Cyber threat intelligence is information used to identify and understand cyber threats to an organization. This intelligence is used to identify threat risks and make informed decisions to protect and secure infrastructure against threat actors and vulnerabilities. Intelligence can be obtained from a wide range of sources from published indicators of compromise (IOCs) to dark web forums. Having up to date and accurate threat intelligence is critical to any cybersecurity program.
Why Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?
The threat landscape is always changing and evolving, and an effective cybersecurity team needs to stay on top of the latest threats. Identifying and addressing emerging and persistent threats is critical to ensure that your cybersecurity team can proactively address and mitigate threats as they appear. Without a cyber threat intelligence program, organizations are left to react to threats, or worse, deal with the fallout of an incident.
Although a cyber threat intelligence program may sound complicated, it’s based around a simple five-step cycle. Implementing the threat intelligence cycle is a great place to start when building out a cyber threat intelligence team. Since the goals and scope are defined by your organization, it can work for programs with limited resources as well as larger programs with dedicated threat teams.
Steps of the Threat Intelligence Cycle
The threat intelligence process is cyclical to ensure that it evolves with technology, responds to identified gaps in current intelligence, and adapts to an everchanging and evolving threat landscape. There are five main steps in a typical threat intelligence cycle.
In the first step, the objectives and scope are determined. These are used to develop a set of intelligence requirements that define current gaps of knowledge and lay the foundation for that cycle. The intelligence requirements are often influenced by gaps found in the previous cycle or to address new threats that have been identified since the last cycle. This step is critical to the success of the process by clearly identifying objectives and guiding the team through the rest of the steps.
Guided by the intelligence requirements defined step one, intelligence is collected to address intelligence gaps. This can come from a variety of sources including threat feeds, logs from internal security appliances, industry peers and experts, forms, news sites, and many other sources. Collected data will often be formatted differently and come in varying levels of usability, so processing is needed before the data can be made usable.
Collected intelligence will need to be processed and aggregated to covert the raw and incomplete data into a structured and useful format. Processed data is often input into a threat intelligence platform (e.g., ThreatConnect) during this step. This can be done after all data is collected or processed as data comes in, but all data must be processed before the analysis can start.
Once all the data is collected and processed, the team can then attempt to answer the intelligence requirements with the data collected and determine what actions are recommended to address and mitigate the threats identified. Relevant conclusions and recommendations are then compiled into intelligence reports so they can be disseminated in the next step. Any gaps in intelligence identified during the analysis step will be used to shape the requirements of the next cycle.
Disseminate Intelligence and Receive Feedback
The final step of the cycle gets relevant actionable intelligence to those who need it. The team will distribute the intelligence to the stakeholders and relevant parties, enabling them to make informed decisions. This intelligence should be concise and relevant to the recipient and usually takes the form of a short report or slide show. Once intelligence is disseminated, feedback should be collected to gauge how effective and useful the intelligence and report was and to improve the final product in the future. With the final step completed, the team then prepares for future cycles.
Whether your organization is small with limited resources or a Fortune 500 company, an effective threat intelligence program is critical to ensuring the security of your infrastructure. Whether you’re looking for an MSSP with a dedicated cyber threat team or some basic advice, NuHarbor Security is here to help with all your security needs. Contact us today!