From Cyber threat intelligence to Threat intelligence feed, both carry some similarity but are two different things, despite both fall under the threat intelligence domain, where most of the people do not understand it clearly. We use the post to help open and clarify both.
Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) , or mostly will be shortened as threat intelligence, is knowledge, skills and experience-based information concerning the occurrence and assessment of both cyber and physical threats and threat actors that is intended to help mitigate potential attacks and harmful events occurring in cyberspace. Cyber threat intelligence sources include open source intelligence, social media intelligence, human Intelligence, technical intelligence, device log files, forensically acquired data or intelligence from the internet traffic and data derived for the deep and dark web.
In recent years, threat intelligence has become a crucial part of companies cyber security strategy since it allows companies to be more proactive in their approach and determine which threats represent the greatest risks to a business. This puts companies on a more proactive front – actively trying to find their vulnerabilities and prevents hacks before they happen.
There are three overarching, but not categorical – classes of cyber threat intelligence:
- Tactical: technical intelligence (including Indicators of Compromise such as IP addresses, file names, or hashes) which can be used to assist in the identification of threat actors
- Operational: details of the motivation or capabilities of threat actors, including their tools, techniques and procedures
- Strategic: intelligence about the overarching risks associated with cyber threats which can be used to drive high-level organizational strategy
Typical benefits of Cyber Threat Intelligence include:
- Empowers people, organizations and agencies to develop a proactive and robust cybersecurity posture and to bolster overall risk management and cyber security policies and responses
- Drives momentum toward a proactive cybersecurity posture that is predictive, not simply reactive after a cyber attack
- Enables improved detection of both risks and threats
- Informs better decision-making before, during and following the detection of a cyber intrusion or intended interference of IT/OT services.
- Enables sharing of knowledge, skills and experiences among the cyber security community of practice and systems stakeholders.
- Communicates threat surfaces, attack vectors and malicious activities directed to both information technology and operational technology platforms.
- Serve as fact-based repository for evidence of both successful and unsuccessful cyber attacks.
- Provide indicators for computer emergency response teams and incident response groups.
Cyber threats involve the use of computers, storage devices, software networks and cloud-based repositories. Prior to, during or after a cyber attack technical information about the information and operational technology, devices, network and computers between the attacker(s) and the victim(s) can be collected, stored and analyzed. However, identifying the person(s) behind an attack, their motivations, or the ultimate sponsor of the attack, – termed attribution is sometimes difficult. Across industries, organizations have started using the MITRE ATT&CK framework to understand threat actors’ TTPs and identify holes in defenses.
As you can see, it depends on your industry, nature of use case, for those who look for CTI for internal enterprise and for those who supervise the country’s cyber boundaries, the requirements will shape what you need in a very different way.
Organizations are under increasing pressure to manage security vulnerabilities, and the threat landscape is constantly evolving. Threat intelligence feeds (TI feeds) can assist in this process by identifying common indicators of compromise (IOC) and recommending necessary steps to prevent attack or infection. Some of the most common indicators of compromise include:
- IP addresses, URLs and Domain names: An example would be malware targeting an internal host that is communicating with a known threat actor.
- Email addresses, email subject, links and attachments: An example would be a phishing attempt that relies on an unsuspecting user clicking on a link or attachment and initiating a malicious command.
- Registry keys, filenames and file hashes and DLLs: An example would be an attack from an external host that has already been flagged for nefarious behavior or that is already infected.
Threat Intelligence Feeds are an actionable threat data related to artifacts or indicators collected from any third-party vendors in order to learn from other company’s visibility and access to enhance your own cyber threat response and awareness. Threat Intelligence Feeds concentrate on a single area of interest. On the surface, threat intelligence feeds are precisely what they sound like — continuously updated feeds that provide external information or data on existing or potential risks and threats. In practice, however, the type of context (or lack thereof) these feeds provide is what sets them set apart from each other. With a threat intelligence feed, there are things to consider like update frequency, context, timely information, and delivery format. The purpose of monitoring a threat feed is to find useful information about dangers online and the adversaries behind them.
Once you get some basic understanding of the both CTI and TI feeds, then you can look into how it relates to one more element: Threat Intelligence Platforms (TIPs). Platforms exist that enable the automation of threat intelligence. These platforms are commonly referred to as Threat Intelligence Platforms (TIPs). Security analysts utilize these platforms for their collection of data and automation. A threat intelligence platform is typically used by Security Operations Center Teams (SOC) for day to day threat response and events as they occur. Generalized Threat Intelligence teams use the platform to make educated predictions based on actors, campaigns, industry targets as well as platform (network, application, hardware) targets. Management and Executive teams use the platform for reporting and share data at high levels to better understand their threat posture. A TIP is a packaged product that obtains information from multiple resources and automates intelligence by managing, collecting and integrating with various platforms. Some have defined threat intelligence as including data of sensors or honeypots deployed across the internet and the darkweb, these traps provide advance metrics on the state of the internet and intent of adversaries. Other types of threat intelligence might include automated darkweb scanning, mass internet scanning, or tactics techniques and procedures gathering ,which attempts to tie together adversary strategies in order to increase the defender’s understanding and provide them with situational awareness.
In the holistic picture and view, you can visualize how each of them interrelated like the below visual concept map.
It helps to frame you into better context, and you will see why some companies want to put threat and vulnerability management (TVM) and how it is related to vulnerability management for the threat intelligence. Depending on the use case, threat intelligence feeds as a source should be eventually integrated into other related systems, whether in the auto or manual identified manner.