Changing the game on cyber intelligence

Preemptive security is the idea of doing something now; doing research now, spending money now or even hiring more staff now to help protect yourself in the future. There are many different types of preemptive security, including Offender Profiling, however most types of Preemptive security relate to intelligence gathering. Reactive response, another form of preemptive security, is the idea of rather than preparing in advance and anticipating an attack it is where an organisation responses to the attack after the fact. 

Shift the mindset and expand the viewpoint 

Kristofer Mansson, CEO at Silobreaker, has spoken on the concept of Reactive Response and how he thinks that organisations are not doing enough to help protect themselves from these threats. He stated:

The first step is to switch from a reactive stance to a proactive approach. Playing catch-up is always a sub-optimal outcome, not least because it leaves barely any resources for planning, meaning that the next big problem is often a surprise. To build on an existing security posture it’s vital to stay up-to-date, profile potential threats and evolve processes and strategies pre-emptively. While cyber vendors are often questioned and tested on their ability to deliver ‘actionable intelligence’, the reality is that many organisations don’t have any processes in place to action intelligence. Evolving intelligence needs cannot be met by the important but insufficient practice of simply adding malicious IP-addresses and other indicators of compromise to a SIEM-system or a TIP.  The need for a more holistic approach to threat intelligence, beyond the technical parameters, is widely accepted, yet the traditional IT security industry is struggling to meet demand because they have hardly any experience speaking to the “why?” behind an attack. Finding unstructured insights in social media, paste sites, forums and similar sources from both the surface web and deep/dark web requires companies to turn to different intelligence solutions that are complementary to their existing threat intelligence tools.

Use the data that’s there 

Excluding certain, specialised sources, access to data has never been easier. From a security perspective this is both a good thing and a serious concern. An openly available report on a vulnerability today could be leveraged to create the exploit of choice tomorrow, while a single, misplaced password or private key can lead to a devastating breach and huge losses. There is, however, also great potential for spotting emergent threats and transcending the catch-up game that consumes the time of analysts and researchers. The key is to recognise that intelligence is as likely to come from soft data as it is from structured threat information. Making the most of open sources involves processing the data, understanding its relevance to a certain use-case, and then acting on those findings before others do.  

Support human analysis with automation 

2018 SANS survey on the use of cyber threat intelligence noted that, as expected, most organisations are using a wide variety of external data sources, including public feeds, information sharing groups and security vendor reporting. More and more organisations are also recognising that broad attacker trends (76%) and information on vulnerability exploitation (79%) are essential for maintaining situational awareness. However, much of the analysis and intelligence ‘fusion’ taking place is still done manually, with a shortage of skills acting as a major impediment to properly utilising cyber threat intelligence. IOC feeds aren’t enough anymore; if problem is context, the solution is people, and automation, because collecting, processing and reporting on the amount of data in question is simply not human-scalable. Especially when it needs to be done at pace. Furthermore, not all organisations are looking for the same kind of intelligence. In our modern, interconnected world, cybersecurity concerns blend seamlessly into reputational risk and physical security. With no one-size-fits all solution, customisability is king and analysts need a tool that allows them to decide what kind of intelligence will enhance and protect their businesses.   

This is what we mean by “changing the game”; altering an existing approach, based on appropriate investment in available technology and utilisation of existing resources. Intelligence platforms do the heavy lifting required to process, slice and visualise massive quantities of data in short order, allowing analysts to create contextually relevant and timely intelligence on a case-by-case basis. The truth is that cyber threats cannot be eliminated – but they can be mitigated, provided that the information is out there, and someone is looking. 

James Stevenson

Im a Cyber Security enthusiast that loves all things to do with technology. I'm specifically interested in cyber security and ethical hacking.

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