Over the years I have worked with and within multiple teams and today I would like to steer your attention towards how I was involved in leveraging threat intelligence within SOC operations. So let’s being.
We all know cybersecurity landscape is not only changing but its rapidly evolving. Gone are the days where motivation behind an attack based on tools and targeting organisations was straightforward however now motivation has become illusive. With the constant shift in cyber world and availability of tools and new technologies non-sophisticated to sophisticated attacks are on the same field and defenders are left to fight with them without proper understanding, lack of information and just plain overload of attacks and not knowing what to prioritise.
Organisations, irrespective of their size, consistently encounter a multitude of threats that have the potential to breach their sensitive data and systems. As a result, organisations have begun positioning defenders on the frontline to detect and mitigate these threats, thereby reducing the risks associated with cyber attacks. However, it’s widely recognised just how overwhelmed these professionals can be.
I had the similar experience back in my SOC days, but then I realised wouldn’t be great if I know about the threat actors that I am defending against. Just like chess, where understanding your opponent’s strategies and possible moves can determine victory or defeat, in cybersecurity, comprehending an adversary’s technology and tools is pivotal. This knowledge allows you to preemptively block attacks, formulate your own counter-strategy, and maintain a secure defense – ensuring you win the cyber ‘chess’ game.
With that thought I started dwelling into Intelligence and started collecting information on threats and threat enablers aka threat actors. Fortunately I had Intelligence collection experience which helped alot.
Understanding the Role of Threat Intelligence in Security Operations
Dwelling more into threat intelligence, I realised it’s more than just feeds of indicators. If done correctly, it can serve as a critical component of modern security operations, empowering organizations to stay one step ahead of threat actors. By analysing and understanding threat intelligence, security teams can identify patterns, gain insights into threat actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and make informed decisions to strengthen their defenses.
As mentioned earlier, threat intelligence is not limited to just indicators of compromise (IOCs) but encompasses a broader scope of information. It includes data on emerging vulnerabilities, exploit techniques, attacker infrastructure, and even geopolitical events that may impact an organization’s security posture. This wealth of information can be leveraged to enhance the effectiveness of SOC operations.
But don’t forget the importance of your own logs. As charity begins at home, intelligence starts with your logs. Collecting internal logs is crucial for intelligence gathering as these logs give visibility into an organization’s unique threat profile. They help identify suspicious patterns, unusual activity, and potential vulnerabilities, thereby allowing timely detection, prevention, and mitigation of cyber threats targeting a specific organization’s infrastructure.
I will not be going into what Threat Intelligence is and its benefits as have already written few blogs on it. So let’s just dive into some case studies.
Case Studies and Examples of Threat Intelligence in Action
To illustrate the practical application of threat intelligence, let’s explore a couple of real-world examples:
|Scenario||Sources of Intelligence||Threat Intelligence Assistance in SOC||Enterprise Risks Remediated/Mitigated|
|Phishing Campaign||Threat Intelligence Platforms (e.g., Recorded Future), Email Security Vendors, Underground Forums Monitoring, Dark Web Marketplaces||SOC identifies a new phishing campaign targeting a specific industry by monitoring threat intelligence feeds. SOC uses this intelligence to update email security filters, detect phishing emails, and alert users.||Data breaches, financial loss, reputational damage|
|Ransomware Attack||Threat Intel Vendors, VirusTotal, Endpoint Security Vendors, Direct Communication with Threat Actors, Telegram Channels||Threat intelligence sources alert the SOC to a new ransomware strain. SOC updates security controls, educates users on the indicators of compromise, and ensures backups are in place.||Operational downtime, data loss, financial extortion|
|Vulnerable Software||Software Vendors, Independent Security Researchers, Underground Hacking Forums, Zero-Day Marketplaces||Intelligence reports indicate a zero-day vulnerability in widely-used software. SOC takes action by patching systems, or by implementing compensating controls if patches aren’t available.||Unauthorized system access, data breaches|
|Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)||National Cybersecurity Centres (ACSC, CISA etc), Threat Intelligence Platforms, Direct Interactions with Threat Actor Groups, Private Chat Groups on Encrypted Platforms||SOC receives intelligence about an APT group targeting their sector. They use this to monitor for specific tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) related to that APT.||Data espionage, intellectual property theft|
|Insider Threat||Insider Threat Detection Platforms, HR Reports, Whistleblower Platforms, Employee Monitoring Tools||Threat intelligence suggests a rise in insider threats in the industry. SOC strengthens user behavior analytics and monitors for unusual data access patterns.||Data breaches, sabotage, theft of intellectual property|
|DDoS Attack||ISP Reports, Network Security Providers, Underground DDoS-for-Hire Services, Hacktivist Forums||Intelligence feeds notify SOC of an upcoming DDoS attack trend. SOC collaborates with their ISP and implements DDoS protection measures.||Service disruption, reputational damage, potential data breach|
Conclusion: The Future of Threat Intelligence and Its Impact on Security Operations
Threat intelligence continues to evolve as cyber threats become more sophisticated and pervasive. The future of threat intelligence lies in its integration with advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, and automation. These technologies will enable organisations to process and analyze vast amounts of data in real-time, identify emerging threats, and respond swiftly and effectively.
As organisations embrace threat intelligence-led security operations, they will be better equipped to protect their valuable assets and stay ahead of threat actors. By harnessing the power of threat intelligence, organisations can proactively defend against cyber threats and minimize the impact of potential security incidents.
Stay tuned for more updates on the ever-evolving world of threat intelligence and its role in securing the digital landscape.
Good bye for Now