A recent report from Grand View Research predicts that the cyber threat intelligence (CTI) market will reach $12.6 billion by 2025. This growth in demand isn't surprising when you consider the ongoing success of so many high-profile and extremely damaging attacks. This climate of increasingly sophisticated breaches has moved many organizations — particularly, those that handle and retain sensitive data — to upgrade their cybersecurity measures by adding CTI and incident forensics.
Different Types of CTI
Acknowledging the need to integrate CTI into your security strategy to more comprehensively protect endpoints is only the first step. Threat intelligence comes in many forms, and discerning the relative value of a CTI solution can be confusing. Granted, there are a variety of free open source intelligence feeds available, but leveraging them can put a strain on IT security resources and divert security operations center managers and threat analysts from the security planning and prevention tasks that are vital to their roles.
If you're considering adding threat intelligence to your security strategy, it's important to understand that CTI falls into three main categories — tactical, operational, and strategic — and all play a role in achieving comprehensive cybersecurity. Collectively, they answer questions related to the "who, what, and why" of a cyber incident. The following are brief descriptions of each type:
- Tactical CTI: This form of CTI answers the "what" of a cyber incident and consists largely of bad IP addresses, URLs, file hashes, known malicious domain names, etc. Tactical CTI is the easiest to gather and is available through open source feeds. In addition, this intelligence is short-term in nature because it can be outdated almost as soon as it arrives.
- Operational CTI: This form of intelligence analyzes and profiles threat actors and adversaries: the "who" behind the attacks. While still fairly short-term in nature, operational CTI requires human analysis because it adds context by delving into the motivations, intentions, and capabilities of attackers.
- Strategic CTI: Strategic CTI is long-term and takes a geopolitical view that analyzes risk factors such as global events, foreign policy factors, and other local and international movements and agendas that can affect your organization's safety. It is the most difficult type of intelligence to generate because it requires data collection by human analysts with a deep understanding of cybersecurity and the nuances of geopolitical circumstances. Due to its complexity, this intelligence is delivered in detailed, in-depth reports. Strategic CTI answers questions related to the "why" of an incident.
How CTI Can Be a Powerful Addition to Your Cybersecurity
Regardless of the threat level you face, CTI provides value only when it's actionable. Simply integrating open source threat feeds with existing security products, such as an intrusion prevention system, next-generation firewall, or security information and event management (SIEM) system, can't provide the kind of intelligence needed to mitigate risk or remediate a problem. Although some companies struggle to implement this intelligence effectively, CTI can be a powerful tool when applied correctly. The following are examples of how CTI can be used to increase your organization's cybersecurity:
- CTI can optimize prevention and strengthen defenses in anticipation of an attack: Operational CTI provides details on adversaries and helps recognize early-warning signs predicting an attack in the making, allowing security teams to mitigate risks.
- CTI can accelerate detection time: The ingestion and application of technical indicators into a SIEM system or endpoint detection and response tools fortifies them with the latest intelligence. This allows such solutions to automatically correlate and detect incidents faster by eliminating the requirement of waiting for a product update or for the creation of new detection rules.
- CTI can speed investigation and incident response times: By providing context and attribution, threat intelligence helps prioritize responses and accelerate investigations. With context and attribution, incident management becomes less unwieldy; security teams can start to separate the "forest from the trees" and apply correct prioritization to their workflows.
- CTI can empower better security and executive decisions: Knowing which adversaries are likely to target your organization and why allows decision-makers to allocate the defenses and resources necessary to protect assets that are most at risk. At a higher level, executive decisions may include identifying and weighing the risk/reward equation of business outcomes, allowing stakeholders to select the option that presents the least risk for the highest reward.