The Importance of Threat Intelligence

"Threat Hunting" - NY Metro InfraGard/HTCIA Joint Security Summit

Threat Intelligence is data collected and analyzed by an organization in order to understand a threat actor’s motives, targets, and attack behaviors. It enables organizations to make faster, more informed security decisions and change their behavior from reactive to proactive in the fight against breaches. Threat intelligence, or cyber threat intelligence, is information an organization uses to understand the threats that have, will, or are currently targeting the organization.The primary purpose of threat intelligence is helping organizations to perceive the risks of the foremost common and severe external threats, like zero-day threats, advanced persistent threats and exploits. 

Threat Intelligence is very important as it gathers raw data about emerging or existing threat actors and threats from a number of sources. This data is then analyzed and filtered to produce threat intel feeds and management reports that contain information that can be used by automated security control solutions. Threat intelligence is important for the following reasons: 

  • Sheds light on the unknown, enabling organizations to make better security decisions empowers cyber security stakeholders byrevealing adversarial motives and their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) 
  • Helps security professionals better understand the adversary’s decision-making process 
  • Empowers business stakeholders, such as executive boards, CISOs, CIOs and CTOs; to invest wisely, mitigate risk, become more efficient and make faster decisions. 

Threat intelligence can be divided broadly into three categories: Tactical, Operational and Strategic. 

  • Tactical threat Intelligence: Tactical threat intelligence focuses on the immediate future and helps teams determine whether or not existing security programs will be successful in detecting and mitigating risks. Tactical intelligence is the easiest type of intelligence to generate and is almost always automated. As a result, it can be found via open source and free feeds, but it usually has a very short lifespan because IOCs such as malicious IPs or domain names can become obsolete in days or even hours. 
  • Operational threat Intelligence: Operational threat intelligence aims to answer the questions, “who?”, “what?”, and “how?” and is gained by examining the details of past known attacks that have been identified through tactical intelligence.It is most useful for those cybersecurity professionals who work in a SOC (security operations center) and are responsible for performing day-to-day operations. Cybersecurity disciplines such as vulnerability management, incident response and threat monitoring are the biggest consumers of operational intelligence as it helps make them more proficient and more effective at their assigned functions. 
  • Strategic Intelligence : Strategic threat intelligence is a high-level analysis typically reserved for non-technical audiences such as stakeholders or board members. In that sense, it usually covers topics like security scores and the potential impact of a business decision.  Good strategic intelligence should provide insight into areas like the risks associated with certain lines of action, broad patterns in threat actor tactics and targets, and geopolitical events and trends. Strategic intelligence tends to be the hardest form of intelligence to generate. It requires human collection and analysis that demands an intimate understanding of both cybersecurity and the nuances of the world’s geopolitical situation. 

Threat intelligence is one of the most critical weapons we can use in cyber defense. In an ever-evolving threat landscape, security teams often find themselves one or two steps behind the attackers. This is not just because of the attackers using new TTPs, but also because environments are becoming more complex, expanding attack surfaces and affording them greater opportunities.