Cyber Threat Hunting: How We Protect You
When it comes to effective cybersecurity today, companies must have much more than firewalls, virus scans, and an incident response team. Keeping bad actors out is more difficult than ever before, and in order to increase their security posture, businesses need to actively hunt down cyber threats and vulnerabilities on a regular basis as part of a wholistic plan to prevent breaches when possible, but also detect and respond to breaches quickly and effectively when they do occur.
This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. Experienced hackers invest a great deal of time researching their target organizations before they make their first move. Today’s threat actors use advanced malware and sophisticated techniques to steal sensitive data and inflict significant damage. But even more disturbing is the fact that many malicious actors can simply purchase access to networks on Dark Web marketplaces where initial access brokers sell stolen credentials and access to deployed first stage malware.
Just as bad actors are constantly improving their game, it’s critical for organizations to continuously and actively look for new ways to improve their security stance. Active cyber threat hunting is important to boost overall cybersecurity; learn more about the tools and techniques as well as next steps.
What Is Threat Hunting in Cyber Security?
Threat hunting is a proactive, continuous process that looks for potential threats and vulnerabilities within an organization’s IT infrastructure. By using both automated and manual techniques, cyber threat hunting allows companies to identify and respond to potential problems that may slip through traditional detection systems. Early detection often means avoiding or minimizing damage.
Cyber hunting techniques include:
- Review and analyze detailed data logs on a regular basis
- Perform regular network scans for vulnerabilities
- Leverage threat intelligence to focus and prioritize hunting efforts
Cyber Threat Hunting Tools
A wide variety of tools are used to help detect vulnerabilities and cyber threats including:
- Active Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Solutions: Active EDR solutions identify potential threats in real-time by searching a single indicator of compromise (IOC). It automates responses, blocking the threat from actively infecting devices or causing significant harm. By tracking and contextualizing device activity, active EDR frees security teams to focus on more complex threats.
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Solutions: Originally simple logging management tools, SIEM solutions have matured to become an important component of cybersecurity systems. They monitor and analyze events as well as track and log security data in real-time, fulfilling many compliance, regulatory or auditing requirements. SIEM identifies anomalies in user behavior and employs artificial intelligence (AI) to automate appropriate responses.
- Threat Intelligence Providers (TIPS): Many TIPS organizations and industry threat data banks offer extensive feeds that share IOCs. These providers collect data from a worldwide network of crawlers, spambots, sandboxes, and more to reveal a multitude of potential threats. Organizations can then study the data in these feeds to determine and prioritize security measures that are most important for their specific business. Monitoring, analyzing, and acting on these feeds can be challenging and require you to develop your own tooling for automated analysis and integration into your company’s system. Extracting valuable alerts from the noise can be very time consuming and sometimes daunting.
- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Security professionals can scrutinize a wide variety of publicly available, legal data sources such as social media threads, news, blogs and the dark web to identify vulnerabilities and threats. Gathered information can also help manage assets, protect the c-suite team, and monitor customer sentiment.
- MITRE ATT&CK Framework: Defined as a systematically organized knowledge base, this framework reveals adversarial behavior through specific phases, tactics, techniques, and procedures. This framework can be used for many things, but it most useful in helping security professionals communicate effectively about threats by having a common ground as a reference.
How to Look for Cyber Security Threats
Today’s threat actors are sophisticated and often know their trade well. They understand when and how organizations become the most vulnerable to cyber attacks and are ready and waiting to take advantage of these weakest moments. To combat these risks, organizations must understand these moments as well and take extra care to shore up security resources appropriately.
First, threat hunters should have a thorough understanding of an organization’s profile, where valuable information is stored, and what systems look like on a typical business day. Typically, bad actors work hard to look like regular users of the system by securing actual credentials through phishing scams or purchasing them on the Dark Web. Being on alert for common scams as well as searching for behavior anomalies by leveraging statistical analysis and machine learning tools can be extremely valuable.
Second, certain business activities often leave organizations more vulnerable. For example, hiring new employees, particularly executives, or merger and acquisition activities usually bring a great deal of upheaval to the day-to-day, expanding the attack surface and opening the door to a greater number of possible threats.
When Should You Hunt for Cybersecurity Threats?
The short answer to this question is all the time. However, most organizations look at these times in three categories:
- Ad Hoc Threat Detection: Ad hoc threat detection is typically triggered by a specific event or anomaly in a company’s IT infrastructure. Although this level of detection is cost effective for businesses with limited cybersecurity budgets, it is far from ideal as it is only reactive and not preventive in nature.
- Scheduled Threat Hunting: Based on a predetermined time schedule, this level of threat detection is conducted periodically. Although some organizations conduct this intervention annually, more frequently is better. Unfortunately, threat actors may plan attacks in between these scheduled hunting initiatives.
- Real-Time Threat Hunting: Ideally, endpoints are proactively monitored on a continuous basis to prevent cyber attacks before they result in significant damage. Obviously, this level of monitoring is ideal, but it can be resource-intensive and costly. [redacted] offers real-time threat hunting services to ensure a premium level of protection.
Threat Hunting Steps
While every organization will have a unique approach to threat hunting, the general steps that the security team will follow are: creating a hypothesis, collecting data and intelligence, analyzing a trigger event, investigating that event, and response and resolution. Learn more about what’s involved in each of these steps.
The initial phase of threat hunting is creating a hypothesis, which is simply a statement that summarizes which areas of the IT infrastructure may be most vulnerable and where to find potential threats. Hypotheses may include a potential hacker’s tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as environmental knowledge, threat intelligence, and experience. All these factors are then used to build an effective threat detection plan.
2. Intelligence and Data Collection
The second phase of threat hunting involves collecting, centralizing, and processing data. Tools such as SIEM software may provide insight through a record of activities within an organization’s IT system. This can paint a picture of baseline activities for a specific company, which helps threat hunters identify anomalies.
A particular event that points threat hunters to a specific trigger, or area of a business’ network, is the third phase. This can result from an anomaly that surfaces or a hypothesis that security professionals have made.
During the investigation phase, threat hunters use a wide variety of technologies to do a deep dive into an IT system or network. These advanced tools help threat hunters identify malicious anomalies in unlikely places and can help confirm whether these situations are dangerous or benign.
5. Response and Resolution
The final phase of threat hunting is response and resolution. After malicious activity has been vetted, a variety of automated security technologies can mitigate damage and future bad actor activity. This may include removing or quarantining infected files, recovering deleted or changed files to a backed up state, updating firewall and internet service provider rules, completing security patches, and changing system configurations.
Who Can Benefit From Cyber Threat Hunting?
In this day and age when cybersecurity threats are rampant, small, medium, and large companies can all benefit from some level of cyber threat hunting. Continuous security monitoring can help prevent serious damage to a business’ IT infrastructure as well as save time and money when data recovery is necessary.
Organizations that manage sensitive customer data may stand to benefit the most as cyber threat hunting can help protect this information as well as avoid legal proceedings and regulatory violations.
MSSPs for Cyber Threat Hunting
While some organizations choose to employ an internal IT team for cyber threat hunting, it can be incredibly difficult and costly to find and retain enough qualified cybersecurity professionals to maintain an effective internal security team. For some organizations, it makes more sense from a security and financial perspective to rely on a trusted managed security service provider (MSSP) to monitor the IT system and infrastructure around the clock. There are many benefits to partnering with an MSSP for cybersecurity.
By relying on an MSSP, organizations can refocus their IT teams to manage mission-critical projects that are unique to that particular business. Since MSSPs core business revolves around security, their analysts know how cyber threat intelligence can guide threat hunting. Besides setting up the best automated alerts, using sophisticated mitigation tools, and crafting proven action plans, an MSSP can conduct cyber threat hunting efficiently and effectively.
For more information, reach out to [[redacted]](https://redacted.com/schedule-a-call/) to learn more.