Threat Intelligence Feeds - Introduction
For cybersecurity teams in organizations of all sizes, staying up to date with the latest cyberthreats and attacks is a critical part of the job, with “knowing the enemy” crucial to proactive identification and damage limitation. Today, there are many ways that professionals can achieve this, and even the layman can keep up with large attacks through mainstream media and updates from the services they use. However, for greater insight into the bigger picture, threat intelligence feeds allow cybersecurity professionals to tap into real-time data and emerging intelligence for a broad range of potential threats in effect across the globe.
Put simply, threat intel feeds are collections of data and information that provide organizations with real-time or near-real-time insights into emerging and attacks, ensuring increased security for the entire organization. Typically, cyberthreat intelligence feeds include data on indicators of compromise (IOCs), such as IP addresses, domain names, and file hashes, as well as information on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors.
Threat intelligence feeds are usually produced by security companies, government agencies, and other organizations that specialize in cybersecurity and can be used by other organizations to enhance their own security posture by identifying and responding to threats more quickly and effectively. But how do these threat feeds work, and why are they so important? In this article, we explore those questions and more so your organization can be prepared for the latest cyberattacks.
How Do Threat Intelligence Feeds Work?
Threat intelligence feeds work by gathering information about emerging cyberthreats from a wide variety of sources, such as open-source intelligence, dark web forums, honeypots, malware analysis, and other threat intelligence feeds. The information gathered is then analyzed and processed to create actionable intelligence that organizations can use to protect their networks and systems.
This usually follows a number of steps that build real-time or near-real-time insights into threats and helping organizations to protect their networks and systems. The most common workflows are as follows:
- Collection – The first step in producing a threat intelligence feed is to collect data from a variety of sources. This might include data on indicators of compromise (IOCs), such as IP addresses, domain names, and file hashes, as well as information on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors.
- Analysis – Once the data has been collected, it is analyzed using a variety of tools and techniques, such as machine learning algorithms, pattern recognition, and statistical analysis. This analysis helps to identify patterns and trends in the data, as well as to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities.
- Correlation – After the data has been analyzed, it is correlated with other sources of threat intelligence to provide a complete picture of the threat landscape. For example, data on a specific type of malware might be correlated with data on the IP addresses and domain names associated with it and information on the TTPs used by the actor behind the threat.
- Classification – The information gathered through analysis and correlation is then classified according to its relevance and severity. This might involve assigning a risk score or other indicator to each piece of information based on its potential impact on the organization.
- Dissemination – The final step in producing a threat intelligence feed is to disseminate the information to the relevant stakeholders within the organization. This might involve providing alerts or notifications when a new threat is detected and regular updates on emerging threats and best practices for mitigating those threats.
How are Threat Intelligence Feeds Used and Why are They Important?
Cyberthreat feeds are critically important to cybersecurity teams as they may potentially provide insights into cyberattacks and other threats before they have to implement an incident response. Firstly, organizations use threat intelligence feeds to identify and detect potential threats to their networks and systems. Threat intelligence feeds can provide information on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors and indicators of compromise (IOCs), such as IP addresses, domain names, and file hashes. By analyzing this information and correlating it with other sources of data, organizations can identify potential security incidents and take action to mitigate them.
Threat intelligence feeds can also provide information on known vulnerabilities in software and hardware, as well as on exploits and attack methods used to exploit them. By analyzing this information, cybersecurity teams can prioritize their patch management efforts and implement additional security controls to mitigate the risk of exploitation.
Finally, security intelligence feeds can help organizations with incident response and risk management, covering both ends of the spectrum. Threat intel can support incident response efforts by providing information on emerging threats and best practices for responding to those threats, helping organizations quickly and effectively respond to security incidents and minimize their impact. Additionally, these feeds can provide valuable insights into the overall threat landscape and help organizations assess the risks they face. By analyzing threat intelligence data, organizations can identify potential threats and vulnerabilities and develop strategies for mitigating risks that may appear in the future.
Types of Cybersecurity Threat Intelligence
There are several types of cybersecurity threat intelligence that organizations can use to protect their networks and systems. Some of the most common include:
- Strategic Threat Intelligence – Providing a high-level view of the threat landscape that helps organizations understand the motivations and capabilities of potential threat actors, strategic threat intelligence is typically gathered from a wide range of sources, including government agencies, academic institutions, and cybersecurity vendors.
- Operational Threat Intelligence – Providing detailed information on specific threats and vulnerabilities that organizations may face, operational threat intelligence is typically gathered from sources such as malware analysis, network traffic analysis, and honeypot data.
- Tactical Threat Intelligence – This type of threat intelligence provides information on the specific tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors, as well as indicators of compromise (IOCs) that can be used to detect and prevent attacks. Tactical threat intelligence is often gathered from sources such as threat intelligence feeds, open-source intelligence (OSINT), and social media.
- Technical Threat Intelligence – This type of security intelligence feed provides detailed technical information on specific threats and vulnerabilities, including information on specific software and hardware vulnerabilities, exploit code, and malware samples. Technical threat intelligence is often gathered from sources such as vulnerability databases, malware repositories, and dark web forums.
- Strategic Intelligence – Often used by senior leaders to understand the broader trends in the cybersecurity landscape, including emerging technologies, geopolitical events, and emerging cyberthreats, strategic -intel is useful in seeing the bigger picture.
- Tactical Intelligence – This type of threat intelligence is often used by security operations teams to respond quickly to cyber threats, including detecting and remediating incidents and identifying malicious activity and threat actor TTPs.
- Operational Intelligence – Often used by IT teams to identify specific technical vulnerabilities and potential risks, including misconfigured systems and unpatched software, operational intelligence feeds specific to your network, devices, and user behavior.
Tips to Reduce Cybersecurity Threats
While the best threat intelligence feeds can give organizations and cybersecurity professionals a fighting chance, the scale of cybersecurity threats today means that all stakeholders must be involved in their identification and mitigation. This means that everyone in your organization should be part of the solution, not the problem. Organizations can achieve this by implementing the following:
- Educate Employees – One of the most effective ways to reduce cybersecurity threats is to educate employees on the importance of cybersecurity and how to protect sensitive data. This can include training on recognizing and avoiding phishing emails, using strong passwords, reporting suspicious activity, and general email security
- Keep Software Up to Date – Cybercriminals often exploit known vulnerabilities in software to gain unauthorized access to systems. To minimize this risk, ensure that all software, including operating systems and applications, are kept up to date with the latest security patches.
- Use Strong Passwords – Weak passwords are a common cause of cybersecurity breaches. To reduce this risk, enforce strong password policies that require the use of complex passwords that are changed frequently.
- Implement Multi-Factor Authentication – Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to user accounts, requiring users to provide additional information beyond a password to gain access to a system. This can include a code sent to a user's mobile device or a biometric identifier.
- Use Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software – Antivirus and anti-malware software can help detect and remove malicious software from systems. Ensure that all systems are equipped with up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software to reduce the risk of infection.
- Regularly Backup Data – Regularly backing up important data is critical in the event of a cybersecurity incident. This ensures that data can be restored in the event of a ransomware attack or other data loss event.
- Control Access to Sensitive Data – Limiting access to sensitive data is an important component of reducing cybersecurity threats. Ensure that access to sensitive data is restricted to only those employees who need it to perform their job duties.
- Monitor Network Activity –Monitoring network activity can help detect and prevent cyberattacks. Implement monitoring solutions that track and analyze network activity to detect anomalous behavior that may indicate a security breach.
Conclusion: Threat Intelligence Feeds
Threat intelligence feeds are a critical component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, and through real-time information on emerging threats and vulnerabilities, threat intel enables organizations to identify and respond to potential cyberattacks proactively. There are several types of threat intelligence feeds available, including commercial feeds, open-source feeds, and community feeds, however, it's important for organizations to choose the type of feed that best meets your needs and to ensure that the information is integrated into existing security infrastructure. The bottom line is, threat intelligence feeds, when used effectively, can help organizations stay ahead of cyberthreats and protect their networks and systems from potential damage.
For more information on threat intelligence and how to keep your organization secure in the fast-paced world of cybersecurity and email security & resilience, contact a member of the Mimecast team today and explore our blog for the latest industry insights.