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Cyber Threat Intelligence: Goals, Challenges, Best Practices

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14th Sep, 2023
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    Cyber Threat Intelligence: Goals, Challenges, Best Practices

    Cyber threat intelligence or commonly known as threat intelligence is one of the most challenging and interesting jobs in cybersecurity. In cyber threat intelligence, you will learn about network defensive tactics, data protection risks, a variety of application security vulnerabilities, and most important a number of virtual and physical threats.  

    Threat intelligence jobs are considered one of the most high-paying jobs in cybersecurity. According to salary.com, “the average cyber threat analyst salary in the United States is $116,430 as of now, but the salary range typically ranges between $104,659 and $134,433. Take online Security course to understand more about cyber threats. 

    What is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

    Cyber Threat Intelligence also known as cyber security threat intelligence, is evidence-based knowledge that gathers information from a number of sources about potential attacks on organizations. This intelligence is further used in increasing the security of the organization and in making faster security decisions in case any attack is done on the organization. Let us take an example to understand cyber intelligence in a better way. 

    A network administrator in a company observes that there is outbound traffic to an IP address that is known to be used for malicious activity, cyber threat intelligence finds information about that IP address using threat intelligence tools and about the threat actor, and in most the cases, they also predict the attack which is going to be done at that company by gathering intelligence about that threat. 

    Why is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?

    As the number of cybercrimes on enterprises is increasing daily, enterprises are investing massively in improving their infrastructure and making it more secure daily. Cyber threat intelligence works as an added shield in these security controls. Let us understand in detail why cyber threat intelligence is essential for any organization: 

    1. Implementing cyber threat intelligence in your organization decrease the chances of a successful data breach. It not only helps in preventing the cyber-attacks but also helps in recovering from the damages in case of an incident. 
    2. It improves the security of your organization’s infrastructure. Since CTI helps in blocking malicious IP addresses and domains that have been detected in any precious malicious activities anywhere in the globe and thus, it prevents these from harming your organization’s infrastructure. 
    3. Cyber threat intelligence helps in evaluating the security postures of your infrastructure. Through CTI, you can keep track of all new vulnerabilities and bugs discovered in the software and machines that are part of the organization's infrastructures and can patch those vulnerabilities as early as possible. 
    4. Cyber threat intelligence also helps in post-incident cyber-attack. CTI helps in investigating the incident and also boosts the incident handling during n a cyber-attack.

    Who is a Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst?

    Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts (“cyber threat analysts”) are those information security professionals who use their skills and knowledge to gather intelligence about a threat and create the intelligence in the form of reports so that other departments can read those reports easily and can do their work. You can learn Ethical Hacking online to enhance your learning experience. 

    What does Threat Intelligence Analyst do?

    “Without a CTI analyst, intelligence is simply a wide look at the threat landscape. With a CTI threat intel analyst, intelligence is a powerful tool that can keep your organization’s assets, infrastructure, and personnel safe.” – By an infosec professional, the general responsibilities of threat intelligence analysts are as following: 

    1. Gathering Data – Threat intelligence analysts gather information about the risks that can affect the organization. They collect data from multiple sources ranging from private data collections to freely available data using open-source intelligence. 
    2. Sorting and Filtering the Data – Once the data is collected, the analysts start sorting and filtering out useful data. To prevent malicious threats, it is essential to sort out the network data that can disrupt the systems. 
    3. Monitoring and Assessing – After sorting out the harmful data, it is important to investigate this data for detecting its actual source and what would have been the impacts if this data has gone unnoticed. This evaluation helps the organization to take safety precautions against the cyber threats that can happen in the future. 
    4. Generating and Presenting the Intelligence Report – Once all the assessments, evaluation and testing has been done, the next task for the analysts is to generate a report and share it with organization’s security operations centre. This also includes sharing this report with other parts of the organization that are allowed as per the organization’s security policies.

    Benefits of Threat Intelligence

    1. Better Detection and Monitoring

    Quality threat intelligence can greatly improve threat detection and organization’s defence capabilities by integrating with other tools. Threat intelligence involves the use of advanced search engines for gathering data about threats making it better in detection of threats.

    2. Effective Threat Response

    Threat intelligence provides an in-depth information about the threats, such as threat actors, their capabilities, and tools used that can be correlated to get a clear picture of the threat and depending on this information, security teams can give effective threat responses to mitigate the impact.

    3. Better Decision Making

    Threat intelligence helps security teams to take faster and more accurate security decisions by evaluating the threat using threat intelligence.

    4. Improves Efficiency of Security Team

    Using threat intelligence, security teams get an in-depth information of threat, threat actor, objectives, other useful details which helps them make better decisions. Threat intelligence can detect threats by collaborating with some advanced technology software and security only needs to check the false positives and hence reduces the work burden on the security team. 

    5. Collaborative Knowledge

    Cyber threat intelligence systems allow sharing of the information about threat to other organizations and with this collaboration, companies keep themselves updated about the new threats that affected any other company. Also, companies can share the safety measures to stay safe from cyberattacks ensuring everyone is united against threats. 

    Types of Threat Intelligence

    Depending upon the initial intelligence requirements, information source, objectives, and intended audience, cyber intelligence is categorized in the following categories: 

    • Strategic 
    • Tactical 
    • Technical 
    • Operational

    1. Strategic Threat Intelligence

    It provides a basic overview of threat intelligence that the organization has implemented. It is less technical and is always presented in the form of findings since it is mainly for executive-level security professionals (CISOs, CTO, etc).

    It provides insights into areas like associated risks, threat actor and their tactics, and preventive actions.

    2. Tactical Threat Intelligence

    It provides a detailed view of tactics, techniques, and procedures of threat vectors. It thus helps the security team to understand how the threat is going to affect their organization and helps in finding the best way to defend against these vectors. It involves technical context, mainly for SOC analysts, system architects, etc.

    3. Technical Threat Intelligence

    It provides information about the attacker’s tools and resources that are used to perform the attack. It basically includes IP addresses, domains used, phishing email headers, etc. It is for a short life and mainly focuses on IoC.

    4. Operational Threat Intelligence

    It provides information about specific threats against an organization. It provides info about security events, incidents, and campaigns to help defenders disclose potential risks. It helps organizations understand the threat vector and its impact, their intention, capabilities, vulnerable IT assets, etc.

    Threat Intelligence Lifecycle

    The Intelligence Lifecycle is a process of converting raw data into finished intelligence data. It is a cycle because new questions and gaps in knowledge are introduced in the process of gathering, analyzing, prioritizing, and utilizing threat intel. Threat Intelligence Lifecycle helps security teams optimize resources and effectively respond to threats.  

    Steps of Threat Intelligence Lifecycle are as follows: 

    1. Requirements

    The requirement is the first stage of the threat intelligence lifecycle because it sets the roadmap for a specific threat intelligence operation. In this stage, security teams set the operation's objectives and try to discover who the attacker is, the attack surface, actions to be taken to defend against the threat, and the impact of it.

    2. Collection

    The next step is to gather raw data from a range of sources to fulfil the requirements in stage 1.  It includes gathering data from a wide range of sources i.e., from internal ones like network logs, past incident response records, etc, and from external ones like the deep web, the dark web, and other sources that are freely available on the internet.

    3. Processing

    Once the raw data has been collected, sort all the data gathered in a format that is suitable for analysis. Most of the time, it involves organizing all the data into spreadsheets, analyzing the data, decrypting encrypted files, and evaluating the data's relevance and reliability. 

    4. Analysis

    Once all the data has been processed, it is now used to conduct a thorough analysis to find answers to the questions that are mentioned in the requirements stage.

    5. Dissemination

    In this stage, the threat intelligence team translates all the data into a simplified format and presents the results to the stakeholders. In most cases, it is tried to keep the presentation as simpler and concise as possible.

    6. Feedback

    It is the final stage of the threat intelligence lifecycle which involves taking feedback to determine if any changes are required. This is also responsible for creating the objectives and procedures for the next threat intelligence lifecycles.

    Threat Intelligence Use Cases

    Apart from informing security professionals about potential threats, threat actors, their motives, and vulnerabilities, it also helps security professionals to become proactive in future cyber threats. The use cases of threat intelligence vary from person to person and according to the purpose it is being used for:

    Security Analysts 

    Threat Intelligence (TI) automatically identifies and dismisses false positives, enriches real-time context, and compares information gathered from internal and external sources.

    Security Operations Centre 

    TI helps gather information about threats more quickly and efficiently, filtering out false alerts, and speed up triage. 

    Vulnerable Management Team 

    TI helps in identifying the vulnerabilities that pose actual risks to the organization.

    Risks Analysts  

    TI helps risk analysts find the answers to questions like are these actors targeting our industry and how often these attacks are done on enterprises like theirs.

    Cyber Threat Intelligence Tools

    Here is the list of the top 10 cyber threat intelligence software/tools that are broadly used by companies ranging from small tech companies to large enterprises like CISCO: 

    1. CISCO Umbrella (https://umbrella.cisco.com/) 
    2. DeCYFIR (https://www.cyfirma.com/decyfir/) 
    3. Echosec (https://www.echosec.net/) 
    4. GreyNoise (https://www.greynoise.io/) 
    5. IntSights EPT Suite (https://intsights.com/products)  
    6. Lumiar by Cognyte (https://www.cognyte.com/cyber-threat-discovery/) 
    7. Recorded Future (https://www.recordedfuture.com/) 
    8. Threat Intelligence APIs (https://threatintelligenceplatform.com/threat-intelligence-api) 
    9. ThreatFusion (https://socradar.io/suites/cyber-threat-intelligence/) 
    10. ZeroForce (https://www.zerofox.com/) 

    Cyber Threat Intelligence Frameworks 

    Organizations make their own CTI frameworks to remove gaps and to empower organizations to identify areas for team or individual growth, to determine development roadmaps and to ensure CTI skills progression.  

    To get a better understanding of cyber threat intelligence frameworks, click here to download Mandiant's Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst Core Competencies Framework. 

    How do you Use and Implement Cyber Threat Intelligence?

    Implementing cyber threat intelligence boosts your company’s security and reduces the burden on the IT security team. The golden rules of implementing cyber threat intelligence programs are as follows: 

    1. Create a good plan according to the objectives and aims of the company. 
    2. Make a list of all the people who need to be involved in cyber intelligence. 
    3. Find the right people suitable for that task and those with experience in any previous threat intelligence need to be prioritized. 
    4. Implement the right tools, techniques, and procedures. 
    5. Understand the difference between threat data and threat intelligence. 
    6. Integrate with the organization’s security technologies. 
    7. Enhance cybersecurity awareness among the employees.

    Future of Threat Intelligence

    “In terms of valuation, as per the latest threat intelligence industry analysis by Future Market Insights (FMI), overall demand will total US$ 8.8 Bn in 2021. Registering impressive growth at 16.3% CAGR from 2021 to 2031, market valuation is expected to surpass US$ 39.7 Bn by 2031.  

    Future Market Insights (FMI) reports that global threat intelligence solutions generated revenue of US$ 4.2 Bn in 2020. In terms of value, the services are identified as fastest-growing components’ segment, estimated to register the highest CAGR of 18.6% over the next ten years.” – From futuremarketinsights.com 

    In terms of technological development, AI and Machine learning will be a revolutionary part of threat intelligence. According to researchers and security professionals worldwide, threat intelligence services and tools will be getting a boost from advanced technology like AI and Machine Learning.

    How to Become a Threat Intelligence Analyst?

    As cybercrime is increasing rapidly, the need for security professionals in companies is also increasing, and hence the demand for threat intelligence analysts is also increasing. To become a threat intelligence analyst, you must understand the roles and responsibilities of threat intelligence analysts and the required skills. 

    Knowledge provides one of the best training in the world that is complete and comprehensive. To become a threat intelligence analyst, you must have knowledge of ethical hacking and cybersecurity. To gain the most updated knowledge of these, you can take our online courses and get ahead of others: 

    1. Online Security course 
    2. Learn Ethical Hacking course 
    3. KnowledgeHut Online Cybersecurity course 

    After getting the foundational level knowledge of cybersecurity, you can proceed to threat intelligence certifications like CTIA, GCTI, RCIA, etc to increase your chances of getting a job in threat intelligence companies.

    Conclusion

    Cyber Threat Intelligence will be a good opportunity for security professionals in the future. As of today, every business is shifting itself to the internet, it is a sign that cyber threats will also be increasing and hence the need for cyber threat intelligence. Today, their maybe threat intelligence is not so known in the world of the internet, but in the future, threat intelligence analysis will be the need of almost every business. KnowledgeHut online Security course will aid you in learning well and understanding the concept.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What are the tasks done by a cyber threat intelligence analyst?

    A threat intelligence analyst monitors and analyses active as well as passive threats while gathering intelligence from a number of sources. To uncover intel, the analysts have to keep themselves updated and connected to the industry news, security threats that are happening in the world, and intentions of the potential threat entities.

    2What is the annual income of a cyber threat intelligence analyst?

    There are a lot of different records and statistics available on the internet. After observing a lot of records on the internet about the salary of threat analysts, it can be said that the average salary is $75000/year.

    3What is the difference between cyber intelligence and cyber security?

    Cyber Intelligence is the knowledge that allows you to prevent cyber threats and attacks in an organization while cybersecurity is a field in which you learn about a lot of things ranging from a small cybercrime to industrial-level cyber-attacks

    4How do you measure Threat Intelligence?

    According to threat intelligence experts, quality of threat intelligence can be determined by using four factors that are as following - 

    1. Completeness – This refers to the visibility of the threat model that can provide a view of the completeness of cyber threat intelligence.
    2. Accuracy – High number of false positives in a threat intelligence report refers to implementing poor quality threat intelligence and thus requires further investigation.
    3. Relevance – It refers to how relevant the threat intelligence report is report with respect to industry context.
    4. Timeliness – It refers to how much we can apply threat intelligence to address current cyber threats.
    Profile

    Dheeraj Yadav

    Blog Author

    A 19y/o self-learned ethical hacker, mainly interested in bug hunting, malware analysis, and digital forensics. Currently expertise in SEO, OSINT, ethical hacking, SOC, Shopify, and front-end web.

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