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Threat Intelligence

11/22/2017
10:00 PM
Martin Dion
Martin Dion
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3 Pillars of Cyberthreat Intelligence

Strong enterprise cybersecurity programs must be a built on a framework that incorporates strategic, operational, and tactical leadership and goals.

As an enterprise, you used to worry about your competitors and your goal was to outpace them, to outservice them, and to outsmart them. Today, you can be the smartest and the fastest and have the best service and solutions, but it doesn't matter anymore because to "them" you are just another giant with feet of clay.

"Them" are your cyber opponents. They are referred to as hackers, state-sponsored attackers, corporate spies, hacktivists.…  It doesn't really matter what you call them or what their motivations are. The fact is that you — more specifically, your business assets — are their targets. Simply put, it's about good guys vs. bad guys, both trying to make money in cyberspace. In that context, the Internet is analogous to a very bad neighborhood and, within part of it, an open war is waging where criminal organizations are trying to seize their fair share of the profits in a very unstable terrain and time period. 

What can you do to protect your assets and investments? Part of the answer is that you must know your enemy, their tactics, your strengths, your weaknesses, and the battleground. In short, you need cyber intelligence. But for most organizations, intelligence is a complex concept to grasp. It is not about spies or "infiltrating" the Darknet, which, in reality, is only a tool and a tactic to generate intelligence.

In the enterprise, the purpose of intelligence is to provide security teams with information that leads to smart decisions and avoids decision-making cognitive biases. For example, a bias such as "trusting your gut" may be natural when you negotiate one on one. But gut-trusting in the context of a nation-to-nation negotiation with an individual who represents the complex interest of a country would not bear fruit. The same logic applies to the military, because without a profound understanding of one's own and of its enemy capabilities, and of the operation theater, lives can be endangered unnecessarily. 

In the private sector, intelligence serves as a similar process and tool, particularly the current environment of massive digital transformation. Here, the role of intelligence is to collect, analyze, and produce complete, accurate, timely, and relevant threat assessments that inform decision makers as they act on the information. 

Strong enterprise Intelligence programs are built on three pillars: strategic, operational, and tactical. The table below summarizes the three major pillars, who bears responsibility, and the goal.

Table 1: Pillars of Intelligence
Intelligence Type Who's in Charge Goal
Strategic Senior leadership (CXO & board) To provide upper management with information to effectively assess, quantify the risk to the business, and explain it to senior management. This will help determine objectives and guidance based on what is known of potential adversaries, adverse terrain, and the current security posture of the organization in order to successfully mitigate threats. The ultimate goal is to reach a common understanding of the cyberthreat landscape and its impact on the business in order to drive the organization's cybersecurity strategy and investments.
Operational Risk, technology & security leadership This bridges the broad, nontechnical nature of strategic cyber intelligence and the narrow, technical nature of tactical intelligence. It supports the organization's executive managers in the development of strategy-based plans and policies to protect the organization against potential adversaries. In short, it helps operationalize the mitigations to defend against adversaries and difficulties of the operational theater.
Tactical SOC & NOC people, hunters Tactical intel is directed at efforts to detect and respond to adversaries already operating at the perimeter and within the organization's network by facilitating predictive analysis of specific threat actors before they gain access to an organization's network. It provides context and relevance to a tremendous amount of data and empowers organizations to develop a proactive cybersecurity posture and bolster its overall risk management policies. It supports better decision making during and following the detection of a cyber intrusion and drives momentum toward a cybersecurity posture that is predictive, not just reactive.

The good news is that many organizations already have much of this framework in place. By borrowing and learning from it, security leaders will be better able to successfully deliver and grow their business in today's complex threat landscape.

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Originally from Montreal, Martin has been navigating the tormented water of cybersecurity for over 20 years. He was the founder and CTO at Above Security Canada where he worked locally and in the Caribbean's. Twelve years ago, he moved to Switzerland to launch SecureIT, ... View Full Bio
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