The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the massive increase in using cloud computing services. As the world progresses through its online evolution, cloud computing services have become more of a necessity. However, along with businesses, cybercriminals have also seen this virtualization as a means of snagging more prey.
The rapid increase in cloud computing services has made organizations face novel security challenges. One survey revealed that within the last 18 months alone, 79% of organizations experienced at least one cloud data breach. The most alarming fact is that 43% of organizations have reported cases of 10 or more breaches within that time frame.
These data breaches can be catastrophic for some organizations. One possible solution to this growing problem could lie in the implementation of cyber threat intelligence as an early warning system.
What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence and How Is It Important?
Cyber threat intelligence can be described as evidence-based knowledge about possible cyber threats and vulnerabilities within a system or a network. It is an informed decision based on evidence and data collected through multiple events, series of events, or trends. Stated another way, cyber threat intelligence is knowledge about cyber threats that allows an organization to mitigate or prevent those attacks.
There are three main types of threat intelligence:
- Strategic Threat Intelligence – This is a non-technical approach to threat intelligence. It produces a broad overview of the cyber threat landscape so that executives and other decision-makers can make informed decisions.
- Tactical Threat Intelligence – This outlines the possible tactics, techniques, and procedures of cyber threat actors. It helps security personnel understand and mitigate threats.
- Operational Threat Intelligence – This gives information and analysis on cyberattacks or previous cyber events, helping incident response teams to understand a particular attack's nature, intent, and possible timing.
At its essence, cyber threat intelligence is all about information and how organizations choose to use that information. The data that is collected and analyzed for evidence of threat intelligence contains profound insights into potential attackers, their attack vectors, intents, motives, and capabilities. It also includes information about the possible Indicators of Compromise (IoC). The analysis of this data helps organizations make faster and more informed security decisions. The IoCs also help security personnel to recognize compromised assets, and they can use such information to enable a more targeted approach to boost security.
Within the modern and rapidly developing cyber threat landscape, cyber threat intelligence is a valuable asset. It can help organizations to get rid of the previous band-aid solutions to cybersecurity, instead allowing for a more robust and proactive approach to maintaining proactive cyber defenses.
In addition to defense from cybercriminals, organizations can use cyber threat intelligence to counter the plethora of vulnerabilities that a network might possess. By assessing possible risks and vulnerabilities within the network, organizations can deploy cybersecurity measures more effectively.
How Is Cyber Threat Intelligence the Solution to Cloud Security Threats?
While cloud computing has undoubtedly proven to be a robust method of information storage and exchange, implementing cloud security is a challenge and often a struggle to overcome. For example, in the healthcare industry, the hybrid information exchange model remains vulnerable at various access points and requires implementing security controls across virtual, physical, and multi-cloud setups.
Implementing such security measures is admittedly costly, not to mention hectic. Not only does it require a greater cyber-professional workforce, but it also calls for more robust technology to secure every threat endpoint. In contrast, implementing cyber threat intelligence within cloud security can prove to be a more secure and robust approach to ensuring safety.
Integrating cyber threat intelligence within cloud security gives organizations a more robust and cost-effective method of implementing security. Threat intelligence would allow organizations to focus on patching cloud security vulnerabilities by gathering and analyzing cloud-specific relevant data and adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP).
Threat intelligence amplifies the effectiveness of cloud security. Since the security teams are exposed to knowledge about unknown threats, they can make better security decisions. Moreover, cyber threat intelligence helps cloud security professionals form a common understanding of external and internal cloud vulnerabilities. Such information can help professionals to effectively accelerate risk reduction across multiple cloud platforms.
How to Integrate Cyber Threat Intelligence in Cloud Security
Integrating cyber threat intelligence in cloud security is not as complex as it may seem. The process essentially remains the same and becomes rather "cloud security"-centric. Security professionals focus on understanding cloud-specific data resources such as static indicators and TTP for carrying out threat intelligence. The information then goes through an intensive analysis process to form an intelligence report that is used to make informed security decisions. Cyber threat intelligence for cloud security is carried out in the following steps:
1. Gathering Requirements and Planning
This is the very first and the critical stage of cyber threat intelligence. Within it, the security teams set out objectives to the threat intelligence based on factors such as the extent to which the resulting decision might impact your cloud security module and how time-sensitive the decision might be.
The step also focuses on how the cloud security team will most likely implement the decision based on the received intelligence. If the threat intelligence report is also targeted for a non-technical executive, the reporting will need to be equally non-technical.
2. Collection of Information
This step involves the raw collection of data based on the requirements set in the gathering and planning phase. Since the threat intelligence is for cloud security, the data is based on cloud security threats and vulnerabilities and is collected from comprehensive sources such as:
- Internal resources: These include insight into network event logs, traffic logs, records of past incidents, relevant indicators of compromise (IoCs), already compromised or vulnerable assets, and communications with known malicious IP addresses and domains.
- External resources: These involve collecting TTP and static indicators through various platforms such as the dark web, the deep web, the surface web, and social media.
The dark web and deep web play a crucial role in information collection since these platforms contain hidden directories and sometimes data on criminal activities. Within the dark web, threat intelligence analysts also come across data on possible malware invasions and previously known cyber-attacks. Compromised assets and credentials can also be found in the deep or the dark web since they are auctioned within notorious marketplaces.
3. Data Processing
Things don't just end on data gathering. The collected information needs to be sorted, organized, filtered, and often decrypted to carry out the analysis. At this stage, professionals add metadata tags and remove irrelevant and redundant information. Usually, the data is organized into a spreadsheet so that it provides a more assembled view. Since manually doing this task is labor-intensive and highly prone to human error, most organizations use robust machine learning tools that help sort the relevant information for analysis.
4. Data Analysis
After processing, the data goes through an analysis to better understand and check if it fulfills the requirements set out in the first phase. However, the core part of data analysis is searching for potential cloud security issues and vulnerabilities as well as alerting teams responsible for mitigating those risks.
The data analysis is also carried out so that the reports of the findings can be presented to the target audience, the executives, and the security team leads. Depending on the audience, the format of the report may vary from a simplified list of attacks, a collection of presentations, or a comprehensive report. Since professionals carry out the analysis, they are also responsible for highlighting the critical action elements and providing insight to prevent and mitigate those risks.
The fully compiled preliminary report of data analysis is now distributed amongst all the relevant people. This report contains insight on data analysis of the collected information. Since the data is time-sensitive, it also requires timely action for robust security. Moreover, since threat intelligence is a continuous process, the piece of intelligence must be tracked through a ticketing system.
The final step of the intelligence involves drawing up a final report. This report contains insight on the whole intelligence process, the data discovered, and the analysis of the data. After receiving the finished intelligence product, the security team leaders and executives view the report to determine if it answers their security concerns. Based on this report, they strategize the methods of mitigating the possible cloud security risks.
Threat intelligence can be a remarkable and robust initiative for implementing cloud security. Not only does it help organizations maintain a secure cloud setup, but it also helps to protect them from massive reputational and financial losses.
About the Author: Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-centric articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. Waqas runs the DontSpoof.com project, which presents expert opinions on online privacy & security.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.