Threat Intelligence Analytics: Making the Most of Your CTI Program

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The threat landscape has never been more challenging for CISOs and security teams than in 2023. Our research has found ransomware attacks have increased by more than 100% since 2022, hundreds of thousands of corporate credentials are being distributed on Telegram with SSO, active directory, and corporate SaaS application credentials, and initial access brokers (IAB) routinely sell access to corporate environments. 

Threat intelligence analytics refers to the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting vast amounts of threat intelligence data to gain actionable insights and make informed decisions. Threat intelligence represents an opportunity for security teams to reclaim the offensive, and aggressively monitor for, detect, and remediate threats associated with cybercrime communities. 

The Power of Threat Intelligence Analytics: Unleashing Actionable Insights

What is Threat Intelligence Analytics?

Threat intelligence analytics plays a pivotal role in empowering organizations to make informed decisions and take proactive measures against cybercrime in the context of a rapidly worsening threat landscape. By leveraging the power of advanced analytics techniques and tools, organizations can extract valuable insights from vast amounts of threat intelligence data and convert them into actionable intelligence. 

Threat intelligence analytics goes beyond simply collecting and aggregating data; it involves:

  • Analyzing
  • Correlating
  • Interpreting information to uncover hidden patterns, trends, and indicators of emerging threats

Let’s explore the power of threat intelligence analytics and how it enables organizations to unleash actionable insights for effective cybersecurity strategies.

Contextual Understanding of Threat Landscape

Threat intelligence analytics provides organizations with a contextual understanding of the threat landscape. It goes beyond the raw data by analyzing the characteristics and behaviors of threat actors, their motivations, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)

By identifying the techniques employed by threat actors, organizations can gain insights into their potential targets, attack vectors, and potential impact. This contextual understanding allows organizations to prioritize their security efforts and implement targeted defense strategies to mitigate identified risks.

Threat actors on Telegram and the dark web routinely sell hacking tools, exploits, malicious code, and other cybercrime tools on dark web markets and forums. Keeping up with the sheer volume can be a challenge.

Telegram screenshot that shows threat actor advertising shells/malicious scripts. White text over black background.
Telegram screenshot that shows threat actor advertising shells/malicious scripts

However, in many cases TTPs are specific to industries, vulnerabilities, and verticals. Understanding the latest TTPs used by threat actors can enable you to proactively change your security posture to rapidly meet emerging threats and refine your approach based on the most relevant risks. 

Early Detection of Emerging Threats

One of the primary benefits of threat intelligence analytics is its ability to identify emerging threats in their early stages. By analyzing threat intelligence data in real-time, organizations can detect indicators of compromise (IOCs), new malware variants, or evolving attack patterns. Early detection enables organizations to take proactive measures to prevent or mitigate potential attacks before they inflict significant damage. 

This could include:

  • Implementing security controls
  • Updating detection mechanisms
  • Sharing intelligence within trusted networks to enhance collective defense

Infostealer logs represent another excellent opportunity to identify specific and relevant threats related specifically to your organization. Infostealer malware infects computers and steals the passwords saved in the browser. These are then packaged into “logs” and given out on Telegram and the dark web.

Screenshot of file containing logs, white text over black background with a bright purple download icon
Screenshot of file containing logs

As of August 2023, Flare has identified more than 375,000 corporate credentials in infostealer logs being given out on Telegram and sold on Russian and Genesis marketplaces. Infostealer logs represent a particularly acute risk since they may also contain active session cookies which can be used to log into popular services. 

Enhanced Incident Response and Mitigation

Threat intelligence analytics strengthens incident response capabilities by providing actionable insights during security incidents. By correlating threat intelligence data with network logs, intrusion detection system (IDS) alerts, and other security event data, organizations can quickly identify the scope and impact of an incident. 

This helps in prioritizing response efforts, containing the incident, and recovering from the attack effectively. Additionally, threat intelligence analytics can assist in identifying the root cause of the incident, enabling organizations to close security gaps and prevent similar attacks in the future.

At Flare, we believe threat intelligence (CTI), digital risk protection services (DRPS) and attack surface management (ASM) are likely to converge into a single focus – continuous threat exposure management. CTEM will enable companies to focus on specific, curated risk vectors that lead to data breaches and ransomware attacks. Using CTEM for incident response can enable you to contextualize incidents, create traceability and identify threats as diverse as: 

  • Credentials, authentication tokens, API keys and other secrets leaked on code sharing sites such as GitHub.
  • Corporate access credentials and active session tokens being given out in Telegram or sold on Russian and Genesis marketplaces
  • Employee data leaks resulting in sensitive information being shared publicly
  • Threat actors discussing targeting specific companies on cybercrime telegram channels and dark web forums.
  • Initial access being sold on forums such as Exploit and XSS which can provide insight into how threat actors initially gained access.

Cyber Threat Hunting

Threat intelligence analytics is instrumental in proactive threat hunting. By leveraging threat intelligence feeds, organizations can proactively search for signs of potential compromise within their networks. This involves analyzing network traffic, logs, and other data sources to detect indicators of advanced persistent threats (APTs), insider threats, or suspicious activities that might go undetected by traditional security measures. Threat hunting enables organizations to identify and neutralize threats before they cause significant damage or exfiltrate sensitive data.

Threat intelligence analytics empower organizations to unleash actionable insights from vast amounts of threat intelligence data. By providing a contextual understanding of the threat landscape, facilitating early detection of emerging threats, enhancing incident response capabilities, enabling proactive vulnerability management, and supporting proactive threat hunting, threat intelligence analytics enables organizations to make the most of their CTI program. 

By leveraging advanced analytics techniques and tools, organizations can stay one step ahead of cyber threats and develop effective cybersecurity strategies to protect their valuable assets and maintain a strong security posture.

Leveraging Data Sources for Effective Threat Intelligence Analytics

To maximize the value of your threat intelligence analytics program, it is essential to leverage diverse and comprehensive data sources. Threat intelligence relies on accurate, timely, and relevant data to provide actionable insights. By tapping into a wide range of data sources, organizations can gain a holistic view of the threat landscape and improve the effectiveness of their CTI program.

Below are six data sources that can enhance threat intelligence analytics:

  1. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

Open source intelligence refers to publicly available information from sources such as:

  • News articles
  • Social media platforms
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Other publicly accessible online content

OSINT provides valuable context about emerging threats, threat actors, and their activities. By monitoring OSINT feeds and analyzing relevant information, organizations can identify potential risks, gather intelligence on threat actors, and gain insights into their tactics and targets.

  1. Closed Source Intelligence

Closed source intelligence includes proprietary or restricted information sources, such as:

  • Commercial threat intelligence feeds
  • Private forums
  • Underground marketplaces
  • Dark web sources

These sources provide exclusive and specialized threat intelligence that may not be publicly accessible. By subscribing to reputable commercial threat intelligence services or partnering with trusted security vendors, organizations can access curated threat data that is specific to their industry, geographic location, or technology stack.

  1. Internal Security Data

Organizations possess a wealth of valuable security data within their own networks and systems. This includes: 

  • Network logs
  • Security event logs
  • Endpoint telemetry
  • Firewall logs
  • Intrusion detection system (IDS) alerts
  • Other internal security data sources

By aggregating and analyzing this internal security data, organizations can identify potential threats, detect anomalous behaviors, and uncover indicators of compromise within their own environment. Integrating internal security data with external threat intelligence feeds enhances the accuracy and relevance of the insights gained.

  1. Incident Response Data

Incident response data contains information about past security incidents, including the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by threat actors. Analyzing incident response data provides valuable lessons learned, enabling organizations to understand attack patterns and refine their defenses. 

Incident response data can come from internal incident response teams, external incident response providers, or public incident repositories. By incorporating incident response data into threat intelligence analytics, organizations can improve their proactive defenses and incident response capabilities.

  1. Industry and Information Sharing Communities

Participating in industry-specific information sharing communities and collaborating with trusted peers can provide valuable threat intelligence. Sharing insights, best practices, and threat intelligence within these communities allows organizations to gain access to a broader range of threat data and collective knowledge. 

These communities may include: 

  • Sector-specific ISACs (Information Sharing and Analysis Centers)
  • Threat intelligence sharing platforms
  • Collaborative initiatives within the cybersecurity industry.
  1. External Threat Feeds and Integrations

External threat intelligence feeds from reputable sources play a critical role in enriching threat intelligence analytics. These feeds provide real-time updates on: 

  • Emerging threats
  • Indicators of compromise (IOCs)
  • Malware signatures
  • Known malicious IP addresses or domains

By integrating these feeds into threat intelligence platforms and security solutions, organizations can automate the ingestion and correlation of threat data, enabling faster and more accurate threat detection and response.

By leveraging diverse data sources, organizations can enhance their threat intelligence analytics capabilities and derive more actionable insights. It is crucial to ensure the quality, relevance, and accuracy of the data sources used. Regularly reviewing and updating the data sources, validating their reliability, and considering the evolving threat landscape will help organizations stay ahead of emerging threats and make informed decisions to protect their digital assets. 

Techniques and Tools for Analyzing and Interpreting Threat Intelligence

Analyzing and interpreting threat intelligence is a critical aspect of making the most of your CTI program. To effectively extract actionable insights from the vast amount of threat data available, organizations need to employ appropriate techniques and leverage powerful tools. 

Below are some key techniques and tools that can enhance the analysis and interpretation of threat intelligence:

Data Aggregation and Correlation

Data aggregation and correlation involve collecting and combining threat data from various sources to identify patterns, trends, and relationships. This technique allows organizations to gain a holistic view of the threat landscape and understand how different indicators of compromise (IOCs) are interconnected. 

Tools such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems, threat intelligence platforms, and data aggregation frameworks facilitate the collection, normalization, and correlation of threat data.

Data Enrichment and Contextualization

Data enrichment involves augmenting raw threat data with additional information to provide more context and enhance its value. This can include adding geolocation data, historical threat intelligence, threat actor profiling, and information about known attack techniques. 

By enriching threat data, organizations can better understand the significance and relevance of the threats they face. Tools like threat intelligence APIs, threat feeds, and enrichment services enable automated data enrichment and contextualization.

Statistical Analysis and Machine Learning

Statistical analysis and machine learning techniques enable organizations to uncover hidden patterns and relationships within threat data. By applying statistical models and algorithms, organizations can:

  • Identify anomalies
  • Predict future threats
  • Classify the severity of threats

Machine learning algorithms can automate the analysis process, reducing the manual effort required and enabling real-time threat detection. Tools like data visualization platforms, statistical analysis software, and machine learning frameworks assist in these analytical processes.

Threat Hunting and Triage

Threat hunting involves proactively searching for indicators of compromise and potential threats within an organization’s network. It focuses on identifying threats that may have bypassed existing security controls. 

Threat hunting techniques involve using advanced search queries, data analytics, and behavioral analysis to identify hidden threats and indicators of compromise. Tools like endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions, network traffic analysis tools, and threat hunting platforms provide capabilities for effective threat hunting and triage.

Threat Intelligence Platforms and Dashboards

Threat intelligence platforms and dashboards offer centralized repositories for storing, managing, and visualizing threat intelligence data. These platforms provide features for data ingestion, analysis, and reporting. They enable security analysts to:

  • Perform advanced searches
  • Visualize threat trends
  • Generate customized reports 

Threat intelligence platforms also facilitate collaboration among team members and sharing of insights within the organization.

Automation and Orchestration

Automation and orchestration tools help streamline and accelerate threat intelligence analysis processes. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, organizations can focus on analyzing high-priority threats and taking swift action. 

Automation tools can ingest threat data, perform initial analysis, generate alerts, and initiate response actions. Integration with security tools and systems allows for orchestrated responses to threats. Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platforms and playbooks are examples of automation tools used in threat intelligence analysis.

Human Expertise and Collaboration

While technology plays a vital role in threat intelligence analytics, human expertise and collaboration are equally important. Skilled security analysts and researchers bring domain knowledge, contextual understanding, and critical thinking to the analysis process. 

Collaboration among analysts, both within the organization and through information sharing communities, enhances the effectiveness of threat intelligence analysis. Expert knowledge and collaboration platforms, threat intelligence sharing communities, and incident response teams support human-driven analysis and collaboration.

By employing these techniques and leveraging appropriate tools, organizations can effectively analyze and interpret threat intelligence, deriving valuable insights to enhance their security posture. It is essential to invest in training security analysts, staying updated on emerging threats and analytical methodologies, and continually evaluating and optimizing the tools and techniques used. 

Maximizing the Value of Your CTI Program: Applying Threat Intelligence Analytics

Applying threat intelligence analytics is the key to maximizing the value of your CTI program. By effectively utilizing the insights derived from threat intelligence, organizations can enhance their cybersecurity posture and proactively mitigate risks. In this section, we will explore how to apply threat intelligence analytics to derive actionable intelligence and strengthen your overall CTI program.

Identify Relevant Threats and Indicators

To derive actionable intelligence from threat intelligence, it is crucial to identify the most relevant threats and indicators for your organization. By understanding your organization’s assets, industry, and threat landscape, you can prioritize and focus on the threats that pose the highest risks. Leverage threat intelligence feeds, research reports, and industry-specific sources to gather relevant threat information. This targeted approach ensures that your CTI program addresses the most pressing security concerns.

Contextualize Threat Intelligence Data

Contextualizing threat intelligence data is essential to understand the potential impact and relevance of threats to your organization. Enrich the raw threat data with additional contextual information, such as threat actor profiles, attack techniques, and historical trends. 

This contextualization helps security analysts interpret the data accurately and make informed decisions. Leverage threat intelligence platforms and enrichment services to automate the process of contextualizing threat intelligence.

Establish Prioritized Threat Triage

Not all threats are created equal, and organizations need to establish a prioritized threat triage process based on the severity and potential impact of each threat. Develop a threat scoring system or use existing frameworks like the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) to assess and prioritize threats. This allows security teams to focus their resources on addressing the most critical threats first. Incorporate the threat triage process into your incident response and remediation workflows for a systematic and efficient approach.

Utilize Data Visualization and Reporting

Data visualization is a powerful tool for presenting complex threat intelligence data in a concise and meaningful way. Visual representations, such as charts, graphs, and heatmaps, enable security analysts and decision-makers to grasp the significance of threat trends and patterns quickly. Leverage data visualization platforms or build customized dashboards to provide clear and actionable insights. Additionally, generate regular reports to communicate threat intelligence findings to relevant stakeholders and facilitate informed decision-making.

Implement Automated Alerting and Response

Incorporating automated alerting and response mechanisms into your CTI program enables swift action against emerging threats. Configure your threat intelligence platform or SIEM system to generate real-time alerts based on specific indicators or threat patterns. 

Automated alerting ensures that security teams are promptly notified of potential threats, allowing them to initiate proactive mitigation measures. Integrating threat intelligence with your security infrastructure enables automated responses, such as blocking malicious IP addresses or isolating compromised systems.

Continuous Monitoring and Feedback Loop

Threat intelligence is not a one-time endeavor; it requires continuous monitoring and analysis to stay ahead of evolving threats. Establish a feedback loop between threat intelligence analysis and your security operations to ensure ongoing refinement of your CTI program. 

Regularly review and update your: 

  • Threat intelligence sources
  • Analytics techniques
  • Response strategies 

based on real-world observations. 

Collaborate with industry peers, participate in information sharing communities, and leverage the expertise of external threat intelligence providers to enrich your insights.

Foster a Culture of Threat Awareness

Maximizing the value of your CTI program goes beyond technical implementations. It involves fostering a culture of threat awareness throughout your organization. Educate employees about the importance of threat intelligence, train them on recognizing and reporting potential threats, and empower them to be active participants in your CTI program. Encourage cross-functional collaboration between security teams, IT teams, and other stakeholders to ensure a holistic approach to threat intelligence analytics.

By applying threat intelligence analytics effectively, organizations can transform raw threat data into actionable intelligence, enabling proactive threat mitigation and enhancing overall cybersecurity defenses. Remember to continuously evaluate and adapt your analytics techniques and tools to stay ahead of emerging threats. 

Threat Intelligence Analytics and Flare

To effectively defend against threats, organizations need to harness the power of threat intelligence analytics. 

With the power of threat intelligence analytics, organizations can best defend against new threats. By leveraging advanced techniques and tools, organizations can contextualize the threat landscape, detect emerging threats, enhance incident response, proactively manage vulnerabilities, and engage in threat hunting. 

Flare monitors over one million new stealer logs per week, thousands of cybercrime forums and channels, millions of public GitHub repositories, and more. Understanding these cyber threats strengthens organizations’ security postures. 

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