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Cyber Threat Analysis: Types, Benefits, Tools, Approaches

05th Sep, 2023
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    Cyber Threat Analysis: Types, Benefits, Tools, Approaches

    The pandemic has only increased our reliance on digital devices and the internet, which means that cyber security threats have only gone up exponentially. According to the conclusions of a recent analysis by McAfee Enterprise, 81% of worldwide enterprises encountered higher cyber risks during the pandemic, with 79% suffering downtime due to a cyber security threat. These threats usually refer to a malicious attempt made to either steal data or cause harm and disruption to systems, networks or assets by gaining unauthorized access. Businesses often employ techniques collectively referred to as “cyber threat analysis,” to identify, remediate, and prepare for potential threats.  

    In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly cyber threat analysis is, why it is needed, and how it can be performed for effective assessment of an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure. So, let’s get started.  

    What is Cyber Threat Analysis?

    Cybersecurity threat analysis is a collection of techniques that are commonly employed to tackle cybersecurity threats. These techniques, combined with an effective strategy, help an organization to evaluate its security infrastructure, protocols, processes, and procedures in order to detect threats and vulnerabilities and obtain information about a prospective attack before it occurs. 

    Cyber security teams can gain a better understanding of the level of sophistication of threats staged against the organization and the exploitation strategies and identify areas in the organization's security infrastructure that may be vulnerable to these threats by performing threat analysis. It is, without doubt, one of the most critical safety methods that an organization must employ in order to gain greater knowledge of the possible dangers it can face.  

    Examples of Threat Analysis/Assessment

    A cyber security threat analysis example includes combining vulnerability analysis and risk assessment to provide a clear comparison of vulnerabilities in an organization's network to real-world cyber threats.

    A Threat Analysis Example

    When and why is Threat Analysis Performed?

    Organizations usually conduct threat analysis on a quarterly or bi-annual basis. However, the number of times that you need to perform the threat analysis greatly depends on your organization’s particular cybersecurity standards and objectives. If a company is in a high-risk business, such as government, finance, or healthcare, it is generally encouraged to perform threat analyses more frequently. Now in order to maintain frequent, accurate analysis, organizations often outsource such security procedures in order to conserve resources for other initiatives. Threat analysis businesses also exist, which can be used to outsource such tasks in order to better conserve an organization’s assets.  

    Types of Threats Found in a Threat Analysis

    An accurate and thorough cybersecurity threat analysis can uncover 3 main types of threats, which we’ll go over one by one.  

    1. Accidental Threats

    Human error is regrettably one of today's main sources of cyberattacks, whether it's the misconfiguration of a security protocol or any accident that can leave an organization’s infrastructure vulnerable. These errors, besides being accidental, may also result from inadequate employee training and insufficient compliance protocols.  

    By conducting a threat analysis, companies may discover and correct unintentional flaws before any malicious hacker can exploit them.  

    2. Intentional Threats

    Intentional threats refer to malicious activities perpetrated by malevolent entities within the organization in order to obtain access to and benefit from the organization’s sensitive data. While they are not as prevalent, they certainly do inflict the most damage.  

    3. External Threats

    The most common threats that an organization faces are attacks from external malicious entities. Often termed “black-hat hackers”, these criminals target enterprises, governments, institutions or even individuals with valuable information. The techniques they employ are mostly based on exploiting vulnerabilities inside an organization’s infrastructure. While there have been substantial advancements in protecting an organization against these sorts of threats, their increasing prevalence and rapid adaptation to various countermeasures make them quite dangerous.  

    If you’re interested in learning more about hacking, why not check out the CEH Certification Course? It goes over the world-famous EC Council’s CEH Certification, which teaches white hat or ethical hacking to novices.

    Benefits of Threat Analysis in Cyber Security?

    Staying one step ahead of malicious threats is vital for any business, whether big or small. As more and more data are becoming decentralized, points of vulnerability have also increased. So, in order to stay one step ahead of cyber threats, it is crucial to understand and analyze an organization's infrastructure and patch all of the known exploits used, which are both parts of threat analysis. Let's take a look at three of the most significant advantages of implementing a threat analysis approach. 

    1. Continual Updates to Threat Modeling

    Building effective, up-to-date threat models are one of the most crucial parts of a robust cybersecurity strategy. Threat models are meant to provide detailed and in-depth work on current cyber threats. And because the modern digital landscape is expanding at such a quick pace, threat models are also rapidly altering to keep up. So it becomes vital to continuously update threat models to stay protected against the most sophisticated threats developed.  

    2. Reduce Attack Surface

    Organizations that invest in a robust threat analysis approach see a significant reduction in their attack surface. This is because threat analysis keeps them up to date with a complete list of identified threats. And since most similar threats are based on the same exploit, it becomes significantly easier to reduce the effective attack surface after thoroughly patching all points of exploits that these threats use.  

    3. Up-to-Date Risk Profile

    Continuously analyzing and classifying threats using an internal repository or risk management system will result in an up-to-date risk profile a security attribute that significantly enhances an organization's security infrastructure. This profile may be used to conduct internal audits of security policies and processes, as well as to assist an organization's risk mitigation approach to improve over time. All of this has a significant impact on enterprises attempting to improve their security infrastructure.

    Key Components and Phases of Threat Analysis Process

    The exact method by which an organization carries out the threat analysis process might vary, but the process should have reproducible results based on industry standards and be organized to guarantee that the whole extent of the organization’s infrastructure is reviewed. But regardless of the method, at a core level, they all share four main components:  

    1. Scope

    The scope of the analysis defines threat, asset or software, and threat environment that will be covered under that analysis. 

    2. Data Collection

    A threat analyst must have free access to data in order to convert it into helpful insights that can be used to guide threat assessments. Data can either be researched and extracted, or it can be stored in system logs which can be referred to. Intrusion incidences, reported exploitations, firewall logs, malware reverse engineering, open-source internet searches, internal policies and processes, logs and warnings, system configuration information and other sources of information are examples of sources of information.  

    3. Threat Analysis

    This is the phase where the actual threat analysis process starts. It starts with the threat analyst using security tools to test and analyze the information acquired in the previous phases to establish where possible risks may exist. For each identified threat, the organization will calculate the likelihood that the threat will be discovered, as well as the possible impacts if the threat is successfully deployed. These possible impacts can be classified as those affecting availability, confidentiality, and integrity of the organization’s infrastructure or data. 

    4. Mitigation and Acceptance

    After identifying all threats, the company must decide which vulnerabilities will be addressed and which will be endured for the time being. This acceptance might be attributed to the cost or complexity of securing against that threat or the low likelihood of recurrence, among other factors.  

    Whatever the conclusion, each action and decision should be approved by the organization's executives, who must acknowledge that they agree with the resolution.

    Approaches to Cyber Threat Analysis (Methodology)

    The following are various potential approaches for performing cyber threat analysis: 

    1. Threat Metrics

    Keeping a record of security metrics assists an organization in recording and identifying patterns in system behavior as well as identifying when abnormalities arise. It can further be used to link certain atypical metrics with potential repercussions.  

    While the impact is minor relative to other techniques, the habit of detecting, assessing, and reporting on risks in an organized manner offers several advantages, mainly that it can offer data-driven decision-making regarding security controls or investments or justification for system changes. The amount of incursions or attacks every month is an excellent example of a quantitative metric in cyberspace. When these numbers are collected over a period of time, they might show the adversary's capacity and purpose.  

    2. Threat models

    We briefly went over what threat models are before, so let’s dive into a bit more detail. Threat models are made solely to measure how damaging a threat is to a system. By identifying the types of threat agents that can cause harm to your infrastructure, they are replicated and used to conduct a thorough analysis of the software architecture. This process enables a deeper understanding and discovery of important aspects of the system.

    A typical Threat modeling process

    Metrics alone cannot be used to assess an organization's threat level. A more robust security strategy would use a combination of measurements with a systematic approach (such as threat modeling) to identify and mitigate risks. 

    3. The Generic threat matrix

    This method comprises using threat attributes and their risk level to characterize them, which makes it easier to fully describe the threats and their severity. By classifying these threats into different levels, it becomes much easier for analysts to perform unbiased analysis for effective threat management.

     A basic threat matrix

    Source: Infosec Resources

    How to Conduct Cyber Threat Analysis [Step-by-Step Guide]

    Let’s move on to see how cyber threat analysis is conducted. While the exact methodology may differ based on the organization, as mentioned before, these five steps do provide some general ideas which are fundamental to any cyber threat analysis.  

    Step 1: Identify All Network Assets

    The first step in conducting a cyber threat analysis is to identify and make a comprehensive list of all endpoint and network assets, usually by referring to the digital inventory list. A network architecture diagram is also of significant help at this point, which illustrates the interconnectivity and communication between each asset, process and entry point.  

    Step 2: Collect data from network traffic monitoring

    Since most of the malware connects with the organization’s assets over the network, these harmful entities frequently monitor the organization’s network for any point of exploit. They usually focus on listening ports using TCP/UDP, like SMTP, HTTP, FTP, and proxy servers. Setting up network monitoring and network threat analysis will allow you to record such requests that are being sent over the organization’s network and help with traffic monitoring as well.  

    Step 3: Trigger

    The third step in conducting cyber threat analysis is Trigger, which guides threat analysis cyber security personnel to a specific part of the system or network that is suspected of being compromised. By employing various advanced detection tools, that part of the system is placed under complete surveillance to identify any atypical actions that might indicate malicious activity. A notion about a new threat is frequently the catalyst for proactive hunting. A hypothesis describes potential repercussions or threats in the environment as well as the best ways to identify them. To develop the most effective threat hunts, start monitoring for signs of compromise, evaluating environmental conditions, and incorporating industry experience. 

    Step 4: Investigation

    The threat analyst does a deep dive into a suspected attack or compromised system during the investigation phase, using various technologies such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). The inquiry is continued until the search is deemed unnecessary or a comprehensive picture of the harmful threat is discovered. 

    Step 5: Response and Resolution

    Automated systems aid in the detection and mitigation of threats. These activities may include the removal of malware files, the restoration of modified or erased files to their original configuration, the updating of firewall/IPS rules, the deployment of security updates, and the modification of system configurations. The information gathered during the investigation phase is sent to other teams who further respond, prioritize, analyze, and store the information for future use during the resolution phase. The data obtained are utilized to forecast trends, prioritize and remedy vulnerabilities, and enhance security measures. 

    Cyber threat analysts acquire as much information as they can about an attacker's behaviors, techniques, and aims during this process from the data that is available. They also evaluate acquired data to identify patterns in an organization's security environment, eradicate present weaknesses, and forecast future security.

    Difference Between Threat Analysis and Risk Analysis 

    These two terms are often used interchangeably, which shouldn’t be the case as they both refer to different things. We’ve gone over in detail what threat analysis in detail, so let’s take a quick look at what risk analysis is in order to better understand their differences.  

    A risk analysis, like a threat analysis, examines an organization’s infrastructure and system for security flaws. These might include business continuity risks, catastrophe recovery, data recovery, personnel skill sets, and even hardware operations. It is, nevertheless, a more proactive approach to IT security. These risk assessments must evaluate risk from top to bottom, as it might be anything that could interrupt operations. Threat analysis evaluates issues when they occur or are tried, whereas risk assessments study a larger range of possibilities to identify prospective problems and the extent of potential damage.

    Cyber Threat Analysis Tools 

    Cyber threat analysis can be performed by collecting the relevant data using a cyber threat intelligence tool. Now which tool you choose depends upon the unique needs of your organization and the ecosystem that you operate in, but there are a few threat intelligence analysis tools that you can consider for effective threat mitigation:  

    1. Cisco Umbrella

    Perhaps the most popular solution on this list, Cisco Umbrella is a cloud-based solution that makes use of threat intelligence to secure your organization’s endpoints, remote users, and office locations. 

    2. DeCYFI

    Developed by a Singapore-based cybersecurity company CYFIRMA, DeCYFIR is a cyber threat intelligence tool and threat analysis software that can be used to discover and decode threats directly from the locations where hackers operate.  

    3. Echosec

    Echosec is a cyber analysis platform that specializes in open-source intelligence, leveraging social media and dark web data to protect your enterprise against threats that haven’t even surfaced yet.  

    4. GreyNoise

    Developed by a US-based startup, GreyNoise reduces false positives while processing threat intelligence data. It collects information called “noise”, which a security analyst may overlook.

    How to Become Cyber Threat Analyst

    Cyber threat analysts have an analytical mind, the ability to think clearly and critically, and a solid grasp of the cybersecurity business. If you think that sounds like someone like you, being a threat intelligence analyst might be an excellent next step in your career. But what exactly does a threat analyst profession entail? 

    Simply put, threat intelligence experts are trained to use cyber security analytics tools to detect and eliminate threats before they become cyberattacks. Threat intelligence analysts act as part of an organization's cybersecurity ecosystem, combating both present and new threats.

    If you want to start your career as a cyber threat analyst, consider going through certificates in Cyber Security, which include certifications that primarily focus on threat intelligence.  

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    Because persistent attacks on critical infrastructure can overwhelm even industry experts, today's cyber security environment necessitates more monitoring and a robust defense strategy. To combat cyber threats, it is critical to understand the dangers and the level of exposure to such attacks, as well as to have a proactive rather than a reactive strategy. Using cyber threat analysis is a crucial point to confirm the organization’s security infrastructure. The primary goal of cyber threat analysis is to provide answers that can aid in the creation and support of counter-intelligence investigations, ultimately leading to the eradication of threats.  

    If you found this article informative, consider reading a bit about our KnowledgeHut’s CEH Certification Course, which goes over industry-leading ethical hacking training to protect your organization against the most sophisticated threats.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is a threat analysis group (TAG)?

    Threat Analysis Group or TAG is a dedicated team made by Google to government-backed attacks, hacks or misinformation. TAG monitors approximately 270 government-backed organizations from over 50 countries. These groups usually have a variety of motives, including gathering intelligence, stealing intellectual property, targeting dissidents and activists, launching harmful cyber-attacks, and disseminating coordinated misinformation, which Google aims to target and make known to the general public to avoid malware, phishing, and other attacks.

    2What are the 4 methods of threat detection?

    Generally, threat detection can be of four types: Configuration, Modeling, Indicator, and Threat Behavior. 

    3What does threat analysts do?

    Threat Analysts are expected to detect threats before they present themselves as cyberattacks. By performing cyber threat analysis, they report potential risks in the organization’s infrastructure, threats and vulnerabilities. The data extracted is later used to perform further in-depth analysis to forecast future security.  

    4What is a threat analysis report?

    The threat analysis report presents all of the findings of the cyber threat analysis in a comprehensive way. A threat analysis report example lists all of the threats and vulnerabilities that are found throughout the analysis.


    Sulaiman Asif


    Sulaiman Asif is an information security professional with 4+ years of experience in Ethical Hacking and a degree of Master in Information Security, he is an EC- Council CEH Certified and has also been engaged with University of Karachi and Institute of Business Management as a cyber security faculty.

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