Although it is a fairly new concept, threat intelligence has the potential to change the face of cybersecurity. In essence, it is a model for dealing with cyber-threats based on proven and workable principles. The idea is to take cybersecurity to the next level, providing an efficient and effective framework that can be used to neutralize cyber-threats. Is this new perspective workable? Is it necessary? Most importantly, does it offer enough advantages to be worth the trouble of adopting? Let’s take a closer look and attempt to find the answers to these questions.
A Proactive Approach
Perhaps the most important concept of threat intelligence (TI for short) is the idea of using a proactive approach. Most of the time, cybersecurity practices are based around a reactive model. That is to say; nothing changes until a threat makes it necessary. Although this does save some effort, it sacrifices some effectiveness in the process.
Instead of waiting for the attack to come to you, you can choose to investigate every known cyber-threat. The more you can learn, the better you can protect yourself and your systems from those who would do harm. Although the literature on this subject is kind of vague, it all comes down to the concept of good intelligence-gathering.
The Arms Race
Like so many other things, the practice of computer hacking has always tended to follow certain trends. You would think that these people would want to be as random as possible to avoid detection, but they often don’t have this option. You see, cybersecurity is basically an arms race. While hackers and attackers try to find new ways to exploit technology, cybersecurity professionals try to find new ways of stopping them.
Because of this ever-changing dynamic, the techniques of today may not be valid tomorrow. Most cyber-threats begin with the finding of a bug or some other vulnerability. If the vulnerability is found by one of the good guys, it will probably be closed as soon as possible. If the vulnerability is found by one of the bad guys, it will probably be used for something illicit.
Here’s what we are getting at here: Hackers are not able to exercise complete control over a computer system. They do their thing by exploiting vulnerabilities. Think of it like a suit of armor on a medieval knight. If you want to attack that knight, you have no choice but to target the gaps in the armor. You cannot simply attack wherever you want, and things are no different for a cyber-attacker.
How Is Threat Intelligence Helpful?
Like any other kind of intelligence-gathering, TI helps you to understand and deal with threats before they arise. Still, you need to watch out for those who are all talk. Anyone can talk about the dangers posed by hackers and other malicious entities, but it takes an expert to solve problems and create better security for all involved. Thus, you should expect certain things from any TI company that you might employ. Here is a short list of the things you should demand from your chosen group of cybersecurity professionals.
Custom Threat Assessments
Cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all kind of problem. There are tons of different problems and tons of different solutions. We will assume that you are interested in these matters from the perspective of a business owner, as most private individuals do not require this level of security.
Depending on how you do business, what kinds of products you offer, and what kinds of services you perform, you will have to prioritize the risks that seem to be the largest. For instance, if your company does most of its internal communication via email, you need to be particularly worried about email phishing. Even high-level government officials have fallen prey to these email phishing scams, so don’t underestimate the danger.
One of the best ways to counter cyber-threats is through the appropriate sharing of information. Imagine if you could have perfect communication on this matter…if that happened, all of these internet-borne threats would be a lot less serious. If everyone shared information about the various threats that are out there, each type of attack would only be able to work once. At most, they might compromise a few people before being neutralized.
Obviously, things are not that well-developed at present. However, if the study of TI continues in a serious and professional manner, we might eventually get to a point where each individual cyber-threat can be neutralized immediately after being used. At that point, a cyber-attack technique becomes something like a bee’s stinger: It might cause harm to the target, but you can only do it once.
Any company that you employ should keep an extensive blacklist, showing all IP addresses, websites, individuals and groups that are known to be malicious. You should check to make sure that this list is updated frequently.
When you choose to employ anyone for threat assessment, you need to make sure that you are dealing with an honest bunch of people. If not, they will simply take your money while telling you about all the good they did for you. Of course, they won’t have actually helped you, but they will certainly take your money. When you pay for these kinds of services, you deserve to see the results.
Any company that refuses to let you see their data should be fired immediately. Such behavior is highly suspicious, to say the least. It is the equivalent of deliberately concealing evidence in a court case, so don’t tolerate that kind of behavior at all. Cyber-crime is notoriously hard to prove or prosecute, so you should take everything you are told with a grain of salt and don’t believe anything without evidence.
Once again, it is important to avoid those companies that won’t actually make your situation more secure. Some of them will just talk a lot, giving you a lot of good-sounding advice. Obviously, it isn’t worth your time or money to pay someone for that. Thus, you need to make sure that your chosen firm is offering real solutions that you can realistically implement. If they can’t do this, they are going to be useless to you.
The Most Common Threats
In order to understand the science of threat assessment, you must first understand the threats themselves. Let’s talk about the most common cyber-threats a little bit.
Advanced Persistent Threats
This is a term that refers to a certain kind of malware. APT malware is designed for long-term spying rather than short-term gain. Cybersecurity professionals have focused a lot of attention on this kind of attack lately, and that is because it can do so much harm. This is the kind of attack that is used by smart hackers who know how to think about the long-term picture.
This kind of malware is pretty difficult to spot because it doesn’t cause any overtly noticeable problems except one: Your computer will run slower. The APT program will require a certain amount of system resources to run, and that is sure to make everything else run more slowly. You might be able to open your task manager and see a virus of this type. Ordinarily, malware sucks a lot of resources, so you should look for something that is using way more power than it should.
Phishing And Trojans
Both of these are impersonation-based attacks that work by fooling a person into thinking that they are dealing with a trusted entity. They might masquerade as any number of people or groups, so always be on the lookout for people who aren’t what they seem to be. More than that, you need to be on the lookout for any suspicious requests. Remember: If something doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t right.
Phishing normally works by embedding malware in an email or some other message. When someone clicks on a boobytrapped link, the malware is activated. It might capture their IP address, getting their real name and home address at the same time. A trojan is basically the same thing, but it is a more specific form. A trojan masquerades as a trusted program so that it can trick you into giving it special permissions.
These are some of the worst kinds of malware out there. Keyloggers allow a hacker to capture and view every stroke of your keyboard. Because this includes login data, this kind of malware can do all kinds of damage. Thankfully, keyloggers are not that effective unless combined with some other kinds of malware.
Sometimes, if an attacker cannot compromise your entire device. They may try to compromise certain programs. When this happens, the browser is the most obvious choice. Chances are, a hacker isn’t interested in your video game data or your family photos. They want something that relates to money, and most of that is done through a browser. These attacks are generally carried out by using malicious scripts, so set your security software to block all non-approved scripts. There is an add-on for Firefox called NoScript, which can do this quite easily.
Worms can be some of the worst viruses of all. This is the case because they are self-replicating, and therefore, very hard to remove. Once these things get established, it’s like trying to get rid of a pestilence. Thankfully, these kinds of malware will normally be dependent on some kind of bug. This means that they will be rendered useless when the bug is fixed.
Ransomware is the only type of malware that makes use of encryption to do its foul work. Basically, they start by taking control of your system by using another method. This might be a phished email, a loaded link in a chat room, or any number of other things. Once they in control, all your data is encrypted in place. That means you cannot get any of your data back until you get the password, and that probably won’t come cheap. This is a method of extortion that has become all too common in recent years.
Primary Aspects Of Threat Assessment
The National Cyber-Security Center of the UK has already adopted the concept of threat assessment, and they have even gone so far as to codify it a little bit. Let’s look at their setup and see how it works. It appears that they recognize four different categories of threat assessment:
- Tactical: This is the study of specific tactics used by cyber-attackers
- Technical: This is the study of specific technology that is used by cyber-attackers
- Operational: This is the practical side of the matter, and is concerned mainly with the identification and neutralization of specific attacks
- Strategic: This is where they look at the big picture, meaning the world of cybersecurity and the current trends
While this is a relatively new area of computer science, it seems like a very timely invention. The risk of cyber-attack has never been higher, and many societies are struggling to deal with these threats. Without concrete evidence and professional methodologies, cybersecurity has become a serious blind spot for most of the world. As more and more bad actors notice this weak point, more and more of them try to take advantage. At the same time, we are glad that you decided to take advantage of our expertise by reading this article. If you would like to read more of our work, please fill out the contact form below.