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When it comes to cybersecurity, knowledge is power — and that means both having the information you need and knowing what to do with it. Threat intelligence from reputable sources like MITRE and CISA can be extremely valuable for proactive protection against various cybersecurity threats. Once you have it, though, it’s just as critical to implement the processes, procedures, and platform tools required to put that intelligence to work.

What is threat intelligence?

Threat intelligence is information collected, analyzed, and interpreted to understand potential threats and risks to an organization’s security. Data gathered from various sources — security researchers, threat feeds, open-source intelligence, dark web monitoring, and internal security logs — provides actionable insights and a proactive approach to identifying, mitigating, and preventing potential cyber threats. By analyzing and correlating vast amounts of data, it uncovers patterns, trends, and indicators of compromise that can reveal malicious activities or vulnerabilities.

We can categorize threat intelligence into three main types:

  • Strategic intelligence focuses on understanding the broader threat landscape — emerging trends, evolving attack techniques, and capabilities and motivations of threat actors. It helps organizations develop long-term security strategies and make informed decisions about resource allocation.
  • Operational intelligence provides real-time or near real-time information about ongoing threats, vulnerabilities, and security incidents. It enables organizations to respond promptly to active threats — detecting and blocking malicious activities, for example, or patching vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
  • Tactical intelligence is specific and technical. It includes detailed information about specific threats, malware samples, indicators of compromise (IOCs), and vulnerabilities. Security teams use tactical intelligence to enhance their defensive capabilities — updating security controls, creating signatures for intrusion detection systems, or developing specific countermeasures.

Putting threat intelligence to work — proactively

So how can we use threat intelligence effectively for proactive protection? Here are the key objectives.

  1. Collect and aggregate relevant threat intelligence: Stay up to date on emerging threats, vulnerabilities, and recommended mitigation strategies by regularly monitoring and following fresh threat intelligence reports, advisories, and indicators of compromise (IOCs) from trusted sources, such as MITRE and CISA. Subscribe to mailing lists and RSS feeds, follow security blogs and social media, and join relevant threat-sharing communities to make sure the info you get is timely and relevant.
  2. Understand the threat landscape: Familiarize yourself with the current threat landscape, including types of attacks, attack vectors, and techniques being used by adversaries. This knowledge will help you identify potential risks and prioritize your proactive defense efforts.
  3. Analyze and prioritize: Evaluate the relevance of the threat intelligence you collect to your organization’s environment and industry. Cross-reference information from different sources and validate its credibility and relevance to avoid false positives. Prioritize threats based on potential impact and likelihood of occurrence, addressing the most critical threats first.
  4. Integrate threat intelligence into security controls: Leverage insights from threat intelligence to enhance your existing security controls. Update intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, and security information and event management (SIEM) tools with the latest IOCs and signatures from threat intelligence sources. This integration will help you to detect and block known threats more effectively.
  5. Adapt security policies and procedures: Regularly review and update your security policies, procedures, and incident response plans based on insights gained from threat intelligence. Incorporate security controls, best practices, and countermeasures — such as regular patching, network segmentation, access controls, and security awareness training — to address identified threats and vulnerabilities.
  6. Perform vulnerability assessments: Use threat intelligence to guide your vulnerability assessment processes. Prioritize scanning and testing based on known vulnerabilities and exploits highlighted by threat intelligence sources. This will help you identify and mitigate weaknesses before attackers can exploit them.
  7. Enhance threat-hunting capabilities: Leverage IOCs, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) provided by threat intelligence to search proactively for signs of compromise or malicious activity within your network. Perform regular log analysis, anomaly detection, and behavior monitoring to identify and respond to potential threats before they cause significant damage. And implement automated systems or tools to monitor your environment for these IOCs, such as IP addresses, domains, hashes, or behavioral patterns associated with known malicious activities. This proactive approach helps you identify threats that might bypass traditional security controls.
  8. Share and collaborate: Engage in information-sharing partnerships with other organizations, within your industry and across sectors. Share anonymized threat intelligence and indicators of compromise with trusted peers and security communities. And participate in sector-specific Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) or Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to stay connected with the broader security community. Collaboration strengthens the collective defense against emerging threats and increases the effectiveness of proactive protection.
  9. Stay informed and evolve: Establish a feedback loop to continuously monitor and evaluate the evolving threat landscape and the effectiveness of your proactive protection measures. Review new threat intelligence reports and updates regularly and adapt accordingly as new threats emerge or existing threats evolve. The threat landscape is dynamic and staying informed is crucial for proactive protection.

Remember, threat intelligence should be used as a complement to your existing security practices and not as a standalone solution. Used correctly, it provides valuable insights and context, enabling you to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to protect your organization’s assets and infrastructure.

Proactive protection — a real-world example

With all that in mind, let’s consider a concrete example of how automated tooling provides the context you need to consume and act on threat intelligence — pulling threat data into the remediation process to help teams prioritize and act fast and effectively.

As we prepare to transform threat intelligence into action, we encounter a snag: the sheer volume of information is overwhelming. With hundreds of sophisticated adversarial campaigns launched each year by dozens of organized, often state-sponsored threat actors, it’s essential to prioritize. For each specific case, there are three key questions to ask:

  1. Should I worry? Is this threat a priority? Why or why not?
  2. Am I OK? Can I stop this threat? Is my threat surface minimized?
  3. What action should I take? What should I do at a practical level to defend against this threat? What remedial actions are needed? In what order?

Now, this is where automation is critically important. As a human being with human limitations, you simply can’t stay on top of all the threat intelligence out there. What you can do, however, is to increase the number of things you can address without direct attention or effort — in fact, that’s exactly how cybersecurity advances.

Let’s look at how automated threat intelligence analysis and action work in the real world using BigFix CyberFOCUS. Starting with threat Intelligence from MITRE and CISA, CyberFOCUS analytics will:

  • Instantly tell you your attack surface posture against attackers — as well as the vulnerabilities they’re known to exploit — and tell you where your weak spots are.
  • Instantly collect everything you need to remediate those vulnerabilities.
  • Immediately remediate those vulnerabilities, identifying and presenting to you the least disruptive, most efficient strategies.

Automation — a cybersecurity gamechanger

Needless to say, this level of automation is a gamechanger — enabling immediate action and significantly increasing the range and volume of cybersecurity threats you can address with minimal attention and effort on the part of your team.

What’s essential, however, is that the automation you use can answer all three key questions — Should I worry? Am I OK? What action should I take? — and, to the greatest possible degree, can automate the actions taken in response. By combining the power of automation with reliable threat intelligence and a proactive, prioritized approach, you can act fast and effectively — with minimal effort and expense — to protect your organization and keep cyber threats at bay.

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