3 Questions Businesses Should Ask About Threat Intelligence

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Businesses remain hackers’ and scammers’ preferred targets year after year. That’s because, unlike individuals, companies hold large quantities of sensitive details about hundreds, thousands or more people — e.g., credit card details, phones, shipping addresses, names, etc.

Moreover, organizations are under a lot of pressure not to lose face. Data breaches can cost them up to 3,86 millions of dollars due to both direct and indirect financial damages, a tarnished reputation, and customer mistrust in the short and long run that can lead to bankruptcy.

In an attempt to avoid such negative instances, business owners and c-level executives are therefore incentivized to find ways to protect their data. But that’s not an easy undertaking in a cybersecurity environment where attackers become more organized and sophisticated while corporate security budgets are static.

That’s where threat intelligence (TI) kicks in as a means to effectively protect employees, users, networks, and websites while giving some peace of mind. However, it should not be a blind guess, and this post looks at 3 essential questions businesses should ask before proceeding with an investment in TI applications and services.

1. What is Threat Intelligence?

TI is the sum of dozens of components and sources of data which, when integrated, provide a more comprehensive picture about the threat landscape and, therefore, the angle through which cyberattacks might be conducted and prevented.

For example, TI allows to find out more about the websites frequently visited by employees through domain’s infrastructure analysis — reviewing web, mail, and name servers as well as subdomains all at once to learn more about where data is hosted and potential system vulnerabilities.

Taking another angle, TI can also keep cybersecurity staff informed about the risk of phishing and spoofing through the collection of updated WHOIS records as per a list of preset criteria — e.g., variations of long-term suppliers’ domain names that might be used as an instrument to impersonate them and fool their business partners.

2. What Are the Advantages?

In a nutshell, TI enables proactivity, efficiency, and prioritization. Proactivity is achieved by letting cybersecurity staff act before hacking and scamming takes place. In fact, a TI report can inform about the status of 100+ security points that are frequently exploited during attacks and give indications on how these aspects can be reconfigured to offer better protection.

TI brings efficiency by cutting the legwork since information is collected automatically from various threat information providers before being processed and centralized. Security analysts, as a result, do not need to do that task manually and can proceed with the analysis of their online assets directly.

In turn, budget holders can use TI insights to prioritize efforts. Instead of investing a little in different cybersecurity solutions which may or may raise organizational defenses, resources get allocated where it makes the most sense to reduce risks and fight against the most prevalent threats.

3. What Are the Misconceptions?

While TI’s sounds straightforward in theory, its implementation remains somewhat complicated. The reasons for that include overinflated expectations and a misunderstanding about the practice as a whole.

First of all, TI is often seen as a one-size-fits-all solution with a general formula applicable no matter the specific circumstances. However, since each business is unique in the way it operates (size, industry, location, processes, etc.), it’s necessary to adapt TI according to security operations and where a company is the most fragile, this way predicting possibles attacks best.

Moreover, TI on its own does not do much good. Once relevant information about infrastructure and systems is available, it’s necessary to take actions — e.g., reconfiguring servers, blacklisting suspicious domain names, blocking files from unknown origins, etc. — or cybercriminals’ ability to cause harm will stay the same.

Last but not least, TI should not be executed as a one-off exercise. New threats and hacking techniques emerge every day, so what may have been sufficient protection a few months ago may now be inadequate. It’s therefore essential that businesses continuously stay alert and run periodic TI analysis.

While hackers and scammers are relentless, businesses can benefit from threat intelligence and protect themselves once they have a better understanding of the practice, the advantages it provides, as well as the surrounding misconceptions.

About the Author

Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) and WhoisXMLAPI