Threat intelligence's diverse use cases make it an essential resource for cross-functional teams in any organization.
While perhaps the most immediately valuable when helping to prevent an attack, threat intelligence is also a useful part of triage, risk analysis, vulnerability management, and wide-ranging decision making.
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→ Before proceeding with this article, you might want to take a look at the previous texts that we have already published. Here they are:
- Threat Intelligence: Why is this strategy important for companies?
- Types of Threat Intelligence: Which One to Implement in Your Business?
Threat intelligence provides incident responses
Security analysts tasked with incident response report some of the highest levels of stress in the industry, and it's no wonder why. The rate of cyber incidents has steadily increased over the past two decades, and a high proportion of daily alerts turned out to be false positives.
When dealing with real incidents, analysts often have to spend time sifting through the data manually to assess the problem.
Threat intelligence reduces pressure in several ways:
- automatically identifying and discarding false positives;
- enriching alerts with real-time context, such as custom risk scores;
- comparing information from internal and external sources.
See now how a well-structured and executed threat intelligence strategy leverages agile and efficient incident response!
Threat intelligence improves security operations
Most security operations teams must deal with high volumes of alerts generated by the networks they monitor. The screening of these alerts takes a long time and many are never investigated, generating a certain “fatigue” that leads professionals not to consider the seriousness of the problems as they should.
Threat intelligence solves many of these problems, helping to gather information faster and more accurately, filter out false alarms, speed up triage, and simplify analysis. With it, analysts can stop wasting time searching for alerts based on:
- actions more likely to be harmless than malicious;
- attacks that are not relevant to the business;
- attacks for which defenses and controls already exist.
In addition to accelerating triage, threat intelligence can help security teams simplify incident analysis and containment.
Makes vulnerability management more powerful
Effective vulnerability management means moving from a “fix everything, all the time” approach — which no one can realistically achieve — to prioritizing based on real risk.
While the number of threats has increased each year, research shows that most of them target the same small proportion of vulnerabilities. Threat actors are also faster: it now takes just fifteen days, on average, between the announcement of a new vulnerability and the appearance of an exploit targeting it.
This has two implications:
- You have two weeks to patch your systems against a new exploit. If you cannot make corrections within this period, have a plan to mitigate the damage.
- If a new vulnerability is not exploited within two weeks to three months, fixing it may have a lower priority.
Threat intelligence helps you identify vulnerabilities that pose a real risk to your organization by combining internal vulnerability scanning data, external data, and additional context about threat actors.
Facilitates risk analysis
Risk modeling can be a useful way for organizations to set investment priorities. But many risk models suffer from vague, unquantified results that are hastily compiled, based on partial information, unfounded assumptions, or difficult to act on.
Threat intelligence provides context that helps make defined risk measurements. It can help answer questions like:
- Which threat actors are using this attack and are they targeting our industry?
- How often has this particular attack been observed recently by companies like ours?
- Is the trend up or down?
- What vulnerabilities does this attack exploit, and are these vulnerabilities present in our company?
- What kind of damage, technical and financial, did this attack do to companies like ours?
Ensures fraud prevention
To keep your organization safe, it's not enough to just detect and respond to threats that already exploit your systems. You also need to avoid fraudulent uses of your data or brand.
Threat intelligence gathered from underground criminal communities provides a window into threat actors' motivations, methods, and tactics. Especially when it is correlated with surface web information, including feeds and technical indicators.
Use threat intelligence to prevent:
- payment fraud — Monitoring sources such as criminal communities, collage sites, and other forums for relevant payment card numbers, bank ID numbers, or specific references to financial institutions can provide early warning of future attacks that could affect your organization.
- compromised data — Cybercriminals regularly upload massive caches of usernames and passwords on the dark web, or making them available for sale on underground markets. Monitor these sources for leaked credentials, corporate data, or proprietary code.
- typosquatting — Receive real-time alerts on newly registered phishing and typosquatting domains to prevent cybercriminals impersonating your brand and defrauding unsuspecting users.
Security leaders must manage risk by balancing limited available resources with the need to protect their organizations from ever-evolving threats.
Threat intelligence can help map the risk landscape, calculate impacts, and give the security team the context to make better, faster decisions.
Today, security leaders must:
- assess business and technical risks, including emerging threats and “known unknowns” that could affect the business;
- identify the right strategies and technologies to mitigate risks;
- communicate the nature of the risks to senior management and justify investments in defensive measures.
Threat intelligence can be a critical resource for all these activities, providing insights into general trends such as:
- what types of attacks are becoming more (or less) frequent;
- what types of attacks are most expensive for victims;
- what new types of threat actors are emerging and the assets and companies they target;
- which security practices and technologies have been more (or less) successful in stopping or mitigating these attacks.
It can also allow security groups to assess whether an emerging threat is likely to affect the business based on factors such as:
- Industry — Is the threat affecting other businesses in our vertical?
- Technology — Does the threat involve the compromise of software, hardware or other technologies used in our business?
- Geography — Does the threat target installations in regions where we have operations?
- Attack method — Were the methods used in the attack, including social engineering and technical methods, successfully used against our company or the like?
With these types of intelligence, gathered from a broad set of external data sources, security decision makers gain a holistic view of the cyber risk landscape and the biggest risks.
Reduces risks that come from third parties
Countless organizations are transforming the way they do business through digital processes. They are moving data from internal networks to the cloud and gathering more information than ever before.
Making data easier to collect, store and analyze is certainly changing many industries for the better, but this free flow of information comes at a price.
This means that to assess the risk of our own organization, we must also consider the safety of our partners, suppliers and other third parties.
Unfortunately, many of the most common third-party risk management practices employed today lag behind security requirements.
Static assessments such as financial audits and security certificate checks are still important, but they often lack context and are not always timely. There is a need for a solution that provides real-time context on the real threat landscape.
Threat intelligence is one way to do just that. This strategy can provide transparency into the environments of the third parties you work with. This provides real-time alerts on threats and changes in their risks.
How is the topic of threat intelligence being handled in your company? Go deeper into this concept by downloading the eBook that we just released!