Broadly speaking, threat intelligence monitoring is an organization’s ability to observe and understand various threats to its IT operations and confidential data in the company’s possession. This includes monitoring external threats to your business (say, cyber attackers looking for potential targets) and internal evidence that an attack may have already happened (for example, malware found on computer servers).
Understanding your threat landscape is important. The average cost of a single data breach in 2021 shot up to $4.24 million. Some analysts say ransomware costs worldwide could rise to $265 billion by 2031. These are all serious threats and risks that can affect the business continuity, financial stability, and reputations of all kinds of organizations.
What Are Threat Intelligence and Threat Intelligence Monitoring?
Gartner defines threat intelligence as “evidence-based knowledge, including context, mechanisms, indicators, implications and action-oriented advice about an existing or emerging menace or hazard to assets.”
In other words, threat intelligence is more than raw data about threat actors’ motivations, capabilities, and possible indicators of compromise (IoC). Threat intelligence adds context to this data to produce rich, actionable information so that organizations can prevent or mitigate cyberattacks and improve their defense strategy.
Real-time threat intelligence helps security analysts to identify a breach as soon as one occurs and to respond more quickly to security incidents. Threat intelligence can also identify known malware, viruses, and exploits used in previous attacks.
A threat intelligence program is beneficial for:
- Incident triage and response
- Risk analysis
- Security or IT operations
- Fraud prevention
- Third-party or supply chain risk mitigation
- Vulnerability management
- Cybersecurity decision-making
Threat Intelligence Monitoring
A threat intelligence monitoring solution allows security professionals to find and address security threats that may lead to cyberattacks or data breaches; compromise corporate assets; or result in financial, reputational, or compliance-related losses. For this, analysts use threat intelligence to analyze, assess, and monitor enterprise assets continuously.
What Are the Types of Threat Intelligence?
There are three types of threat intelligence, each with its own purpose and aimed at a specific audience.
Strategic Threat Intelligence
Audience: Business decision-makers such as C-suite leaders, senior managers, board of directors.
Strategic threat intelligence provides a holistic view of the organization’s threat landscape. It shows the potential impact of long-term, large-scale cybersecurity events on enterprise security posture.
This intelligence, which is less technical, helps senior executives to make better business decisions about cybersecurity investments. It requires a lot of research to produce high-level intelligence reports that are actionable. Analysts typically use automation or machine learning-based data analysis solutions.
Operational Threat Intelligence
Audience: CSIRT (computer security incident response team), SOC analysts, vulnerability management team, threat hunters.
Operational threat intelligence helps analysts and response teams to understand the functional aspects of cyber threats — particularly the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of threat actors. This technical information helps analysts to streamline and improve cybersecurity operations to protect the enterprise.
Tactical Threat Intelligence
Audience: System architects, SOC analysts, SIEM (security information and event management teams.
Tactical threat intelligence has a short-term focus. It provides information about specific attacks and campaigns, enabling security teams to detect threats, prevent or mitigate potential attacks, improve incident response, and boost the effectiveness of existing security controls.
5 Ways to Know If You Have Been Hacked
Most cyber attack and data breach incidents leave some sort of evidence that allows security teams to prevent the attacks, or at least to minimize the damage.
Here are five warning signs that may indicate an attack or hack:
Unexpected File Changes
Unexpected or sudden changes to document names often indicate a breach. To prevent the adversary from causing further damage, it’s vital to change all company passwords immediately and install encryption software (if it’s not already installed).
Spam Emails Coming from Company Accounts
In spam emails, the “from” address mimics a legitimate sender, but a close look can help distinguish between spam and genuine emails. If spam emails start coming from company accounts, however, that almost always indicates a hack. Security teams should immediately change passwords and install multi-factor authentication to minimize damage.
Unexpected Installations and Random Pop-ups
Hackers frequently install malware, adware, spyware, and ransomware after gaining access to a company’s network. That’s why unexpected apps or add-ons that the IT team did not install or approve could indicate a breach.
Short of blocking every external application or open-source add-on, the only way to address this problem is to check all devices regularly with automated scanners for unauthorized software or toolbars and then remove those items immediately.
Redirected Internet Searches
Cybercriminals often redirect legitimate browser searches to malicious websites so the thieves can steal data from users or make money via user clicks. Again, the only way to solve the problem is to check devices and endpoints regularly for suspicious installations and remove them.
When confidential company information appears on an online data dump (usually on the dark web), that is a sure sign of a breach. Once the data is already in cyberspace, the company can do nothing to prevent its spread. Security teams, however, can (and should) do a full audit of all security procedures, policies, and infrastructure to prevent a recurrence.
What Are the Benefits of Threat Intelligence Monitoring?
Improve Security Posture
A threat intelligence monitoring solution is an active software program. Security teams can use this solution to gather threat intelligence and convert that information into actionable insights to improve the organization’s security posture.
Moreover, a strong cybersecurity posture is directly related to real-time monitoring and remediation. For this, threat intelligence and a threat intelligence monitoring solution are both crucial.
Threat intelligence enables security analysts and response teams to identify the signs of attack highlighted in the previous section. They can make better security decisions because they understand the attackers and cyber threats.
Specifically, threat intelligence monitoring provides timely warnings on existing or evolving threats, reveals previously unknown threats, prioritizes security vulnerabilities, triages security incidents, and improves investigation and remediation.
Find Evidence of New Threats
Threat intelligence monitoring continuously and consistently analyzes, evaluates, and monitors enterprise IT assets to find evidence of security threats. Once it identifies a threat, it issues an alert and can even stop the threat from damaging or compromising enterprise resources. It can also contain and eliminate in-progress cyber attacks.
Highlight and Deter Advanced Persistent Threats and Zero-Day Attacks
Monitoring software can highlight advanced persistent threats (APTs) against the organization. This visibility allows security personnel to seek out open vulnerabilities that attackers may exploit, and fix them quickly.
These solutions can even identify and prepare for emergent malware or ransomware threats posted on hacker forums, as well as potential zero-day attacks. They can then incorporate strong defensive controls in the cybersecurity ecosystem.
Learn from Threats to Other Organizations
The best solutions go beyond threats facing the organization itself. By assessing threats and vulnerabilities facing other organizations, security teams can find commonalities and then raise alerts. Companies can then take action to address these vulnerabilities highlighted by an attack on another company.
How Does Threat Intelligence Monitoring Work?
The cyber-threat landscape is constantly expanding, so organizations are now faced with a plethora of threats, threat actors, and threat tools. To stay ahead of these challenges, security professionals must shore up defenses for existing threats, as well as emergent or evolving threats. This is where threat intelligence monitoring solutions are critical.
Such a tool automatically collects threat data from various sources and formats. Then it consolidates, normalizes, and enriches this data, so organizations can effectively identify current and potential security gaps. Security teams can then take quick action to prevent a cyber-attack or be prepared to minimize the damage if it does occur.
Once the solution identifies a threat, it issues an alert. Security incident and event management (SIEM) teams check these alerts and take the necessary actions to address the threat. The software removes duplicate information and false positives, allowing teams to focus on real threats instead of wasting time on false ones.
Smart threat monitoring solutions don’t just provide “snapshot,” which nowadays are inadequate and incomplete views of cyber threats. Instead, they constantly scan for risks and threats to the organization and its third-party ecosystem, and provide the most up-to-date security intelligence at any moment in time.
Advanced monitoring tools also perform cyber threat surveillance to monitor business-critical cybersecurity KPIs and metrics continuously, and to deliver actionable security intelligence early before attackers can exploit them.
Make ZenGRC Part of Your Information Security Plans
If your security team is struggling to get visibility into your threat and risk landscape, ZenGRC can help. With this multifaceted platform, you can identify the security risks across the entire enterprise and see where these risks are changing.
Leverage detailed information about the critical risks, threats, and vulnerabilities affecting your organization. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.
To see how ZenGRC can support your goal of a more robust cybersecurity posture, schedule a free demo today.