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SecurityTrails Blog · Jul 16 · SecurityTrails team

Cyber Threat Intelligence

Reading time: 9 minutes

We are living in the age of data. The explosive data growth we are experiencing shows no signs of stopping, as reports show that the size of total worldwide data will grow to 163ZB in next 10 years.

Machine learning, AI and big data have been the focal point of data intelligence and data-driven culture for years, influencing many new developments and technologies. Data can do a lot for us, but raw data is only the result of observation, and without analysis it can’t have predictive powers. That’s why we turn to data intelligence.

In cybersecurity, the power to predict future attacks even before they reach targeted networks can help organizations prioritize their responses, speeding up the decision-making process as well as response time, providing better security altogether.

This is why cyber threat intelligence was introduced.

What Is threat intelligence?

The concept of intelligence isn’t anything new. It’s been used throughout history and in many different industries; we see it in OSINT, espionage and even market research, among others.

Threat intelligence, specifically, is collecting and analyzing information about indicators of past, current and future cyber threats, which enables an organization to take action to protect their assets, network and the entire organization. The keyword here is analysis.

Let’s think of it this way: You’ve compiled a list of all the data breaches that took place over the past year and the types of malware that caused them. That list may be informative, but it doesn’t do much good by merely existing. So what now?

You have to combine your historical knowledge with data on current threats, attack vectors, existing and exploited vulnerabilities, threat actors that are specific to your industry, then analyze and compare them to find the needle in the haystack that will yield the relevant intel that helps you prevent cyberattacks on your infrastructure.

One of the biggest takeaways of cyber threat intelligence is the change of security approach from reactive to proactive. It brings proactive defense against any threats that emerge outside your landscape before they even hit you. But it can only do that if it’s relevant, punctual and actionable.

So, data presented in cyber threat intelligence needs to be:

  • Contextualised
  • Evidence-based
  • Relevant

The biggest challenge is setting the groundworks for threat intelligence. There needs to be the goal of threat intelligence, which in most cases is to protect the organization from a data breach and damage to their reputation. After setting the goal, we get to the intelligence requirements which would, for example, be knowing what the active threat actors are in your industry.

Once you have both goal and requirements set, that’s when you can decide what should be collected, then how to prioritize and analyze it further.

Types of threat intelligence

We can distinguish four main categories of threat intelligence:

Strategic The big picture of past, current and future trends in the threat landscape
Operational Specifics about the nature and purpose of attacks and attackers.
Tactical Techniques, tools and tactics of the attackers
Technical Technical indicators about malware and campaigns (threat intelligence feeds) 

Importance of threat intelligence in cybersecurity

Cyber threat intelligence helps organizations by giving them insights into the mechanisms and implications of threats, allowing them to build defense strategies and frameworks, and reduce their attack surface with the end goals of mitigating harm and protecting their network.

The main objective of cyber threat intelligence is to provide organizations a deeper understanding of what’s happening outside their network, giving them better visibility of the cyber threats that bring the most risk to their infrastructure.

You need threat intelligence for effective defense. It’s also about prioritizing: removing false positives that constantly hit SOCs and recognizing the advanced threats and exploits the organization is most vulnerable to, so teams can take action against them. With cyber threat intelligence, you can determine if your security defense system can actually handle those threats, and improve it as necessary.

Here are other major benefits to good cyber threat intelligence in your organization, too.

Cost efficiency

With reports showing that a data breach costs US companies an average of $7.91 million, and with the speed of identifying and responding to a breach incurring an impact on that figure, it’s no surprise that effective cyber threat intelligence can help you, if not completely avoid, at least cut down on the cost. With teams readily aware and proper defense strategies in place, a breach can be identified and remedied that much more quickly.

A recent survey shows that threat intelligence programs have saved organizations $8.8 million in the past 12 months.

Security team efficiency

When an anomaly in your network is flagged and your security team is alerted, they need to know if it’s an actual threat or merely a false positive. Integrating threat intelligence will give your teams more insight into what needs to be addressed, improve their response rate and allow them to focus on what actually matters. This will not only enhance their efficiency in handling security alerts and minimize their workload, but also cut down the need for more staff.

Collaborative knowledge

Knowledge is the only thing that grows once it’s shared. The same rings true with threat intelligence. The same survey shows that 66% of cybersecurity decision makers in organizations with threat intelligence programs said their business looks to the government for information or data on cyber threats. To really keep up with crackers, and the techniques they use that are getting more sophisticated every day, organizations share their knowledge on the tactics and vulnerabilities they see in the wild—helping others to defend themselves against them as well.

Top 10 cyber threat intelligence feeds

As mentioned, threat intelligence needs to be relevant, punctual and actionable. One of the ways organizations manage that is by incorporating cyber threat intelligence feeds into their already existing security solutions.

Cyber threat intelligence feeds are real-time constant streams of threat data coming from different sources outside your network. They give you intel on potential global threats, which can be suspicious domains or IP addresses linked to suspicious activity, information from pastebin, and more.

We’ve talked about the best cybersecurity APIs, and now let’s explore our favorite cyber threat intelligence feeds:

1. Recorded Future

Recorded Future offers their Threat Intelligence Feeds solution with more than 65 threat data streams, and they’re always adding new ones. They also allow you to integrate it with other threat feeds you’re already using, and they correlate and analyze the data for you. This way, you’ill focusing on intelligence that actually matters, to make quicker, better-informed security decisions.

2. IBM X-Force Exchange

One of the industry’s favorites, IBM X-Force Exchange is a threat intelligence sharing platform for security analysts that allows you to quickly access intel on current cyber threats and share your findings with other users. With it, you can search IP addresses, URLs, CVEs and web applications and gives you insight into their risk scores, historical records, locations and much more.

3. FireEye iSIGHT Threat Intelligence

FireEye iSIGHT Threat Intelligence is a unique platform that combines adversary, victim and machine-based intelligence. Its team of intelligence researchers from all over the world delivers the latest intel on attackers’ tactics, techniques and procedures 24 hours after they have been observed. The team works to eliminate false positives and prioritize threats so you can know when and how to respond.

4. AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM)

AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM) features a community that researches the global threat landscape and contributes over 19 million threat indicators daily. Their unified platform provides data on endpoint detection, vulnerability assessment and asset discovery so you can investigate and mitigate threats faster and more efficiently.

5. ThreatConnect

ThreatConnect is another industry favorite. You can automate your security tools to send intel to ThreatConnect, get intelligence data from them to provide context to threats and speed up your incident response time. It also allows you to manage your team’s workflow and export reports to see the true business impact your security program has. It features analytics, automation and workflow all in one.

6. Anomali ThreatStream

Here’s another great platform that works to remove false positives and alert fatigue by applying machine learning intelligence. Anomali ThreatStream collects data from many sources, which you can then purchase and use to identify and prioritize critical threats to your organization for faster incident response prior, during and after an attack. It’s also a sharing platform where you can collaborate with the community and work together the mitigate threats.

7. LookingGlass Cyber Solutions

LookingGlass Cyber Solutions is an open-source framework for threat intelligence that shows you why your organization can be targeted and allows you to proactively avoid potential threats. It gives threats context and priority so you can address your security vulnerabilities based on highest risk score.

8. Symantec DeepSight Intelligence

Symantec DeepSight Intelligence is the largest civilian threat collection platform available that gives you access to the most relevant global threat intelligence and technical details. With it, you can discover techniques of posing threat actors, active campaigns and much more, informing you of cyber risks and enabling your timeliest responses to them.

9. Palo Alto Networks AutoFocus

Palo Alto Networks AutoFocus is a hosted service that contextualizes threat investigation so you can improve the accuracy and speed of your threat analysis and incident response. It allows you to correlate and discover the causes of threats, all in one unified product. It also features automated protection that helps you use intelligence for better defense.

10. Cisco Threat Intelligence Director

Cisco Threat Intelligence Director is a feature in Cisco’s Firepower Management Center (FMC) product that automates your threat intelligence so you can keep up with security alerts and correlate them, allowing you to quickly identify threats. When it consumes intelligence data, it produces incidents in real time that can be analyzed to help you put the right defenses in place.

Conclusion

Many make the wrong distinction between threat data and threat intelligence. Without intelligence, data can’t give us the predictive knowledge needed to see threats before they enter our network.

Cyber threat intelligence is something that can help us protect our network, regulate costs of maintaining network security and give our security teams the knowledge and understanding they need to focus on what really matters. Whether it’s by crafting your own solutions or using threat intelligence feeds, integrating threat intelligence will help bring you peace of mind in today’s ever-rising threat landscape.


SecurityTrails Feeds provide up-to-date IP, domain and company enrichment data that you can easily integrate with already existing threat feeds for better cyber intelligence. We can also make custom feeds that will suit you and your team. Take a step toward your best cybersecurity possible — contact us for more information today!