Threat intelligence is an essential component to any organization’s risk-remediation and security program. Take it from a former practitioner who has spent more than two decades building, implementing, and managing business threat intel programs for a variety of companies in the private sector.
Now that I’m on the vendor side, I’m crossing paths with too many business leaders who believe that threat intel is not an organizational imperative, but a “nice-to-have” luxury that’s seemingly outside of their reach.
Business leaders in every industry—from banks and technology companies to retailers, hospitals, and government—should do everything in their power to implement or scale up their threat intel capabilities. The good news is an effective risk-remediation and security program is achievable by any organization regardless of its maturity.
Protecting your organization’s health and bottom line
The health of your organization depends on your ability to defend against modern dangers like ransomware, malware, and other malicious activity. Threat intelligence does exactly that, enabling cyber threat intelligence teams to inform the security operations center and incident response teams of potential and impending business risks.
Another key value is threat intel’s effect on the bottom line. Quality threat intel goes beyond just providing indicators of compromises, it also provides actionable information regarding vulnerabilities, insider threats, leaked credentials, and more. Using these details, security teams can reduce the chance of experiencing data breaches and prevent fraud attempts which results in sizable and measurable savings.
Cybercriminals, fraudsters, and insiders alike utilize many tactics, techniques, and procedures to attack a variety of risk apertures to reach their aims (which is often, but not always, about monetary gain). Threat actors are becoming more advanced in their attacks and methods, making it even more important that organizations improve their defense capabilities.
According to Risk Based Security, a Flashpoint company, 4,145 global data breaches were reported last year, and in total, they exposed over 22 billion records—and the majority of them were due to hacks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a global organization or a small to medium-sized enterprise—chances are you’re sharing the same risk apertures.
In order to fully understand their risk profiles and an evolving, increasingly aggressive threat landscape, security professionals and executives should adopt an equally sophisticated threat intelligence program to stay ahead.
Anyone can attain an effective risk-remediation and security program
Where should organizations start? The threat intelligence gathering process can be incredibly resource-intensive and highly technical, which is why some businesses choose not to incorporate it into their risk-remediation program. However, don’t be intimidated. If done right, even one person can replicate the workflows of a more mature CTI team.
Building on the right foundations can make most concerns involving resources a non-issue. By “replicating down,” any organization can produce effective results using fewer resources. This is only possible if you start by identifying your strategic and operational intelligence needs.
Painting the full intelligence picture
You need the full picture if you want your threat intel program to be successful, and strategic intelligence helps business leaders see the general outline. Using historical trends and contextual data helps identify patterns in the threat landscape, connecting past events to potential future attacks.
While having a high-level overview is important, strategic intelligence by itself isn’t actionable. To make it more so, operational intelligence further filters data into information by asking specific questions involving your day-to-day and your industry. What are you doing on a daily basis? What kind of data are you processing, and where is it being stored? What about your supply chain? Are they hosting your data on their systems, and how much access do they have to your network?
The answers to these questions will differ depending on what type of business you have and who you serve. But once you have the answers, these operational factors will influence the technical intelligence that your risk-remediation program and analysts will use.
Technical intelligence provides the details that enable your security teams to create defense plans and it can even help prevent attacks. With the right data, CTI teams can immediately notify appropriate owners when they become aware of dealings on illicit marketplaces, such as an insider attempting to sell access to company systems or a threat actor claiming to have collections of the organization’s or a trusted vendor’s credentials.
By investigating and addressing these kinds of situations before they are able to escalate, organizations can make threat intel actionable while seeing positive impacts on their ROI.
Good things take time
Having access to technical intelligence is a different issue altogether, since most of the rich data out there isn’t indexed by search engines. Actionable data is found on multiple mediums, including illicit marketplaces, forums, blogs, social media, and more. There are too many sources for most organizations to track and monitor themselves. Also, trying to access some of these sources on the deep web and dark web can bring unforeseen risk to the organization.
And once you have those details, writing finished intelligence reports can take days, maybe more, if you consider the need to validate each source. As such, the primary blocker is time.
You don’t have to do it alone
One way to have both actionable and scalable threat intelligence is to outsource the demanding processes to a trusted vendor. Allow them to invest the time needed to comb through data sources and make them assimilate the risk associated with accessing the DDW.
If the vendor is in tune with your strategic and operational intelligence needs, their analysts should be able to create comprehensive intelligence reports on your behalf. Use that information to build your defense strategies, which can save you valuable time and resources.
This is how you can replicate the complicated workflows of a mature security program with a smaller team. If you can build the right foundations, an effective risk-remediation and security program is within your reach.