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5 Reasons Enterprises Don't Get Enough Value From Threat Intelligence

Maturity levels still keeping threat intelligence efficacy stunted.

The last couple of weeks have seen some interesting studies and observations surface on the state of threat intelligence today. Consensus shows that while many organizations are at very least recognizing the value of threat intelligence as a way to speed up incident response time, there are still plenty of impediments stunting the efficacy of enterprise threat intel programs.

1. They Don't Know What It Is

One thing that the surveys and reports on threat intelligence have made clear over the past year is that like any buzzworthy category, threat intelligence's definition has been well- and truly mucked by the marketers. At this point, every vendor with any kind of aggregation of real-time information has slapped the label of threat intel on it, thereby confusing the heck out of buyers.

A report out by IDC on behalf of SecureData last week illustrates the confusion. About 90% of respondents said they were familiar with the term threat intelligence. Digging further, though, while 77% equated SIEM to threat intel, only 35% understood threat intelligence to be shared information provided within the security community. Just 11% connected behavior analysis to threat intelligence activities.

“Threat intelligence is not simply information,” wrote Duncan Brown, research director for IDC and author of the report. “It is a service delivering a collated and correlated range of data feeds and sources to provide actionable advice to security operations. Our study suggests firms are taking a somewhat traditional view of intelligence that discounts more innovative developments.”

2. The Data's Not Actionable

According to a report out from the Ponemon Institute earlier this month, only about a third of IT security leaders say the threat intelligence they receive has a high level of effectiveness.

As Rick Holland of Forrester advised recently, organizations need to pick threat intelligence feeds based on relevancy to their business and start ignoring vendors that try to distract with bright and shiny claims of having large networks of sensors.

"If a vendor's collection capabilities don't produce threat intelligence that is relevant to your organization and threat model, then it's nothing more than window dressing," he writes. "When it comes to actionable intelligence, relevancy matters."

3. They're Fixated On External Feeds

Organizations may not be able to determine how to pick a relevant feed from an irrelevant feed because in many instances they're not looking in the mirror first before they seek out third-party threat intelligence solutions.

"Nothing will be as relevant to you as intelligence gathered from your own environment, your own intrusions. Before you invest six figures or more in third party threat intelligence, make sure you are investing in your internal capabilities," Holland says.

4. They're Not Contextualizing Data

The truth is that even with increased usage of SIEM for event correlation, IDC finds that organizations simply are not doing the work of turning internal incident information into contextual clues about threat behavior. Just over a third of organizations marry up external threat intelligence with internal data feeds.

And even internally, the contextualization of attack patterns is not very robust--under 60% of organizations fold in data from firewalls and UTM devices, just 38% pull in application security data, and only about a quarter of organizations use physical security information.

5. Nobody's In Charge

Perhaps a big part of the problem is that organizations aren't putting their backs into it yet. Ponemon found that only about 35% of organizations today have a dedicated team that centrally manages threat intelligence. To be fair, that number jumped up by seven percentage points over the past year, so things are getting better.

But the fact is that threat intelligence is hard.

"The range of data feeds, both within an organization and externally, can be vast, and security operations often risk being overwhelmed with data from events and alerts," writes Brown, and"digesting threat information can be a slow and painful process."

That's why it takes a mature, programmatic approach to yield meaningful benefits.


Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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