The internet is flooded with threat data about the latest security threats. However, most of it is available in an unstructured format. It can be in the form of threat intelligence reports, email messages, vendor advisories, news, blog posts, word-processing documents, or PDFs. Unlike structured data, which comes in a well-defined format, unstructured data does not have a predefined schema and isn’t available in a specified format. As a result, it becomes a daunting task for security teams to manually sift through heaps of unstructured data and then correlate them to derive actionable threat intelligence. This data overload leaves less bandwidth for the analysis process.
However, this does not mean that organizations must only rely on structured data to ward off impending attacks. This also does not mean that unstructured data cannot be leveraged for threat analysis and response. There is a great deal of critical intelligence hidden in this wealth of unstructured data and organizations can extract this valuable information, provided they have the capability to process it properly. Once the data is processed, it can be easily digested by security teams for threat detection and analysis processes.
What is the Significance of Processing Threat Data?
Threat data processing is a crucial stage in the cyber threat intelligence lifecycle. It is a vital stage that transforms the raw, noisy data into a standardized format that could be used for analysis and deriving meaningful context from it. Using the processed information, security analysts can derive contextualized intelligence by getting answers to complex questions, including details about threat actors, their capabilities, motivations, and the indicators of compromise (IOCs). While a sheer volume of unstructured data presents a gold mine for threat information, it can also include noise and false positives. This becomes a major constriction in the analysis, threat response, and sharing processes. Further, the chance of missing genuine threats also increases. However, when the raw and unstructured threat data is processed and transformed into useful information, it can certainly help organizations to improve their security posture. This processed data, when enriched and correlated, moves towards becoming highly valuable threat intelligence which helps security teams to make better and more informed decisions.
What are the Key Aspects of Threat Intelligence Processing?
In common language, processing involves transforming collected raw data into a format usable by the organization. In the threat intelligence lifecycle, the processing involves sorting, structuring, and deduplication of amassed threat data to remove any redundancy or false positives. Almost all raw data collected needs to be processed, whether by humans or machines. Specific processing procedures are followed depending on the type of raw data. For example, sometimes processing requires extracting IP addresses from a security vendor’s report and adding them to a CSV file for importing to a security information and event management (SIEM) product. In a more technical area, processing might involve extracting indicators from an email, enriching them with other information, and then communicating with protection tools for automated blocking.
The manual approach to processing unstructured data is tedious, time-consuming, and can be error-prone. Moreover, security teams often struggle to confidently and efficiently act on appropriate IOCs due to massive threat data. This tedious process can drain precious resource time, increasing the Mean Time To Respond (MTTR). An advanced threat intelligence platform (TIP) helps overcome these challenges by automating threat intel ingestion, normalization, enrichment, and correlation processes that are vital for intelligence-driven security operations.
Processing Threat Data is Hard, TIP Makes it Easy!
With a threat intelligence platform, security teams can go beyond the cumbersome job of manually sifting through unstructured data and enhance the analysis of potential threats by automating the extraction of various threat indicators and attack patterns from unstructured documents. Other capabilities include:
Threat Data Normalization
A threat intelligence platform (TIP) delivers meaningful and actionable intelligence by automatically ingesting and normalizing data from both internal and external sources. Typically STIX format is followed to standardize the unstructured threat data so that it can be consumed, analyzed, shared, or actioned easily. Within the STIX framework, each piece of threat information is categorized under specific attributes that are easily understood by both security tools and technologies that support it. A modern-day TIP comes with format-agnostic capabilities that enable the conversion of structured and unstructured information to various formats, such as STIX 1.x/2.0, XML, MAEC, YARA, MISP, CSV, PDF, JSON, OpenIOC, Email, and CybOX. This streamlines and enhances the analysis, enrichment, correlation, and dissemination/sharing activities in the threat intelligence lifecycle.
Enrichment and Deduplication
Threat intelligence platform integrates with several trusted search engine services such as Shodan, VirusTotal, and WHOIS to enrich different types of IOCs such as hash values, IP addresses, domain names, network artifacts, tools, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), host artifacts used by attackers. This removes irrelevant and duplicate threat indicators and fosters quick and efficient correlation to disseminate valuable cyber threat intelligence. In addition to leveraging trusted external sources, a top-notch threat intelligence platform enables the enrichment of IOCs from internal threat intel feeds. Eventually, security teams can determine the confidence score of the IOCs and prioritize taking action on related intelligence. Based on the confidence score, a modern threat intelligence platform can triage several response actions such as blocking IOCs on internally-deployed security tools or adding them to the watchlist of a SIEM platform.
The Bottom line
Data and intelligence are two different things. In today’s world, organizations are overwhelmed with a large amount of threat data. This data is often unstructured and almost represents a simple declaration of facts such as an IP address or a malicious domain address. However, these facts are not enough to drive meaningful threat intelligence. To arrive at actionable threat intelligence, data must be processed, enriched, and correlated to provide relevant information that, when given additional analysis and context, can be used to execute effective mitigation actions against cyber threats. Cyware Threat Intelligence eXchange (CTIX) is one of the advanced threat intelligence platforms that helps security teams derive actionable threat intelligence by fully automating the ingestion, normalization, processing, and enrichment of threat data. The unique capability of the CTIX lies in the way it interacts with large volumes of multi-source and multi-format threat intel and processes it to deliver the threat intelligence in a format that is needed to perform advanced threat analysis and investigations and prioritize threat response. Moreover, the format-agnostic threat intelligence ingestion capability of CTIX enables the conversion of unstructured information to various formats, such as STIX 1.x/2.0, XML, MAEC, YARA, MISP, CSV, PDF, JSON, OpenIOC, Email, and CybOX. This streamlines the analysis process of security teams whilst facilitating them to prioritize the response action depending on the severity of a threat/incident. To learn more about how Cyware’s CTIX processes threat intelligence from unstructured threat data, book a free demo.