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The Evolution of Threat Intelligence
Posted on: July 19, 2021
Threat intelligence is a valuable resource for organizations as well as individuals serving in roles such as network architects, security operations team members, incident responders, and high-level decision-makers, who all must be prepared for different threats challenging their organizations. With its value being increasingly recognized by organizations across industries, threat intelligence has matured and evolved.
The Birth of Threat Intelligence
Years ago, the progenitors to threat intelligence—IP and URL blacklists—started emerging. These blacklists were fed into security tools such as security information and event management (SIEM) platforms and firewalls to create alerts and meaningful reports. Needless to say, security researchers manually scoured for threats and communicated daily updates to their customers and other entities.
A decade ago, the dark web and malicious activities started burgeoning, demonstrating the shortcomings of the day’s security tools. They were not built to identify and process the growing number of indicators of compromise (IOCs), IPs, malicious domains, and other threats. This is when the cybersecurity industry acknowledged the rising concern.
Organizations started developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to correlate and automate data on a whole new level. They leveraged millions of sensors to collect tons of threat information and big data tools to process and analyze that information. Moreover, big data tools were leveraged to perform complex detection across different attack surfaces. This is how big data led to the genesis of threat intelligence.
With time, threat intelligence evolved when cybersecurity professionals discovered that big data was giving out a whacking great number of false alerts and they realized the need for human intervention. Eventually, the cybersecurity experts started managing the threat intelligence collection that reduced the false positives and helped better visualize the threats and attack methods specific to an organization. This shifted the focus to finding and prioritizing vulnerabilities and resulted in faster detection and response.
The Threat Intelligence We Leverage Now
In the last five years as the adoption of threat intelligence mushroomed, several organizations popped up only to offer services focusing on data quality. The objective of such organizations was to provide guidelines for decision-making and taking relevant actions. The companies leveraging threat intelligence solutions started employing those services aimed to improve data quality.
Over the years, organizations have adopted a shared understanding of the attributes of threat intelligence. To simply put, threat intelligence means collecting relevant data from disparate sources and converting it into meaningful information. Through a single entry point, the threat intelligence is integrated into an organization’s security operations and seamlessly shared with other members and stakeholders. Threat intelligence provides unique insights into emerging threats, enabling security teams to prioritize alerts, upgrade their resources, and make informed decisions.
Today, every organization takes a different approach to build its people, processes, and tools. The communication and collaboration between these three entities are not often smooth. To facilitate improved communication and collaboration between the people, processes, and tools, organizations started espousing cyber fusion. The new-age cyber fusion technology helps security teams consume and produce contextualized threat intelligence on sophisticated threat campaigns, identify attacker trajectories, and connect the dots between incidents and threats.
In this day and age, threat intelligence has moved beyond just consuming IOCs. It not only covers IOCs but also threat actors’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Modern-day threat intelligence platforms (TIPs) integrate MITRE ATT&CK Navigator that allows you to gain insights into threat actors’ TTPs to realize trends across the cyber kill chain and create meaningful intel. Such advanced TIPs have made sharing of all kinds of threat intelligence—strategic, tactical, technical, and operational—possible between vendors, ISAC/ISAOs, peer organizations, and subsidiaries.
At present, threat intelligence has a wide variety of use cases such as:
Security Operations Center (SOC)
Teams at a security operations center (SOC) can use threat intelligence for alerting, monitoring, and blocking threats. They can create signatures or rules for IOCs to generate alerts in IDS/IPS, SIEMs, or endpoint protection tools. Using threat intelligence, SOC teams handle the triage management of alerts induced from network monitoring. When these alerts are amalgamated with contextualized threat intelligence, SOC teams can more swiftly prioritize and define the relevance of threats. This results in reduced false positives, accelerated triage, and lesser time spent on threat analysis and containment.
Incident response teams are overwhelmed with massive volumes of alerts, therefore, they struggle to prioritize threats for investigation and take necessary actions. Threat intelligence can help incident responders analyze alerts by lowering false positives and adding context to enrich alerts. Moreover, by using threat intelligence, incident response teams can identify the areas of observation in an ongoing intrusion. In the case of ongoing investigations, threat intelligence can prove useful in triage and prioritization based on the threat actors involved and potential infrastructure at risk.
Vulnerability management is a time-consuming process and organizations need to be aware of the vulnerabilities that could be mended with a simple patch. Threat intelligence allows security teams to perform risk-based analysis of vulnerabilities. Security teams can gain key insights into the vulnerabilities and also into a threat actor’s goals and TTPs. This can allow them to examine risks posed to specific infrastructure and prioritize those vulnerabilities.
CISOs and other security professionals can employ threat intelligence for analyzing risks. It can help them make strategic decisions on the security processes that best suit their organizations. Using threat intelligence, they can gain in-depth insights into attack trends by industry, geography, software, and more.
The Road Ahead with Threat Intelligence
The threat intelligence market is still ballooning. Research suggests the market size of global threat intelligence is expected to be at $16.1 billion by 2025. As the role of security teams will become bigger, their approach to incident response will move from reactive to proactive. They will collaborate and interact more at different levels and be responsible for offering threat intelligence that identifies risks and defines business goals. Moving forward, threat intelligence will enable security teams to effectively predict and prevent threats at the earliest and promote proactive threat response.
Efficiently leveraging threat intelligence can prove to be a valuable investment for your company. With different security tools available today, security teams are inundated with the threat information. Leveraging an advanced TIP can provide centralized data management and allow threat intelligence sharing, enhancing security teams' capabilities to detect threats and respond to them.