Organizations build cyber threat intelligence (CTI) programs. But how often do they commit to it or strategize it? How can they tell if their CTI program is working well for them? Most organizations just feed indicators of compromise (IOCs) into SIEMs and firewalls, making their threat investigations not up to scratch. They need to learn to make more out of the threat intelligence that they gather. Threat intelligence is more than just ingesting and blocking threat feeds. Needless to say, ingesting intel and acting on it is an integral part of threat intelligence and is indispensable to protecting an organizational environment, however, an effective CTI program entails more than that.
First, organizations need in-depth insights and understanding of the threat landscape, which is possible only if they have access to contextualized and actionable threat intelligence. This real insight helps organizations understand how a threat will impact them, improving their cyber readiness and preparedness to prevent such risks.
A CTI program can be called constructive only if it provides deeper insights and visibility into the complex cybersecurity landscape, enabling organizations in understanding historical and current threats as well as predict them, enabling faster triaging and processing of multi-source threat data, and prioritizing and efficiently allocating their resources.
Why do Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Programs fail?
Most of the CTI programs prove inefficient, making effective operationalization of threat intelligence difficult. Some of the reasons why an organization’s CTI program fails can be:
Lack of Capability to Harness Internal Threat Intel
A legacy threat intelligence tool fails to ingest or add context to data generated by internal sources. With several internally deployed security tools, it’s important for SecOps teams to leverage the threat intel generated by them. SecOps teams need to put in place the best threat intelligence platforms that allow them to harness internal threat intel.
Lack of Centralized Threat Visibility
Security teams often switch between different consoles to manage threat intel and analysis data, perform detailed investigations, and configure threat protection policies. These SOC silos and lack of centralized visibility increase complexity and redundant tasks in security administration. A CTI program is inadequate if it doesn’t provide a holistic view of an organization’s security posture and prevents security teams from performing investigations from a single unified console.
Lack of Capability to Correlate Threats
There exist a wide range of threat intelligence solutions that ingest IOCs from disparate sources. However, not all of them are capable of IOC advanced enrichment and threat correlation. Consequently, security teams struggle to calculate the confidence score of the IOCs, thereby failing to take necessary action on potential threats. As part of their CTI programs, organizations must employ a connected threat intelligence platform (TIP) that helps security teams to correlate threat data with additional context and assign confidence scores to threat indicators.
Connected TIPs are the best threat intelligence platforms as they have the capability to integrate with several tools to correlate new intelligence with historical data as well as network and endpoint activity to gain threat visibility. An organization’s CTI program proves to be inefficient if it doesn't focus on threat correlation.
Lack of Capability to Operationalize Actionable Threat Intelligence
To make threat intelligence actionable and contextualized, it needs to be operationalized. In other words, threat intel analysis and enrichment need to be performed to make the best out of it. Organizations need to improve the way they operationalize threat intelligence as it helps in making strategic decisions and faster threat response. A CTI program must focus on improving the threat hunting, detection, analysis, and response operations of an organization. Threat intelligence that lacks context drives poor security operations and cannot be further used to connect the dots between different threat elements.
Security teams deal with a flood of indicators of compromise (IOCs) on a day-to-day basis and not all threat intelligence is appropriate. They manually enrich, validate, and analyze the IOCs before sharing them with peers and other key stakeholders. This results in a longer mean time to detect (MTTD), mean time to respond (MTTR), and mean time to contain (MTTC) the threats. A CTI program is of no or little value if an organization’s SOC team is stuck with manual processes.
Lack of Scalability
As part of their CTI programs, several organizations employ multiple tools, making it difficult to centralize the management of threat intelligence. However, CTI programs fail when SOC teams struggle to analyze the gargantuan information produced from using disparate tools and services.
Don’t Wait to Operationalize Threat Intelligence
Without context, threat intelligence is just threat data. For threat intelligence to be meaningful and actionable, it needs to be operationalized. Organizations must design CTI programs in a way that can help them operationalize threat intelligence across their detection, analysis, and response technologies. As every security operations center (SOC) team manages different processes and works with disparate tools, sharing threat intelligence between teams, tools, and processes is essential.
To leverage the full capacity of threat intelligence, organizations must perform automated actions. A connected threat intelligence platform (TIP) can help fill the gap. A connected TIP is a cybersecurity solution that ingests, enriches, analyzes, and shares threat data while integrating with internal detection, analysis, and response technologies and external sharing partners. It enables end-to-end tactical and technical threat intelligence automation with advanced analysis and bi-directional sharing within a trusted network, powering effective threat hunting, detection, investigation, and response. All in all, a modern-day connected TIP catapults an organization’s CTI program. Moreover, having an automated threat alert aggregation platform can enable a quick incident response to threats, thereby improving an organization’s bottom line. It can allow security teams to share real-time alerts, making other teams and stakeholders situationally aware of any incident.
Does Your CTI Program Focus on Different Types of Threat Intelligence?
Strategic Intelligence: It includes identifying and analyzing risks that can impact an organization’s critical assets such as customers, vendors, employees, and the overall infrastructure. An effective CTI program must focus on strategic intelligence that encompasses historical trends, key attributions of an attack, and motivations of threat actors. Laying emphasis on strategic intelligence enables security teams to look at the bigger picture. A CTI program should allow organizations to apply intelligence to strategies, governance, and policies. Tactical Intelligence: Security analysts need contextualized and actionable intelligence to keep ahead of the threat landscape. Tactical Intelligence comes in the form of IOCs containing information on malware files, malicious domains and URLs, and virus signatures, and proves highly effective in investigating a cyber kill chain and containing the attack. CTI programs that focus on tactical intelligence empower organizations to act quickly and lower the impact. Technical Intelligence: A worthwhile CTI program is the one that can determine “what” are the goals of the threat actors and “when” they are planning their next attack. It should provide insights into attack mechanisms, threat actor campaigns, and tools used by them. Technical intelligence is used to prevent attacks and reduce the MTTD, MTTR, and MTTC. Operational Intelligence: A CTI program must include operational intelligence that focuses on how an adversary can attack a company. It also concentrates on other aspects like how the attack would affect the organization, and hence, helps prioritize the assets at the operational level.
Is Your CTI Program Effective or Not?
So, how can an organization tell if their CTI program is working well for them or not? Your CTI program is on fleek if it does the following:
Harnesses Internal Threat Intel
There is tremendous threat data that can be leveraged from the internal network of an organization. The internal tools include firewalls, antivirus, EDR/NDR, and SIEM solutions that generate log files, and incident response reports that can be used to identify and thwart threats. A CTI program isn’t effective if it doesn’t allow security teams to make use of the threat intel generated by the internally deployed tools. This threat intel can be used to provide context and answer questions like “who”, “what”, and “when” of the threats.
Provides Comprehensive Threat Visibility
By bringing security tools, teams, and processes into a single centralized platform, security teams can gain complete threat visibility. Having an effective CTI program in place helps security teams to centralize multi-source ingestion, perform IOC correlation, and most importantly leverage actionable, contextualized, and high-confidence threat intelligence.
Performs Threat Correlation
Threat intel correlation is an integral facet of the threat intelligence lifecycle where security analysts add context to the collected threat data. A CTI program is effective if it allows the use of connected TIPs that help in threat information correlation and contextualization to identify potential threats. Security teams should be able to correlate indicators and incidents, establish relationships, and organize data to get threat visibility.
Offers Centralized Governance
Your CTI program is on point if you can gain visibility into different security metrics. If your CTI program focuses on providing centralized governance and reporting capabilities and empowering CISOs and other security leaders that means you are on the right path. An effective CTI program will allow CISOs to track all the KPIs and security metrics that can help in SLA and ROI management.
Fosters Security Collaboration
Security collaboration is gaining prominence due to its capability to defend against cyber attacks in a hyperconnected digital environment. By collaborating with both private and public entities facing similar cyber threats, enterprises can benefit from the collective intelligence and work together as trusted advisers to each other rather than struggling alone against complex threats. A beneficial CTI program is one that promotes bi-directional information sharing and collaboration in real-time, enabling organizations to collectively defend against advanced threats while safeguarding their individual environments.
Standardizes Threat Data
With numerous threat intelligence sources, thousands of IOCs, and multiple formats, it gets overwhelming for a security analyst to track a threat indicator. From communities, government entities, industry peers, threat intelligence providers, open source feeds, and several other sources, plenty of structured and unstructured threat data is generated. However, the formats are inconsistent. Due to a lack of standardized data, security teams struggle with enabling threat data analysis and operationalization at scale. Organizations can make their CTI programs leverage STIX formats that can standardize threat data and make it consumable and actionable.
Operationalizes Actionable Threat Intelligence
An effective CTI program is designed to aggregate, analyze, and disseminate threat intelligence, and also integrate with other tools. For threat intel operationalization, connected TIPs are used that automatically correlate and analyze millions of threat indicators at speed. A robust CTI program is the answer to today’s SecOps solutions that don’t interoperate.
Automates Manual Processes
The threat intelligence lifecycle becomes laborious when SecOps teams have to manually ingest IOCs and go through several processes to add context to them. Thousands of threat indicators are collected on a daily basis, and enriching them manually is not humanly possible.
The best threat intelligence platforms drive modern-day CTI programs by constantly focusing on automated threat intel ingestion, enrichment, and analysis.
Integrates with Internal Tools
Organizations leverage a wide range of security tools today and get overwhelmed with massive volumes of data they generate. Successful CTI programs focus on integrating all the disparate tools to increase the productivity of security teams instead of pushing them to add different tools.
Enables Automated Actioning
A CTI program must focus on automating capabilities throughout the threat intelligence lifecycle. Starting from threat intel ingestion, normalization, correlation to enrichment, analysis, and sharing to accelerate workflows and enable quick intel actioning. To automate intel actioning, security teams can feed enriched, validated, and analyzed threat intelligence to their threat intelligence platforms (TIPs).
Identifying threat actors and their TTPs should be the objective of any CTI program. Organizations should know how many of these actors are being monitored by their CTI program. Having a complete understanding of “who” and “why” an attacker is targeting an organization is essential to any CTI program.
For threat actors, malware is crucial. With the right information about a malware, enterprises can remain proactive by taking protections against specific threats and being aware of vulnerable systems. When an attack takes place, several solutions can report malware but only a robust CTI program can add context to these threats, enabling quick threat investigation and response. Equipping security teams with actionable and low-noise threat intelligence and enabling them to easily track the threat campaigns shows the effectiveness of a CTI program.
Connects the Dots
To achieve their goals, threat actors use specific TTPs to trick individuals or exploit software. A solid CTI program helps security teams unearth hidden threat patterns by connecting the dots between different threat actors, vulnerabilities, malware, incidents, and other threat elements. It enables them to seamlessly triage efforts to proactively defend against malicious attacks.
Fosters Vulnerability Management
One of the most common ways cybercriminals attack is by exploiting vulnerabilities. With security teams leveraging tremendous connected systems and tools, they need the capabilities to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize them. A strong CTI program helps security teams in vulnerability management, enabling them to identify the most commonly exploited vulnerabilities and timely patch them.
A mature CTI program is one that helps security teams collect, enrich, correlate, and analyze threat data in real-time, as well as retain low noise to accelerate incident response. Climbing the ladder of CTI program maturity is not a one-day job, it requires years of cyber strategies and integration of the best threat intelligence platforms.
Best Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) for Implementing Cyber Threat Intelligence Programs
Cyware Threat Intelligence eXchange (CTIX) is a next-generation connected threat intelligence platform that automates the ingestion, enrichment, analysis, and dissemination of threat data to internal security tools, teams and stakeholders, and a trusted external network. CTIX follows the hub-and-spoke model for bidirectional threat data exchange, with a central server or a central organization or team disseminating relevant intel to all connected tools or entities while also ingesting data from these systems. By integrating with security tools across an organization’s internal network, the platform enables threat intelligence delivery to detection sensors in real time, significantly improving the speed of detection and response. Cyware Situational Awareness Platform (CSAP) is a real-time threat information sharing and communication platform that enables you to share accurate and actionable strategic threat intelligence systematically. CSAP automatically aggregates threat alerts and equips security teams with information to improve situational awareness and resilience. CSAP’s unique mobile capability is the underpinning for a powerful “On-the-Go” availability of information and platform access that empowers security teams to take action in real-time or warn team members of an immediate crisis. Watch our on-demand webinar on how to operationalize threat intelligence to automate threat response or book a free demo today to dig deeper into the potential of threat intelligence.