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Cyber Threat Intelligence

The Comprehensive Guide to Cyber Threat Intelligence

What is Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence, often called cyber threat intelligence (CTI), is evidence-based knowledge about existing or potential cyber threats and malicious activities. It provides information that allows organizations to understand and assess their threats, enabling them to prepare, prevent, and respond to them effectively. 

What are the Most Common Types of Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence, essential for proactive cybersecurity, can be categorized into several standard types based on content and use cases. Among the most prevalent are Strategic, Tactical, Operational, and Technical threat intelligence. Strategic Threat Intelligence provides a high-level overview of the broader cyber threat landscape. It is primarily non-technical and is designed for decision-makers and senior executives, offering insights into long-term trends, threat actor motivations, geopolitical events, and the implications of specific cyber threats. This form of intelligence aids in long-term planning, helping organizations understand the risks and the bigger picture of the cyber environment in which they operate.

On the other hand, Tactical Threat Intelligence delves into the specifics of how threats are carried out. It encompasses detailed information on adversaries’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). This type of intelligence is especially beneficial for security analysts, as it provides insights into attack vectors, tools used by attackers, types of targets, and effective defensive measures. Operational Threat Intelligence focuses on the details of specific cyber operations or campaigns, offering insights into an attacker’s intent, capabilities, and the nature and timing of their attacks. Finally, Technical Threat Intelligence zeroes in on the concrete indicators of malicious activities, such as IP addresses, malware hashes, phishing email patterns, and other indicators of compromise (IOCs). It’s instrumental in real-time defensive operations, enabling automated systems and security professionals to swiftly detect and respond to ongoing threats.

What Data is considered Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence encompasses a wide range of information to provide organizations with insights into past, current, and potential future cyber threats. The data considered a part of threat intelligence includes:

Indicators of Compromise (IOCs): Observable data points that indicate a potential breach or malicious activity. Examples include:

  • IP addresses associated with malicious activity.
  • URLs or domain names of phishing sites.
  • Malware hashes or file signatures.
  • Email addresses or subjects linked to phishing campaigns.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs): Descriptive details on threat actors’ operations. This can include:

  • Specific methods used to gain initial access.
  • Techniques for maintaining persistence.
  • Ways they escalate privileges or move laterally within a network.

Threat Actor Profiles: Information on groups or individuals responsible for cyber-attacks, including:

  • Their motivations (financial gain, espionage, activism, etc.).
  • Capabilities and skill levels.
  • Past campaigns or incidents attributed to them.

Vulnerability Information: Details about known weaknesses in software or hardware that can be exploited, such as:

  • Vulnerability identifiers (e.g., CVE numbers).
  • Affected systems or software.
  • Potential impact and mitigation strategies.

Social Media and Dark Web Data: Information from online forums, social media platforms, or the dark web where threat actors might communicate, share tools, or sell stolen data.

What Are the Benefits of Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence is pivotal in enhancing an organization’s cybersecurity posture, providing numerous benefits spanning proactive defense to informed decision-making. One of the most critical advantages is the enhancement of incident response capabilities. With relevant threat intelligence, incident response teams are equipped with timely and actionable insights about ongoing or potential cyber threats. This information allows them to detect, investigate, and mitigate security incidents more rapidly and effectively. Being informed about adversaries’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) ensures that response teams can tailor their strategies to the specific threats they face, leading to more efficient containment and recovery.

Furthermore, threat intelligence significantly boosts the efficacy of various security tools. By integrating real-time threat feeds into tools like Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), organizations can enhance their detection and prevention capabilities. When augmented with current threat intelligence, these tools can identify emerging threats, fine-tune alerts, and reduce false positives. Moreover, intelligence-driven data aids in configuring and updating security tools to address the ever-evolving threat landscape, ensuring that the defenses remain robust and up-to-date. In essence, threat intelligence empowers organizations to be proactive rather than reactive, enabling them to stay one step ahead of potential cyber adversaries.

What Are the Challenges of Threat Intelligence?

Given the dynamic and complex nature of the cyber threat landscape, obtaining high-quality threat intelligence comes with several challenges. Some of the primary challenges include:

  1. Volume of Data: The sheer volume of data generated from various sources can be overwhelming. Filtering through massive datasets to identify relevant and actionable intelligence can be resource-intensive.
  2. Data Relevance: Not all threat intelligence is relevant to every organization. Determining which pieces of intelligence apply to a specific organization’s context and infrastructure can be challenging.
  3. Timeliness: Cyber threats evolve rapidly. Outdated intelligence, even by just a few days or weeks, might not effectively counter current threats.
  4. Accuracy and False Positives: Low-quality or inaccurate threat intelligence can lead to false positives, causing security teams to waste resources on non-existent threats or overlook actual threats.
  5. Integration Issues: Integrating threat intelligence feeds into existing security tools and systems can be technically challenging, especially if platforms have compatibility issues.
  6. Source Reliability: The reliability of threat intelligence sources varies. Some sources might offer incomplete, biased, or even intentionally misleading information.

Dig Leverages Threat Intelligence

Dig’s data security posture management (DSPM) offers a sophisticated, agentless, cloud-native solution addressing these concerns. Designed for quick deployment, the platform ensures real-time monitoring of all customer data processed and stored in the cloud. Dig’s DSPM discovers and classifies data across multiple cloud environments and by integrating with CrowdStrike’s Falcon Intelligence, it automatically scans new cloud object storage for potential malware threats. Once detected, the system labels the malware as a risk in Dig’s dashboard, prompting instant notifications to the team for swift remediation.

Dig’s DSPM provides organizations visibility into cloud storage, drastically reducing data risks while securing faster compliance with industry standards like PCI, NIST, and GDPR. The addition of CrowdStrike’s Threat Intelligence augments this with visibility into concealed malware, helping to curb file infections. This combined solution not only automates malware detection in uploaded content but also prevents lateral malware spread in cloud environments and ensures alignment with required malware scanning regulations. 


How do cyber threat intelligence and vulnerability management differ?

Cyber threat intelligence focuses on external information about potential threats and how they operate, and vulnerability management concentrates on internal weaknesses and how they can be addressed. Both are essential in tandem to ensure a robust and resilient cybersecurity posture.

What is the Threat Intelligence Lifecycle?

The threat intelligence lifecycle is a systematic process that transforms raw data from various sources into actionable intelligence, guiding organizations in bolstering their security defenses. This cyclical framework involves stages of planning, data collection, processing, analysis, dissemination, and feedback, ensuring continuous improvement in the face of evolving cyber threats.

Can threat intelligence come from the dark web?

Threat intelligence often sources information from the dark web, a hidden part of the internet where cybercriminals trade malicious tools and stolen data. By monitoring these spaces, professionals can anticipate emerging threats and bolster organizational defenses.