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What is Threat Intelligence, and Who can take benefit from this?

What is Threat Intelligence

Threat landscape for organizations has changed drastically in the last few years, it is a never ending battle between security professionals and threat vectors. Just when security professionals identify a solution to mitigate one threat, others are already popping out. Security threats surface at a rapid speed and security professionals are often left wondering as the threat landscape changes around them.

World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report 2020” states that the chances of catching and prosecuting a cybercriminal are almost nil (0.05%). Given the circumstances, business awareness and resilience is key to securing sensitive data and avoiding breaches. If sufficient controls are not in place to prevent information security breach, even the smallest mistake can result in a disastrous situation and cyber criminals can get access to your confidential data, and infrastructure for exploitation. Threat Intelligence can be a vital source to fight against the threats.

Threat intelligence is information based on data and provides context an organization uses to understand the threats that have, will, or are currently targeting the organization. This information is used to take informed decisions and prepare against identified threats trying to breach the infrastructure and steal the confidential information. It basically provides the capability to an organization to defend proactively instead of following a reactive approach.

Threat Intelligence Lifecycle - It is not an end-to-end process, the development of intelligence is a cyclic process, referred to as intelligence cycle. Its lifecycle consists of following stages:

Planning and direction

The first and foremost important question is what you want to do and how. Identify a direction, what are your objectives of the intelligence lifecycle based on certain critical elements, i.e. how closely they align with your organization's core values, the nature of the attack, magnitude of the decision's impact, and the timeliness of the decision and so on.

Collection

The second step of the lifecycle is collection of the data based on the direction / elements identified in the planning phase. Data can be collected from a variety of internal and external sources including human intelligence, i.e. network event logs, historical incident response records, system events, open web, the dark web, technologies, and other publicly available sources.

Processing

Once you have collected the required data from identified sources, it must be processed into an intelligible form. It may include decrypting the data, data reduction or forwarding the same for correlation to initiate the process for the identification of the possible threats.

Analysis & Production

This stage involves the conversion of the basic information into finished intelligence. It includes integrating, evaluating, and analysing all available data. Inconsistent data must be evaluated against each other, and the patterns and implications of inconclusive or insufficient data must be considered. Expert analysts consider the information's reliability, validity, and relevance. If you identify anything critical at some point, then your first move should be to make the concerned team aware of it.

Organizations can appoint internal SPOC to do this task for them, or can outsource this responsibility to a cybersecurity consultant with sufficient knowledge and expertise to perform this task in a much more efficient manner.

Dissemination & Feedback

The intelligence cycle comes full circle in the final step, which provides the feed to the initial planning and direction phase. Finished products including reports and assessments are delivered to the clients or the requestors who initially commissioned the cycle. After reviewing the intelligence, objectives and directions are outlined for the new intelligence cycle with the aim of producing more accurate, relevant, and timely assessments based on the success of previous intelligence.

It is evident that Threat Intelligence can vastly assist the organization in making informed decisions. Following are some other benefits of adopting threat intelligent practice:

  • Risk Reduction – Threat Intelligence helps in identifying the risk. Cybercriminals with the intent or capability to damage organizations are always looking for new ways to break into company infrastructure. Cyber threat intelligence provides accurate visibility into such emerging security threats, reducing the risk of data loss, minimizing or preventing business disruption, and maximizing regulatory consent.
  • Safeguards data – One of the various important features of Threat intelligence is monitoring of all the activities, and as soon as any suspicious thing is being detected, notification is sent to the respective SPOC. This can help you to limit the damage of theft of confidential data.
  • Help in increasing the Efficiency of the Security team – Any organization would not want their highly paid security team to struggle with the manual analysis of raw events and information gathered by various devices and tools. A threat intelligence team can be incorporated into an organization's foundation to reduce security response time and all your security team has to do is check if it is a false positive or an actual threat. Threat Intelligence will help your team in understanding what threats they need to address. They can focus on actual security threats. Thus, the efficiency of your security team will automatically improve and it will also help in offloading the team.
  • In-depth analysis - It helps the organization to have the idea of different techniques that cyber criminals use or can use. Using feeds provided by threat intelligence tools, organizations can proactively perform certain actions like blocking a particular network, software or IOC to prevent attacks from happening.
  • Threat intelligence sharing - Sharing critical threat intelligence information, such as the attack pattern of certain cyber criminals or a particular malware to penetrate the environment, could help other organizations to avoid similar attacks. It helps in making information securities across organizations more proactive.
  • Preventing Financial Loss – Any breach in the environment may lead to production downtime, pay out of ransom to cyber criminals, recovery cost of the infra, reputation and revenue loss. Above mentioned or any other outcome will demand huge investment of resources and money. Threat intelligence can help in reacting and responding to cyber risks proactively thus avoiding the unnecessary expenses.

Conclusion

Threat intelligence can’t be treated as what information is received, it is more about how you process the received information and what you do with it. It can provide transparency into your threat environments, providing real-time alerts on threats and changes to their risks and giving you the context you need to evaluate your security solutions and infrastructure. An expert managed threat intelligence service provider can ensure that received information is acted upon properly and integrated with other security solutions to receive comprehensive output and make informed decisions.

A cyber security expert can also help you in preparing for the worst situation and manage the entire portfolio for you.

It is better to keep your teams informed about the threat intelligence practices. It is in the best interest of your company to avoid any such threat, and if your team is aware of this, then they will be able to manage the situations in a better and more efficient way.

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