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What Is Threat Intelligence?

by | May 5, 2022 | Adversary Research, Blog

Threat Intelligence, or cyber threat intelligence, refers to knowledge and data about threats to company assets that can be used to inform and assist in prevention and response to that threat. This data is collected, correlated, processed, analyzed, and used to assess a threat actor’s target, motivation, behavior, and intended outcomes. The information provided by threat intelligence allows cyber security practitioners to make timely and informed decisions to protect their people and assets from dangerous threat actors. No one wants to need incident response – that’s why security controls and a clear set of intelligence requirements can keep you one step ahead of adversaries.

To a novice cyber professional, the thought of threat intelligence sounds exciting and promising, filled with mystery and swagger. And it can be, but a proper understanding of how threat intelligence can impact business operations and security is essential. It is the responsibility of IT and Security to ensure that they have chosen the right tools, processes, plan of action, and partners to best support and defend their organization.

Why is Threat Intelligence Important?

 

When it comes to cyber threats, ignorance is never bliss. Without the information that a threat intelligence program provides to an organization, you will not be able to reliably stop a threat or cyber attack. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and threat actors are always out there, and if you are not prepared, you can find that your organization is an easy target.

Threat intelligence is important because it can:

  1. Uncover unknowns to provide both cyber leaders and security teams with the information needed to make good decisions for the safety of the organization.
  2. Reveal attackers’ motivations, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). This allows you to understand what is going on behind the scenes in an attacker’s decision-making process and mitigate risks.

Who Benefits from Threat Intelligence?


It’s true, any organization with sensitive or abundant digital assets will benefit from some form of threat intelligence. Whether you are a small firm with limited resources or a large organization with huge amounts of data and analysts to protect you, threat intelligence can help you defend your organization with greater accuracy, efficiency, and timeliness.

Threat intelligence will help you to stay up to date on the latest threat actors and the methods and targets they are using. It will also help you to stay proactive addressing issues within your threat landscape and provide visibility to your leadership and stakeholders. Understanding the current threats and the devastating impact that they could have on your organization are essential to proper preparedness.

What is the Threat Intelligence Lifecycle?

 

Planning: This step creates the outline for your plan of action against specific threats. It is crucial to your process because during the planning process, you uncover what you need to focus on.

Here are 7 questions you’ll want to address:

  1. Is there an active threat against my organization or key personnel?
  2. Who are the people or organizations targeting us?
  3. What do those threat actors want?
  4. Why do they want to attack us?
  5. In context of this knowledge, which parts of our ecosystem are the most vulnerable?
  6. How can we disrupt or mitigate risks based on what we know?
  7. Who / what talent do we need to maintain our resilience against attacks?

 

Collection: Once your outline has been created in the planning stage, you can begin to collect the needed data to answer those questions. Research will be done to determine the information relevant to your industry.

Processing: The newly acquired data is great, but unless it is processed and analyzed by an expert, it isn’t useful. Through the processing stage, the information may be organized into data points and evaluated for relevance to your specific threat attackers. Data alone is just information. Data that is timely, relevant, and actionable is truly intelligence.

Analysis: Once you have the data and it’s been organized by relevance, it’s now time to answer the questions that you outlined in the planning stage. In this step, the answers are uncovered and actionable steps are aligned. Now you have what you need to present to your key stakeholders and security personnel.

Dissemination: In this step, the relevant data, the analysis, and the proposed actionable steps are put into digestible terms and presented to the stakeholders.

What are the 3 Categories of Threat Intelligence?

 

Cyber Threat Intelligence is typically categorized into three functions:

  1. Tactical Threat Intelligence provides specific details about an attacker’s motives, or their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). By providing tailored and client-specific data, security teams are able to build better defense strategies and mitigate risks. Tactical Threat Intelligence can also include insights about the vulnerabilities of your attackers, allowing you to strengthen your plan of defense and eliminate vulnerabilities within your own organization with greater acuity.
  2. Operational Threat Intelligence provides data on your attackers’ motives, timing, and mode of attack. There are several challenges when gathering operational intelligence since threats are usually planned over private chat rooms, within deep or dark web forums, or on inaccessible channels. Threat actors also encrypt their communications, making it difficult to spot and access relevant intelligence.
  3. Strategic Threat Intelligence is typically less technical and provides insights into an organization’s threat landscape. It is used to implement efficient and high level strategies, and provides insights into an organization’s vulnerabilities and risks. Preventative action can then be taken against threat actors and their goals, ideally lessening the severity of potential attacks.

 

How Can Threat Intelligence Serve Your Needs?

 

There are three ways that threat intelligence can address your threat actor challenges. It’s important to note that one-size-does-not-fit-all. At Nisos, our analyst-led approach ensures that we are providing timely, relevant, and actionable information that is client-specific.

Here are three of the ways that Nisos delivers Managed Threat Intelligence for enterprise organizations:

  1. In response to a specific incident
  2. As a point-in-time analysis, or real time analysis of a specific concern or threat
  3. Ongoing monitoring and analysis

 

Managed Threat Intelligence

 

At Nisos, we have a specific approach to solve our clients’ intelligence problems, and we call it Managed Intelligence. What’s the difference? We combine the people, process, data, and technologies necessary to deliver finished intelligence.

We collect difficult to access and sensitive data from the open, deep and dark web to enable highly-experienced Nisos Analysts. These analysts use this data to generate actionable intelligence to address client-specific concerns and objectives. We believe that Managed Intelligence is the answer to reducing the noise that busy cybersecurity professionals already experience and replacing it with high value, expert analysis that is trustworthy and accurate.

About Nisos®

Nisos is The Managed Intelligence Company™. Our services enable security, intelligence, and trust and safety teams to leverage a world-class intelligence capability tailored to their needs. We fuse robust data collection with a deep understanding of the adversarial mindset delivering smarter defense and more effective response against advanced cyber attacks, disinformation, and abuse of digital platforms.

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