What is Threat Intelligence and Why It Is Important?

Let me begin with a simple story, imagine there are some robberies going on in your neighborhood, police were informed, and they started an investigation on who the robber was. While investigating police came across a pattern or certain parameters on what type of houses the robbers were targeting (like housed with more gold, or with glass windows, etc.) and their methods released a warning notice to local people. Now this warning notice is an intelligence that will help you to be prepared and prevent these robbers from robbing your house.

Now, just like this, cyber-attacks are something that happens every day in this world. Threat intelligence is nothing but the knowledge of these attacks that will keep you or your organization safe from these threat actors.

In this article, we will discuss what threat intelligence is, why it is important, and what is an IOC (indicator of compromise).

What is Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence is nothing but evidence-based information that is collected, processed, and analyzed to know more about the threat actor’s behavior and motive. This intelligence will be used to prepare, mitigate, and identify any threats that are currently present before getting exploited. Cyber threat intelligence is the data that will help an organization to be faster and more informed against the threat actors.

This is a proactive approach to cyber defense methods. Threat intelligence includes information on the mechanism of attack, behavior or tools used by an attacker, ways how the attack can impact an organization, etc.

Types of Threat Intelligence

There are four types of threat intelligence

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Strategic threat intelligence

Designed to assist senior management in making appropriate decisions about security strategies and budgets. This intelligence provides a high-level overview on

  • Who is the adversary
  • Why are they targeting you
  • Where have they attacked prior to reaching you

Tactical threat intelligence

This type of intelligence deals with adversaries’ tactics techniques and procedures. Tactical intelligence covers

  • What are the tools adversaries using
  • When are these attacks orchestrated

Operational threat intelligence

Operational threat intelligence deals with how an unauthorized individual executes an attack.

Technical threat intelligence

Technical intelligence deals with the actual indicators of the cyber-attacks and this type of intelligence addresses how the adversary is conducting the attacks.

Types of Threat Intelligence
Types of threat intelligence (Source: plotlights)

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Lifecycle

There are mainly 5 phases included in a threat intelligence life cycle, they are

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Lifecycle
Source: TechTarget
  1. Planning and Direction- This is the phase where proper planning on strategic threat intelligence is created. Here we decide what kind of information should be given priority, what is our scope for intelligence etc.
  2. Data collection- In this phase we collect data that was planned in phase one as per our requirement. This information can be collected vial multiple sources like human intelligence (HUMINT), measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT), signal intelligence (SIGNT), open-source intelligence (OSINT), etc.
  3. Data processing – Till this phase the data collected is not in the desired format its all raw data so the collected data will be transformed into understandable information’s.
  4. Data analysis- In this phase, we find answers from the processed data created in the previous stage. We will look at the answers to what, when, and why a particular suspicion occurred.
  5. Report findings: The report should be audience-specific. If it is for higher management or for a technical audience, it should be created as per the receiver.
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What is an IOC?

Remember the story we talked about the robbery happening around the neighborhood? The methods or tools used by the robber can be considered as an indicator of robbery. Just like that, any token of information that indicates any compromise is known as an IOC or indicator of compromise. IOC is the forensic term that clues or provides evidence to a breach.

Indicators of attack can be of different types; primarily these indicators will be IPs , hashes, domains , URLs, emails, etc. Looking for these tokens in our network can indicate the presence of an attacker, and if we manage to spot that in the early stages, we can avoid greater havoc.

Benefits of Threat Intelligence

There are a lot of benefits of having threat intelligence in our organization we will discuss few of the benefits of threat intelligence below

  • Cost effective- A data breach can cost you millions, as per the studies it is estimated $8 million loss to a company from a breach due to lawsuit, fines, decrease of customer trust hence losing sales etc. A good threat intelligence solution can proactively monitor and help before a breach occur.
  • Security teams’ efficiency will be improved- The Threat intelligence team can provide further insight into an alert, which will give a better picture to the analysts.
  • Reduce the risk – CTI always monitors for any potential vulnerabilities within the company and helps the teams stay up-to-date on patching and security.
  • Prevents Data breach – Due to its proactive nature, CTI will prevent before an attack happens.
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Conclusion

Cyber Threat Intelligence is a relatively new field in the cyber security industry. This was a part of the security operations team. Still, with the rise of cyber-attacks worldwide, a dedicated threat intelligence team is good to have that will help in many areas, not only for preventing a breach but also in maintaining the brand reputation, keeping a check on vulnerabilities, and much more. I hope everyone understands what threat intelligence is, why it is important, and what an IOC is (an Indicator of Compromise).

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