sources. Critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills are among the most highly valued qualities because they allow analysts to understand attacks and respond to security incidents in a proper way.
Finally, adequate security technologies must be selected to be able to see what is happening in an organization from the point of view of security. There must be monitoring and notification tools, such as SIEM systems, as well as mitigation components, such as firewall, IDS, IPS, or antivirus.
An organization’s security strategy can only be as effective as the threat intelligence behind it. Successful threat intelligence, in its turn, requires clearly defined and implemented processes, highly qualified staff, and efficient security tools protecting the network infrastructure.
The threats you need to know about and understand may have already been described by other specialists, so step one is information gathering. Step two is applying existing threat detection and mitigation procedures adapted to the specific needs of each company.
Threat intelligence tools do not provide intelligence by themselves, their data does not contain threat information as there are no smart data sources. Any information has to be analyzed by a cybersecurity specialist with a high level of expertise.
Although automated analysis and the use of various tools increase the analysts’ performance significantly, it is always the latter who carry out the process.
No matter how much information you have, intelligence will not be useful unless you know how to identify the types of threats that can compromise a given company’s security. Therefore, it is intelligence analysts’ responsibility to know the company, its business processes and, above all, the critical resources of the network to be protected, as well as prevention, investigation, and prosecution procedures.
Implementing a threat intelligence platform in a company should not be confused with a complete security strategy, since it constitutes only one part of it. It is not something that can be done overnight, this process takes time, effort, and resources, it must be planned and analyzed in advance to achieve the correct combination of all components.