The ever-changing nature of cybersecurity has challenged businesses and organizations of all sizes to adapt and improve defenses to stop sensitive data from being accessed and network vulnerabilities from being exploited. Cybersecurity professionals use tactical threat intelligence to gain valuable knowledge to help protect against cybercrime.
This article will discuss tactical threat intelligence and how it is gathered, understood and applied.
Understanding Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI)
Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) refers to all the information that can be gathered about potential cyberattacks. This may range from curated information from major security suppliers, scouring hacking forums and the dark web, to liaising with other organizations and identifying vulnerabilities in-house.
Collecting as much relevant information and data as possible can help cybersecurity teams understand and monitor the exposure of their attack surface. The attack surface relates to software infrastructure and network vulnerabilities that a cybercriminal can exploit to gain access to sensitive information. Knowing the attack surface means you can build better defenses and mitigate any risk.
Weaknesses and vulnerabilities may come in many shapes and forms, with financial and payment systems one of the most targeted areas. For added protection, you should always ensure your payment systems comply with modern standards.
The four main types of cyber threat intelligence
Cyber threat intelligence comes in four main types:
We will summarize the other three types of CTI before delving deep into tactical cyber threat intelligence.
Strategic CTI refers to high-level intelligence regarding the constantly changing world of cybercrime. This intelligence is often used by senior decision-makers within an organization to better allocate their budget for security and defense.
The intelligence is collected from highly informed documentation, such as dedicated security reports, industry reports, white papers, policy documents, and respected publications.
Operational CTI refers to relatively fresh actionable intelligence that matches company needs. Such information is high-priority and needs swift attention from the security manager and network defense team.
Technical cyber threat intelligence covers indicators that could compromise the control of a centralized security operations center (SOC). This could refer to specific organizational processes and users that can grant unauthorized access to threat actors.
What Is tactical Cyber Threat Intelligence?
Tactical cyber threat intelligence is the gathering of information to determine how a threat actor typically attacks a software infrastructure and network, and the use of this intelligence to detect similar potential attacks and reduce the probability or effects of such events. This approach to cybersecurity is proactive, ensuring all relevant parties are fully updated on recent developments or trends.
Specifically, tactical CTI refers to “tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)” focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s network and its ability to prevent cyberattacks. Therefore, the individuals who act upon this intelligence are typically the SOC managers and IT service administrators.
Tactical CTI also goes beyond the internal network and considers vulnerabilities on the organization’s website and social media accounts, ensuring the brand’s integrity is not compromised.
Tactical CTI examples include:
- URL and IP blacklists
- Malware trends and signatures
- Phishing scams
- Traffic patterns
- Log files of known attacks
- Advanced persistent threats (APT) credentials
This information is obtained from open-source intelligence (OSINT), which can include, but is not limited to:
- Malware samples and incident reports
- Attack group reports
- Campaign reports
- Human intelligence
- The dark (deep) web, such as forums and chat rooms
How is tactical CTI used?
Tactical CTI will mainly be used by technical professionals who thoroughly understand how the organization’s network may be infiltrated using modern and advanced techniques. As mentioned, security professionals may include security operations center managers, IT managers, network operations center managers, and any senior employees related to these areas.
Tactical cyber threat intelligence can help answer many questions, such as what tactics, techniques and procedures the attacker may have access to and how they can be countered.
What is the benefit of tactical CTI from a business viewpoint?
Tactical cyber threat intelligence is very important to businesses and organizations and can be broken down into four key benefits, which we will discuss below.
1. Creates a structured and proactive cybersecurity system
Creating a proactive cybersecurity system can dramatically minimize risks and vulnerabilities. Tactical CTI provides insight into how a threat actor may try to attack a network, identify potential access points, and measure the overall attack surface of a system.
If an attack is successful, this type of CTI can also help stop attackers in their tracks, preventing them from reaching their goals and mitigating the overall impact of the intrusion.
2. Helps to make complex data more digestible
Your cybersecurity intelligence will likely come in large, unorganized data sheets. Tactical CTI can help make sense of this data in a structured way so action can be taken to help protect the business network effectively.
This amount of data will likely be too extensive to sort manually, so machine learning technology is often used to extract important, usable intelligence.
3. Improved responsiveness to attacks
Your security team uses tactical cyber threat intelligence to quickly identify attacks and to launch an immediate, effective response. CTI allows them to determine if the current defenses are fit for purpose and that their investigative procedures can spot the latest and most advanced attacks.
The latest intelligence on TTPs can significantly improve detection methods, and the team can prioritize their efforts to monitor the most vulnerable areas on a network. Attackers are constantly looking at new ways of targeting victims, from trying to extract business banking credentials to the personally identifiable information of your clients.
3. Future-proofing procedures and defenses
Security systems can no longer be reactive. They must be positioned to detect any threats in real time and to launch the necessary defenses to minimize the impact of any attack. This requires an adaptable framework designed to withstand a range of cybersecurity threats.
Actively gathering the most up-to-date CTI is vital to preparing an organization for the latest and most sophisticated exploits. Implementing zero trust and advanced verification systems are among the best ways of securing networks.
Tactical CTI focuses on gathering as much data as possible on the latest cybersecurity threats. This information can be gathered from various sources, including the dark web, incident reports, and verified human intelligence.
Using this data, security managers can identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s network, then implement processes and defenses so attacks can be identified quickly and the damage can be mitigated.
Learn more about Bitdefender's Advanced Threat Intelligence solution.