Cyber Threat Intelligence

What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Cyber threats are on the rise, and these attacks are getting more complex and sophisticated by the day. So, how do you protect yourself and your organization from them? The answer lies in cyber threat intelligence. 

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) refers to the data/information (and the process of sourcing, analyzing, and disseminating it) of past, present, and trending cyber threats and threat actors. 

The idea behind collecting this data is to understand better the motivations, capabilities, and intentions behind cyber threats along with the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TPPs) threat actors use to perform them. 

Why Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?

Cyber threat intelligence is a vital practice for organizations for several reasons:

  • The intelligence obtained via this exercise gives security personnel a bird’s eye view of the threat landscape, which helps them prioritize their resources and deploy appropriate countermeasures and controls. In short, it helps security teams be proactive rather than reactive. 
  • Cyber threat intelligence also facilitates the ability to launch a more accurate incident response and recovery. The contextual and timely information this exercise/data provides helps reduce noise and false positives, thus enabling security teams to be more effective while mitigating the data losses and with minimal resource expenditure.
  • CTI also enables security teams to be more strategic and aligned with the business goals by providing insights and recommendations that can inform decision-making and risk management.

What Are the Various Types of Cyber Threat Intelligence Available?

Cyber threat intelligence can be classified into different types, based on various criteria, such as the level of detail, the level of abstraction, the level of relevance, etc. Some of the common types of CTI are:

Strategic Cyber Threat Intelligence

Intelligence that provides a high-level/long-term view of the threat landscape, the threat actors involved, their goals, the end game, and the strategies they employ falls under the umbrella of strategic cyber threat intelligence.

Tactical Cyber Threat Intelligence 

Tactical cyber threat intelligence, on the other hand, provides a detailed overview of threat actors and their TTPs, along with their current and planned activities. 

Operational Cyber Threat Intelligence

This type of CTI provides a specific and immediate view of the threat actors, their indicators of compromise (information that can help security teams determine if an attack has taken place), and their ongoing and imminent attacks.

Technical Cyber Threat Intelligence

Technical cyber threat intelligence, as the name alludes to, provides a technical overview of the artifacts a threat actor is employing for a specific attack (malware, vulnerabilities, exploits, and so on)

The following table gives you a brief overview of who uses the various types of Cyber threat intelligence. 

Type of Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Who uses them?
Strategic Senior executives and decision-makers to support strategic planning and risk management.
Tactical Security analysts and operators to support threat detection and response.
Operational Security responders and defenders to support incident response and mitigation.
Technical Security researchers and developers to support threat analysis and prevention.

How is Cyber Threat Intelligence Obtained?

Cyber threat intelligence is obtained via a cyclical and iterative process that involves the following steps:

  1. Planning: The planning stage involves discussion with key organizational stakeholders and all parties involved in cybersecurity to determine the scope, the intelligence requirements, and the objectives for the CTI exercise. 
  2. Collection: With clear objectives in place, the next step involves gathering raw data and information (threat actor profiles, malware samples, network traffic, etc.) from multiple sources (threat intelligence feeds, information-sharing communities, internal security logs).
  3. Processing: This step involves filtering, validating, enriching, and formatting the collected data to make it suitable for analysis. This is a critical step as it helps eliminate false positives and any discrepancies. 
  4. Analysis: The analysis phase involves examining, interpreting, and correlating the processed data using various analytical techniques, such as trend analysis, pattern recognition, threat modeling, etc, to extract meaningful and relevant insights.
  5. Dissemination: Once the data is analyzed, the next step is communicating and sharing the analysis results and the intelligence products with the intended audience, in a timely and appropriate manner.
  6. Feedback: This step involves soliciting and receiving feedback from consumers to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the intelligence and to identify the gaps and areas for improvement.