Cyber Threat Intelligence

How To Choose A Cyber Threat Intelligence Solution

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) allows you to gain an insight into the cybersecurity risks that your organization faces. But what should you look for when trying to find the right threat intelligence solution?

How To Choose A Cyber Threat Intelligence Solution

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) solutions provide organizations with invaluable information about network threats and vulnerabilities. The intelligence gathered by a cyber threat intelligence solution can be used in a variety of ways to answer questions about your network’s security. CTI is highly specific, so it’s imperative that you ensure that you choose a solution that’s optimized to deliver the information you need. 

Rather than referring to a specific type of product, cyber threat intelligence solutions describe a way of acquiring, analyzing, and approaching cybersecurity intelligence. 

Cyber threat intelligence solutions provide prioritized and actionable information, thereby allowing for quick and effective vulnerability remediation. Depending on what your role is in your organization and what you’ll be using the intelligence for, the CTI solution will present information in very different ways, and operate at very different levels. 

In this article, we’ll give an overview of what cyber threat intelligence is and how it works. We’ll then explore some of the key points that you should keep in mind when looking to invest in a CTI solution.

For a list of the best CTI solutions on the market, you can read our article here:

What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is a way of gaining an understanding of events, incidents, and trends across your network and business operations. CTI solutions work by pulling in data from a range of sources, performing specific analysis on that data, then contextualizing results to provide useful and actionable intelligence.

Depending on how your CTI solution is designed and configured, it can produce a range of insights that can be used by different user profiles within a company. Some are suited to identifying anomalies and threats, which is useful for a security team; others are more effective at predicting business trends across a sector, which may be useful for C-level executives. Cyber threat intelligence can cover a range of information, from live malware attacks, to operational capacity, and industry trends looking far into the future – there is, therefore, not a single solution to suit all use cases. 

For more information on how cyber intelligence works, you can read our article here:

What Features Should You Look For In A CTI Solution?

The features offered by cyber threat intelligence solutions vary between solutions, because each one comes equipped with the tools it needs to provide a specific type of intelligence for a specific audience. That being said, there are some features and considerations that you should bear in mind no matter what your role is, or how you intend to use the intelligence delivered. 

Here are our recommendations on what features to look for in a CTI solution:

1. The Type Of Intelligence Provided

Data is at the heart of all cyber threat intelligence solutions – it is the foundation of any analyses and insights that the solution provides. There are three broad categories of intelligence that a CTI solution can provide: tactical intelligence, operational intelligence, and strategic intelligence. Each type of intelligence is focused on analyzing different types of data in specific ways, then presenting that information to a specific audience who are able to understand and respond to the intelligence depending on their job role.

Tactical intelligence focuses on individual threats and attacks – it is presented to individuals who are responsible for engaging and responding to the threats directly, i.e., the security team. 

Operational intelligence is one step further up the chain than tactical intelligence. It is presented to security managers (the target audience) to give them an oversight of a range of attacks – rather than individual threats – so they can ensure solutions are implemented effectively. 

Strategic intelligence is the broadest and most removed type. It is targeted at C-level executives who have buying power and need to plan for long term trends. It doesn’t focus on specific incidents or details, opting instead to consider and predict the trajectory of threats. 

With these three categories in mind, it is clear how varied a CTI’s intelligence can be. The solutions can be optimized to gather specific data sets and perform appropriate analysis, depending on how you set them up and what question you need answering. It is much easier to find the wrong CTI solution – one that is focused on finding different answers – than the right CTI solution, so it’s essential that you understand and identify the information you want from a CTI solution before investing.  

Even within these three categories, there is a broad range of data that can be gathered. To select the right CTI solution, you need to decide what information you want to find out, and where your network vulnerabilities are. You might, for example, want to gather intelligence on attacks and malware affecting your network. This information is very different to data regarding dark web monitoring, social media impersonation, or domain impersonation – even though both are types of tactical intelligence.

Your CTI solution could provide an exceptional level of detail and intelligence into your network, but if it does not focus on the areas you need it to, it will be of little value. For example, if you have excellent insights into malware attacks, but have no insight into compromised credentials being distributed via the dark web, account compromise could become a significant vulnerability.

The Bottom Line: Decide what intelligence you need to gather, then find a solution to fit. Not the other way round.

2. Integration

Not only do you want to ensure that you’re finding the right type of data to give you valuable insights, but you also want to ensure that your CTI has visibility across the network. This will ensure that your insights are as comprehensive as they can be. In order to achieve this, you’ll need a solution that closely integrates with all of the data points in your network. In most cases, these data points will be your endpoints (devices, servers, workstations, etc.), however, there is no real limit to the data that can be used. In some cases – particularly with strategic intelligence – interviews with industry experts, geopolitical news, and recent trends will be relevant.

If your solution cannot integrate effectively with your whole network (or enough data points), you will be unable to have total visibility. At best, this will limit your intelligence, making it less accurate; at worst, this blind spot will be exploited in an attack. For strategic intelligence, it is prudent to understand how competitors and peers are operating, as well as assess your own internal policies. If you don’t have access to contextual data regarding trends and emerging technologies, your intelligence will be limited.

The same can be said at the other end of the scale with tactical intelligence. If you do not have visibility of all your endpoints, or cannot check pre-existing remediation procedures, responding to a threat is made much harder. An effective CTI solution ensures that you have access to all of the data you need, whilst only showing you the most relevant, prioritized information from those feeds.

For some organizations, achieving complete visibility will be more complex – but still not impossible. If you operate from a traditional office environment, managing your endpoints and assessing vulnerabilities will be relatively simple. For organizations who operate a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, are geographically disparate, or use a range of technologies – like tablets and IOT devices – ensuring that all endpoints are discovered and monitored is an additional essential task. It may take more steps and more careful planning to achieve total visibility, but it is possible.

The Bottom Line: To ensure you are getting a complete picture, make sure your solution can gather as much relevant data as possible, from as many places as possible.

3. Automation

Cyber threat intelligence solutions can combine automated processes with machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI). This ensures that data can be analyzed in an effective and insightful way. Most cyber threat intelligence solutions offer automation capabilities to help you collect and analyze data more effectively. This might include automatically alerting admins to abnormal behaviors, consolidating data into one format so that it’s easier to consume, or generating intelligence reports to an admin-defined schedule. This is helpful as it reduces the human workload, freeing up time for your staff to use their expertise to focus on other tasks.

When choosing a cyber threat intelligence solution, you should consider the nature of the automation on offer, and decide what features you need. There is no denying that solutions that leverage AI and ML are effective solutions – but that does not mean they are always the right solution for the job. Where strategic intelligenceis concerned, ML is not as useful as interviews with industry experts and forecasts. In this case, you might opt for a solution that utilizes human intelligence more than ML or AI.

On the other hand, ML and AI are extremely useful when it comes to analyzing large amounts of raw data. A task can be completed much faster, without the risk of human error affecting the result. When gathering tactical intelligence, AI and ML automation will allow you to spot anomalies, identify indicators of compromise (IOCs), and check a reference library to decide the most effective response strategy.

The Bottom Line: All cyber threat intelligence solutions will be driven by their own methodologies and procedures – find one that fits with the type of intelligence you need. 

4. Actionable, Accurate, And Timely Intelligence

It is important that the intelligence provided by your cyber threat intelligence solution is three things: actionableaccurate, and timely. If your solution fails in providing any one of these, the insights will be far less effective and useful.

Ensuring that the solution provides actionable intelligence is essential in order for you to respond appropriately to the threat. Through this, you can ensure that the intelligence is as useful as it can be. This is achieved through intelligent analysis, and adding contextual information to ensure that you can understand the full extent of the situation. Intelligence that is not actionable – that you can do nothing about – is ineffective. 

This almost goes without saying, but ensuring that the intelligence provided is accurate is essential. Incorrect or misleading information could encourage you to react to something that isn’t actually a threat. Alternatively, it could lull you into a false sense of security, and result in you overlooking vulnerabilities. Encompassed in the idea of accuracy is the idea that the insights should be specific too. You need targeted information that clearly focuses on the threat, allowing you to respond. Data that is too broad will prevent you from taking precise action. This means you might shut off more network access than is necessary or suffer more downtime than is essential.

Finally, you want the intelligence to be provided in a timely manner. Yes, it takes time for the complex analysis to be carried out, but if this process takes too long, the intelligence will be outdated, and the threat matured or a business opportunity missed. That being said, you want to ensure the solution takes time to properly analyze the raw data and give you the level of certainty that you require. You want as near to real-time insights into your network and threats as possible

The Bottom Line: Your insights are only useful when they are actionable, accurate, and timely.

5. Usability

CTI solutions have the capacity to gather and process a large quantity of data. The amount of raw data points can be in the thousands, or even stretch into the millions for larger organizations. With so much data, and so many ways to interpret the findings, you need a CTI solution that is user-friendly and efficient – you don’t want to have to sift through “noise” to understand the threats facing your network. If this happens, critical statistics can be missed amongst the overwhelming amount of data.

Not only do you need to ensure that data is presented in a clear and consistent manner, but your solution should also be easy to configure and allow you to make changes to your analysis parameters. You might need to alter the boundaries of some of your data analysis in response to threats or infrastructure. If this is a complex process, it can become very time consuming. Equally, if the solution is too complex to use, administrators might not be able to (or not want to) use the solution to its full capacity.

Depending on what type of data is being managed by your CTI solution, it will need different ways of presenting this data. Lists of specific IP addresses and details of individual malware threats will be necessary for tactical intelligence. Strategic intelligence, on the other hand, may find that charts and graphs are a more effective way of conveying high level trends. There should be a good degree of configurability within your CTI so that you can understand the data in the most helpful way possible.

The Bottom Line: The amount of data that CTIs process can be overwhelming – ensure that this intelligence can be succinctly and precisely conveyed so that you’ll be able to utilize the insights and respond.

Summary

Cyber threat intelligence solutions are a diverse group of technologies – while they might all “find stuff out”, they have to work in very different ways to do that. Ensuring that your CTI solution is designed to gather the intelligence that you need is essential.

Cyber threat intelligence can be an invaluable tool that allows your organization to be proactive, rather than simply responding to threats as they arise. By utilizing the intelligence gained, you can ensure your organization is operating efficiently and effectively, thereby saving you money in the longer term.

To discover the ten best cyber threat intelligence solutions on the market, why not read our article here: