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Why do Organizations Need to Leverage Actionable Threat Intelligence?

Posted on: June 07, 2021

How will you defend against threats and tactics that you have no idea about? With the rapid and constant transformation of the digital world, the threat of cyberattacks has become very real. This is where threat intelligence comes in. 

What is Actionable Threat Intelligence?

In simple terms, threat intelligence can be described as the collection and contextual analysis of raw data that assists security teams in making decisions and taking actions against threats. This raw data through various processes becomes actionable threat intelligence, which is further leveraged by security teams.

Significance of Threat Intel

Diving into the great unknown might seem to be adventurous and exciting but not when you are an organization and have to deal with cyber threats that can bring you down to your knees. That’s where threat intel comes in. Actionable threat intel, when properly leveraged, offers you a vision of the landscape so that your security team can respond to threats in real-time. In addition to that, it helps your security team better comprehend the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors. Threat intelligence empowers CISOs, CTOs, and CIOs to mitigate risk and invest prudently.

Converting Raw Data into Actionable Threat Intelligence


Collecting Raw Data

Raw data can come from both internal and external sources. Internal sources include incident reports, firewall logs, event and application logs, and DNS files from one’s own networks. External sources consist of publicly available open-source intelligence (news reports, public blocklists, blogs), commercial or private feed providers, and trusted sharing groups. The collection of various data feeds helps in the creation of a broad data pool. Threats are matched with these pools for the identification of patterns of malicious activity and are then, categorized accordingly. Analysts, consequently, can draw on these pools for accurate prediction of threats. 

Normalization

The conversion of threat data into threat intel is dependent on the ability of the security teams to analyze the data, cut through the noise and detect relevant data, and contextualize the data. However, with too many alerts comes fatigue and not a solution. Traditional intelligence tools offer a lot of information, however, not all of it is actionable. This results in way too many false positives, which, in time, leads to ignoring warnings. A proper Treat Intel Platform (TIP) normalizes all these data and creates actionable intel. Structured and unstructured data is normalized into STIX/TAXII standards for further processes, including enrichment, correlation, and propagation, in the threat intel lifecycle. This makes the job of deducing actional threat intel easy.

Enrichment 

This critical function involves the removal of false positives and creating meaningful intel. An advanced TIP assists security teams in correlating and enriching hundreds of Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) from trusted intel sources - external and internal. Nevertheless, different collection methods require different means of enrichment. For instance, a TIP can extract IP addresses from security vendors’ reports and add them to a CSV file to import to a SIEM product. In another instance, enrichment may involve the extraction of indicators from an email, augment them with other pertinent information, and consequently, communicate with endpoint protection solutions for automated blocking. 

Correlation and Analysis

SIEM solutions offer correlation rules to streamline data structuring. Sophisticated TIPs can structure data into entities, organize alerts and events, and produce accurate predictive models. The primary goal of analysis is to comprehend the data, check if it fulfills the requirements identified in the first phase, and look for potential security issues. This validation is simplified with a TIP that enables automated cross-correlation of threat sightings by subsidiaries, affiliates, and peers. 

Confidence Scoring

Although every threat intel is critical, analysts need a quick reference to pick out the ones that require timely action. The confidence scoring phase signifies the pertinence of a threat based on a set of customizable benchmarks, with regards to a particular organization. The benchmarks consist of information source, number of threat sightings, Traffic Light Protocol (TLP) rating, file types, organization sector, geography, and relation with other threats. This can easily be stated to be the most crucial phase in the threat intel lifecycle as it helps accurately identify a threat and eliminate false positives.  

Dissemination and Actioning

The intelligence is now ready to be disseminated to internal security teams, such as SOC, IR, VAPT, threat hunting, and external partners within an organization’s trusted sharing network for quick analysis and actioning. An advanced threat intelligence sharing platform assists security teams to track threats that target a firm’s internal assets and receive real-time alerts and notifications. 

Use Cases


Threat Intelligence Lifecycle Automation 

The threat intelligence lifecycle becomes labor-intensive with large volumes of indicators of compromise (IOCs) being collected and manually enriched on a daily basis. By leveraging the automation capabilities of a SOAR platform, threat intelligence ingestion, enrichment, and analysis can be performed easily and quickly. SOAR platforms automatically ingest and normalize IOCs from multiple sources and enrich them. Subsequently, they can score the intel and take further action, streamlining the entire threat intelligence lifecycle

Incident Response

It is the responsibility of incident responders to determine the state of attacks in real-time, along with detecting the damage caused. Actionable threat intel decreases the time that security teams spend in reacting to threats by facilitating the following capabilities:
  • Detecting and dismissing false positives and irrelevant alerts.
  • Enhancing alerts with context across all sources.
  • Automating triage and response and hence, effectively handling critical situations by a proper amalgamation of machines and humans. 
All the above points ensure that incident response teams can track, correlate, and mitigate threats and elements related to them. 

Vulnerability Management

A few of the great uses of a threat intelligence knowledge base include assessing critical vulnerabilities, determining optimum mitigation strategies, and sharing information with other IT groups. It provides a metric to an organization to analyze vulnerabilities, with respect to the resources available. The biggest threat does not come from new vulnerabilities but from old, unpatched ones. Findings by Gartner suggest that exploits by threat actors were plain variations of old ones and hence, an organization’s first priority should be to track and patch the known vulnerabilities. 
Actionable threat intel can associate vulnerabilities with threat actors, their TTPs, and targets. The correlation of vulnerabilities on a system with those found in real-time, such as malware and exploits, saves analysts a lot of time and remediation becomes seamless.   
 

Cyber Fusion 

Cyber fusion integrates humans and machines for an optimal result. It is an approach that combines threat intelligence, and security orchestration and automation, among others, to form a single interconnected network. With the unparalleled collaboration across security teams, actionable and reliable threat intelligence is shared for quick threat prediction, detection, analysis, and incident response. Besides, cyber fusion ensures the automated flow of actionable threat intel into each and every facet of security operations.  

Connecting the Dots

Threat intelligence is made actionable and reliable by connecting the dots between different threat parameters, trusted enrichment databases, and reported incidents. This fosters high confidence and, actionable intel-driven SecOps, improving an organization’s security posture and response toward threats.

The Bottom Line

Actionable and context-rich threat intelligence can assist incident responders in making quick and informed decisions to detect incidents that need immediate attention, connect the dots between isolated campaigns and indicators, proactively block threats before they attack, and prevent similar incidents in the future.

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