What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence? 3 Types & Examples

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on Mar 12, 2020

A cybersecurity professional’s work is never done. Hackers are constantly working to stay ahead of security programs and find new ways to breach an organization’s network, so it is important that security professionals leverage proactive best practices to prevent incidents. One of the best ways to do this is by understanding and evaluating your organization’s cyber threat intelligence, and then applying those insights to ongoing efforts.

What is cyber threat intelligence?

Cyber threat intelligence refers to the data collected and used by an organization to better comprehend past, current, and future threats.The information gathered provides context into what is happening within an organization’s network, helping to identify potential threats and stay protected against future attacks.

One of the major keys to a successful and efficient cybersecurity program is to work proactively, rather than reactively. Applying insights obtained via the data allows security teams to make quicker, more informed security decisions so they can stay one step ahead of cyber threats.

Why is threat intelligence important?

The threat landscape is evolving at a rapid pace. Even if you have basic measures in place, it may not be enough to keep your security team informed on the current state of cyber threats. Because the nature of threats is always changing, continued cybersecurity threat intelligence monitoring is essential.

Threat intelligence is useful for many reasons, the most important being that it helps security professionals understand an attacker’s thought process, revealing motives and attack behavior behind a threat. This information helps security teams learn the tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by potential hackers, and can be leveraged to improve security efforts such as threat monitoring, threat identification, and incident response time.

The threat intelligence lifecycle

Cyber threat intelligence is formed through a process called the threat intelligence lifecycle. An effective security program requires continuous monitoring and evaluation, which is why threat intelligence works better as a cycle, rather than a list of steps. The six basic ideas of the threat intelligence life cycle are as follows:

  • Direction
  • Collection
  • Processing
  • Analysis
  • Dissemination
  • Feedback

It is through this process that raw data becomes finished intelligence, an essential tool for staying up-to-date on cybersecurity best practices.

Types of threat intelligence

Threat intelligence can be broken down into three unique categories:

  1. Strategic
  2. Tactical
  3. Operational

Each of these classifications serves a specific role in the collection and presentation of the data, and how it relates to ongoing initiatives.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the three types of threat intelligence:

1. Strategic threat intelligence

Strategic threat intelligence is a high-level analysis typically reserved for non-technical audiences such as stakeholders or board members. In that sense, it usually covers topics like security scores and the potential impact of a business decision.

The goal of strategic threat intelligence is to understand the broader trends and motivations affecting the threat landscape. Strategic threat intelligence sources are unlike other intelligence categories because the majority of the data comes from open sources, meaning it can be accessed by anyone. A few examples include local and national media, white papers and reports, online activity and articles, and security ratings.

2. Tactical threat intelligence

Tactical threat intelligence focuses on the immediate future and helps teams determine whether or not existing security programs will be successful in detecting and mitigating risks. Tactical intelligence identifies the indicators of compromise (IOCs) and allows responders to search for and eliminate specific threats within a network. IOCs are historical evidence of a particular threat and serve as archetype examples of the threats security teams should be aware of, such as unusual traffic, log-in red flags, or an increase in file/download requests.

Tactical threat intelligence is the most basic form of threat intelligence. It is typically automated due to it being the easiest type of intelligence to generate. For this same reason, tactical intelligence usually has a short lifespan as many IOCs become obsolete in a matter of hours. This type of information is meant to be absorbed by a technologically proficient audience and helps security professionals understand how their organization is likely to be targeted based on the latest methods employed by hackers.

3. Operational threat intelligence

Operational threat intelligence aims to answer the questions, “who?”, “what?”, and “how?” and is gained by examining the details of past known attacks that have been identified through tactical intelligence. It helps security teams understand the details surrounding specific cyber-attacks by providing context for factors such as intent, timing, and sophistication.

By studying past or ongoing attacks, teams can gain insight into the intelligence and capability of their organization’s adversary. This intel helps defenders expose potential risks, decipher actor methodologies, and act more efficiently when issues arise.

Tools for managing cyber threat intelligence

A strong cybersecurity program starts by having the right tools in place for evaluating its success. When deciding what platform would be best for your organization, consider the following tools for managing cyber threat intelligence:

Threat reconnaissance and data attribution

Threat reconnaissance overcomes the challenges faced by traditional threat intelligence solutions by helping to identify vulnerable assets. This gives security teams the ability to eliminate weak spots before they are exploited by attackers. By leveraging the available data set, you get complete visibility into your organization’s network ecosystem.

Automated detection

Since there is so much data regularly being generated by multiple sources, automated threat intelligence detection is an essential tool. It helps to save time by eliminating the need for manual processes, freeing teams up from endless data sifting. Automation also eliminates human error and thus improves the accuracy of your threat intelligence.

Consolidated management

There are many moving parts to an enterprise, and it can be difficult to establish effective lines of communication. That difficulty only increases if an organization relies on third-party vendors for any of its business operations. When your most important data is consolidated in one place, your team can stay on the same page across the entire enterprise.

How SecurityScorecard can help

Cyber threat intelligence provides security teams with all of the data needed to build a strong cybersecurity program. SecurityScorecard’s data engine uses machine learning algorithms to automatically identify risks and vulnerabilities within a network, in addition to vendor networks.

The data-driven risk management platform utilizes data from both commercial and open-source feeds to determine a security rating that assesses the current state of an organization’s (or its vendor’s) cybersecurity. With the help of advanced insights, teams can effectively identify, detect, and prevent cyber threats.

No waiting, 100% Free

Get your personalized scorecard today

Get your free scorecard and learn how you stack up across 10 risk categories. Answer a few simple questions and we'll instantly send your score to your business email.

Get Your Free Score

Get In Touch

Thank you for contacting us!