Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

4/14/2016
06:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

'Threat Hunting' On The Rise

Rather than wait for the adversary to strike, many enterprises are going out actively looking for them

Rather than simply waiting for the inevitable data breach to happen, many organizations say they have begun more actively scouting around for and chasing down bad actors and malicious activity on their networks.

Unlike the usual security approaches, threat hunting -- as some of the industry have taken to calling the trend -- combines the use of threat intelligence, analytics, and security tools with old-fashioned human smarts.

Eighty six percent of respondents in a recent SANS Institute survey of 494 IT professionals said their organizations were engaged in such activity. About 75% said they had reduced their attack surface as a result of more aggressive threat-hunting while 59% credited the approach for enhancing incident response speed and accuracy.

All of this despite the fact that four in 10 did not have a formal threat-hunting program in place, and fewer still had any kind of repeatable process for hunting down threats.

The survey results suggest that while organizations are benefiting from a more aggressive stance, many are still trying to figure out what a formal threat-hunting program needs to look like and how to attract the skills needed to make it work.

“Threat hunting plays a critical role in early detection of an adversary, as well as faster removal and repair of vulnerabilities uncovered during the hunt,” the SANS report noted.  But the results also show that “threat hunting is still in its infancy in terms of formal processes and methods,” it said.

Ben Johnson, co-founder and chief security strategist at security vendor Carbon Black, says what separates threat hunting from the usual security practices is its emphasis on human skills.

Threat hunting, Johnson says, is about “using humans to find bad versus having an alert fire from a piece of technology.”

The concept is not new, he says. “[But it] is only now hitting the main stream because it’s a sexy buzzword and organizations are tired of the long dwell times of the bad guys.”

The emphasis is on the application of the human mind to seek out activity that hasn’t been flagged yet by various detection technologies. “It’s a more open-ended action where hunches, gut-feelings, and general security and risk-based experience drive individuals to places and activity they should analyze,” he says. 

While tools are important, threat hunting is not specific to any technology nor is it dependent on them. Rather it is about knowing when, where, and what signs to look for. “You might not know who’s going to rob a bank or when, but if you see what appears to be a getaway car sitting outside, that might tip you off to go look for a person with malicious intent inside the bank,” Johnson says.

 

Gain insight into the latest threats and emerging best practices for managing them. Attend the Security Track at Interop Las Vegas, May 2-6. Register now!

For the most part, the industry has yet to coalesce around a clear definition for threat hunting, notes Tim Helming, director of product management at DomainTools. “But fundamentally, it's about not waiting to observe the effects of an attack.”

Instead, it’s a strategy that begins with the assumption that the organization has been breached, and working backward from there to either detect the source -- or to make sure there isn’t an attack. “If you start from that assumption, you are more likely to find the evidence you're looking for. Threat-hunting teams bring specific expertise to doing that,” he says.

Getting there fully will take some time for the many organizations that say they are engaged in threat hunting. The SANS survey showed that while organizations see the benefit in taking a more aggressive approach to finding threats on their network, few have allocated the necessary resources to make it happen. A majority of the respondents in the survey still rely heavily on known indicators of compromise and manual analysis, for instance, and did not have the level of automation needed to enable a truly robust threat-hunting capability.

Related stories:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
nathanwburke
50%
50%
nathanwburke,
User Rank: Author
4/15/2016 | 10:41:04 AM
Better Suited To Humans.
This is a great example of the type of initiative that skilled cybersecurity professionals could be spending their time on when resources are shifted. To your point:
The SANS survey showed that while organizations see the benefit in taking a more aggressive approach to finding threats on their network, few have allocated the necessary resources to make it happen. 

The problem is that so many cybersecurity teams are overwhelmed with responding to a massive volume of alerts and threats. But if companies were able to use machines to handle the bulk of the work that people are currently doing manually (following alerts, manually investigating machines, re-imaging, etc.), the cyber analysts could instead focus on things like proactive threat hunting.
Threat hunting, Johnson says, is about "using humans to find bad versus having an alert fire from a piece of technology."

I like that line a lot. It flips the current process. Instead of people spending their time taking direction from a system and doing the manual work, they would instead be working in parallel with detection systems and adding much more value. 
More SolarWinds Attack Details Emerge
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  1/12/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-4873
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 could allow an attacker to obtain sensitive information due to an overly permissive CORS policy. IBM X-Force ID: 190836.
CVE-2020-4881
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 could allow a remote attacker to obtain sensitive information, caused by the lack of server hostname verification for SSL/TLS communication. By sending a specially-crafted request, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability to obtain sensitive information. IBM X-Force ID...
CVE-2021-22498
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
XML External Entity Injection vulnerability in Micro Focus Application Lifecycle Management (Previously known as Quality Center) product. The vulnerability affects versions 12.x, 12.60 Patch 5 and earlier, 15.0.1 Patch 2 and earlier and 15.5. The vulnerability could be exploited to allow an XML Exte...
CVE-2021-25323
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
The default setting of MISP 2.4.136 did not enable the requirements (aka require_password_confirmation) to provide the previous password when changing a password.
CVE-2021-25324
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
MISP 2.4.136 has Stored XSS in the galaxy cluster view via a cluster name to app/View/GalaxyClusters/view.ctp.