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Cyber Threat Intelligence: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Environment

When you hear the term “cyber threat intelligence,”? Is it the fact that cyber incidents top the Allianz Risk Barometer in 2022? That “double extortion” tactics are a worrying trend? Or that the commercialization of cybercrime makes it easy to exploit vulnerabilities on a massive scale?

That’s exactly what comes to our mind, which is why Castra stays steps ahead of criminals by employing advanced cyber threat intelligence to protect ourselves and our clients.

What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is actionable information based on deep data, knowledge, and experience regarding cybersecurity risks. CTI works to identify and mitigate potential attacks and events facing organizations—its combination of machine learning, automation, and human analytics is unmatched.

Cyber threat intelligence is more than just information—it’s information that’s been collected, evaluated, and contextualized to reduce uncertainty when identifying reputable threats. CTI is relevant, accurate, and timely. 

CTI encompasses a variety of sources that include:

  • Internal sources
    • Firewall and router logs
    • Honeynets
  • External sources
    • Law enforcement
    • National security agencies
  • Industry sources
    • Business partners
  • Open Source Intelligence
    • Public threads
    • Social media
    • Dark web forums
  • Commercial Sources
    • Threat feeds
    • SaaS threat alerts
    • Security intelligence providers

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Lifecycle

There is a process to gathering and transforming raw data into useful intel, and it involves four revolving steps:

  1. Data is gathered according to the security team's requirements and methodology, based on stakeholder needs.
  2. Raw data is processed and organized into a reliable format.
  3. A thorough analysis by machine learning and human expertise finds answers to questions and deciphers valuable action items.
  4. Findings are translated and presented to decision-makers who determine which appropriate actions to take.

We call these steps “revolving” because the process is never-ending. New threats emerge constantly, meaning you can never reach a stage in which your CTI is complete.

A Brief History of Cyber Threat Intelligence

CTI used to be as simple as rooting out viruses, trojans, and worms. Eventually, social engineering and phishing attacks became a common enemy. Detecting and informing decisions on traditional threats were straightforward and often kept hush-hush between competing organizations to save face. 

But now, threats are multi-vectored and multi-staged. New-generation threats include:

  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
  • Polymorphic threats
  • Zero-day threats
  • Composite threats
  • And more

Detection and decisions aren’t straightforward anymore, and organizations realize the value of trust and coordination. As such, security teams and stakeholders are more enlightened and empowered than ever before to learn and share adversarial motives, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

The Importance of Cyber Threat Intelligence

There’s no way around it: Cyber threat intelligence is both invaluable and indispensable. It enables organizations to:

  • Bolster overall risk management policies by providing information assurance and vulnerability data gathered from present threats and past histories. These will help determine the probability of future targetings and ascertain current capabilities. 
  • Develop a proactive and robust security solution by leveraging existing cybersecurity monitoring tools to prepare for, prevent, and identify threats.
  • Improve the detection of risks and threat indicators by studying threat data and attacker information like motives, intents, and capabilities. 
  • Make better decisions regarding evidence-based intrusions and events by gaining a broader understanding of the entire threat landscape, accurately calculated risks, and compromise indicators in your system.

Govtech’s Top 22 Security Predictions for 2022 focus on application security vulnerabilities (such as Log4j) and crypto wallet security as top areas of concern. Additionally, Gartner analysts have made several predictions that are particularly relevant to organizations both large and small:

  • Modern privacy laws will cover the personal information of 75% of the world’s population.
  • 60% of organizations will use cybersecurity risk as a primary determinant in conducting third-party transactions and business engagements. 

The Challenges of Cyber Threat Intelligence 

Cyber threat intelligence doesn’t come without its challenges, including those related to:

  • Management: Strategy is challenged when executives don’t fully understand technical issues or prioritize appropriate investment. Operations are challenged when reconstruction efforts after an attack are time-consuming and costly. Management may also struggle with aligning threats according to the organization’s infrastructure and needs.
  • Technology: Outdated tools and infrastructure aren’t suited for data acquisition. They don’t integrate with current security defenses, protocols, and formats. Without proper integration, there are no opportunities for automation, data can’t be collected efficiently, and CTI standards aren't met.
  • Data and information gathering: The relevance, quality, and timeliness of data are everything. If expired indicators of compromise (IOCs) and stale, undependable raw data are used, threat applicability is low.
  • Data analysis: Without obtaining the right tools and training, analysis capabilities are stunted, severely limiting usefulness.
  • Communication: Organizational stakeholders may not be on the same page regarding security operations and incident response. There's confusion and inaction without getting timely and relevant information across all departments.
  • Staffing: The complexity and volume of analysis, risk mitigation, activity reporting, and management advisement can easily overcome staff bandwidth.
  • Information sharing: Vendor and provider collaboration can carry concerns over the potential for misused data, lack of privacy, data breach, and liability. Vendors aren’t always as transparent as they should be, meaning organizations don’t fully understand their data or risks.

Keeping these in mind, it's easy to realize that a basic level of threat information isn’t enough to keep business rolling uninterrupted. That’s where glass box cyber threat intelligence comes in. 

A Glass Box Approach to Cyber Threat Intelligence

Too many security solutions hide behind a “mystery box” method of intelligence, leaving an organization blind to its own data and vulnerabilities. This leaves clients locked into a security company they don’t know they can trust, and Castra doesn’t approve. 

Instead, we take a “glass box” approach by using Anomali ThreatStream for cyber threat intelligence. We believe you own your data and have the right to access it and take it with you wherever you go. Learn more about Castra’s glass box approach

If this sounds like the approach you’d like to take with your CTI solution, schedule a consultation now!