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Incorporating cyber threat intelligence into your security strategy

NetworkTigers explains how to leverage cyber threat intelligence and incorporate it into your cybersecurity strategy.

Leveraging cyber threat intelligence and incorporating it into your cybersecurity strategy is crucial to maintaining tight, up-to-date defenses. It could make the difference between beating hackers to the punch or getting caught up in a cyberattack that could have been prevented.

What is cyber threat intelligence?

CrowdStrike defines cyber threat intelligence as “data that is collected, processed, and analyzed to understand a threat actor’s motives, targets, and attack behaviors.”

This information allows defenders to share intel regarding APT characteristics, hacking collectives, malware campaigns, and online cybercriminal marketplaces better to understand active dangers and those in the making. 

Since cybercriminals and cybersecurity professionals are in a constant battle to outwit and undercut one another, the power to accurately predict an adversary’s next move based on current trends, tools, and inclinations is paramount.

By analyzing threat intelligence, defenders can install emergency patches, take vulnerable equipment offline if needed, and appropriately allocate resources to defend against hacks and malware.

Types of cyber threat intelligence

There are three main types of cyber threat intelligence, each encompassing different goals, personnel, and applications.

  • Strategic threat intelligence offers IT administrators a broad overview of the threat landscape at a high level. The data can be used to develop large-scale security and business practices that account for adversarial strategies and motivations.
  • Operational threat intelligence focuses on threat actors’ infrastructure, tools, day-to-day tactics, and capabilities. This information is used to refine cybersecurity operations at a more granular and specific level.
  • Tactical threat intelligence provides immediate information regarding ongoing threats and how cybercriminals attack. This data is used to deploy boots-on-the-ground defensive strategies in direct response to whatever may occur in real-time.

Making the most of threat intelligence data

This information is of little value if not rolled into a dynamic and viable cybersecurity strategy that allows for the robust and continually refreshed defenses needed to stay ahead of the attackers. You can use the following steps to formulate a framework for how to defend your organization: 

Assess what kind of intelligence you need

Every organization has different requirements regarding the threat intelligence most relevant to their operations. While generalized threats such as phishing scams and malware overlap across industries, a healthcare organization, for example, will prioritize and face different threats than a college campus or federal agency.

To build a strategy, the risks inherent to your organization and sector and any specific to your company or infrastructure need to be assessed and determined.

Select your intelligence sources

The web is rich with sources for intelligence. Open source outlets include CISA, The Internet Storm Center, and Microsoft. These organizations offer articles that cover breaking cybersecurity news, descriptions of current criminal campaigns and vulnerabilities, and details on how to fortify against them.

Threat intelligence feeds offer automated real-time streams of threat data. Subscribing to multiple threat intelligence feeds allows you to tap into this data continuously to keep a finger on the pulse of the threat landscape.

However, these sources require a team to manually digest, sort, and react to the presented data. With so much information available and so many threat actors using advanced, AI-driven tools to create malware and scan for vulnerabilities faster than they can be read, using these sources alone is not a viable solution.

Employ a threat intelligence platform (TIP)

Threat intelligence platforms can connect to a threat intelligence feed and consolidate its streamed data into packets that human IT administrators or machines can read more easily.

By aggregating and distilling data automatically, TIPs let IT teams spend less time hunting for threat intelligence data and more time applying resources to hacker activities that they need to focus on.

TIPs also reduce duplicated data, filter out any irrelevant or junk info, and allow administrators to share threat data with other teams and stakeholders via newsletters, dashboards, etc., as well as send the most current and relevant intelligence data to their security systems, firewalls, applications, and other defensive components.

Employ security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) technology

SOAR technology, as defined by Cortex, “helps coordinate, execute and automate tasks between various people and tools all within a single platform. This allows organizations to quickly respond to cybersecurity attacks and observe, understand and prevent future incidents, thus improving their overall security posture.”

Products and platforms that employ SOAR technology assist IT administrators via threat and vulnerability management, security incident response, and security operations automation.

A comprehensive SOAR product ingests threat info and alerts from threat intelligence feeds. This data is then processed by human administrators and machine learning to swiftly prioritize incident response automation, automatically building better security in an organic, dynamic fashion.

In the lightning-fast cybersecurity environment, incorporating SOAR into your cybersecurity strategy is akin to giving your organization an immune system that reacts to danger as needed with minimal human intervention.

Continually monitor, evaluate, and adapt

Even with feeds, resources, and automation, maintaining good cybersecurity still requires hands-on assessments and evaluations of resource allocation and operations.

While the automation rules and orchestrations you develop today might be needed to keep your data safe, the changing tides of criminal activity, zero-day vulnerabilities, and trends mean there is never a set-it-and-forget-it option.

The most robust cybersecurity ecosystems take a holistic approach to their defenses. They do so by tapping into cyber threat intelligence and feed streams, applying automation wherever appropriate to lessen response time and react intelligently to alerts, training employees on how to spot, avoid, and report suspicious activity, and continually adapting tactics to accommodate cutting-edge threats.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Incorporating cyber threat intelligence into your security strategy