The recent invasion of Ukraine has prompted many people to warn that cyberattacks will become more common around the world. F1000 corporations have issued alerts for their employees and urged them to be on the lookout for phishing emails that could result in the ingestion of malware that will jeopardize company networks and infrastructure.
Here are five steps developers and SecOps professionals can take to improve their threat hunting program and make it more effective.
What Is Cyber Threat Hunting?
Threat hunting is the proactive process of searching through networks for signs of malicious activity. It’s a more aggressive approach to cybersecurity than traditional methods like firewalls and antivirus software.
Most organizations rely on perimeter security measures to protect their networks from cyberattacks. But these measures are no longer enough. As recent high-profile breaches have shown, attackers are becoming more sophisticated and are finding ways to penetrate even the most well-defended networks.
Threat hunting is a way to stay one step ahead of the attackers. By proactively searching for signs of malicious activity, you can find and stop attacks before they do damage.
Cyber threat hunting involves proactively searching for unknown vulnerabilities and undetected attacks within an organization’s environment. Based on cyber threat intelligence, known attack techniques, and other information, threat hunters develop and test hypotheses about potential threats by collecting and analyzing data from various sources inside and outside of the organization.
Cyber threat hunting enables an organization to detect and respond to potential threats that it does not know to exist and has not detected via other means. This provides the organization with more comprehensive protection against cyber threats and the ability to detect and mitigate attacks and security gaps that its existing security architecture has missed.
How to Perform a Threat Hunt
A threat hunting program should be designed to maximize the efficiency of the threat hunt and the value of the exercise to the organization. Accomplishing this requires using a threat hunting framework to plan threat hunting exercises, like this five-step process.
Step 1: Hypothesis – What Are the Main Types of Attacks We Might Face?
Know what you’re looking for. The first step in any effective threat hunting program is understanding what threats your organization is most likely to face. This means understanding the types of attacks that have been used against similar organizations in the past, and the vulnerabilities that attackers are likely to exploit.
You can’t hunt what you don’t know about. This information can be gathered from a variety of sources, including cyber threat intelligence feeds, vulnerability scans, and log data.
Threat hunting identifies unknown threats to an organization’s cybersecurity. Without a known attack or a particular threat to investigate, threat hunters need a starting point for their investigations.
The process begins with a hypothesis about the potential risk to an organization. This could be any number of things, including vulnerabilities in systems or tactics used by known threat actors — and then they’ll develop strategies for identifying whether those risks are actually present within your company.
Step 2: Collect and Process Intelligence and Data
The second step in identifying potential threats on an organization’s systems requires access to high-quality data and threat intelligence which needs to be organized/analyzed. Intelligence can come from several different sources, including network traffic logs (which show what sites were visited), system log files that record actions taken by software programs running inside your firewall at any given time; malware analysis reports generated after researchers find infected machines around the world because their patching procedures weren’t followed properly — and even social media posts.
Based on knowledge of the potential threat, the threat hunter can identify data sources that could help prove or disprove the hypothesis and a strategy for collecting and analyzing that data.
With a plan in place, the threat hunter will collect and process the data required to prove or disprove their hypothesis. Collecting and analyzing data from internal and external sources often requires specialized tools, such as security information and event management (SIEM) and dark web monitoring solutions.
Step 3: Trigger
Identifying a potential threat is just the beginning. The next step is to determine whether that threat is active on your network and, if it is, take action to stop it. This requires setting up “trigger events” which are specific conditions that, when met, indicate that a threat is likely to present on the network
The goal of threat hunting is to detect unknown threats before they have a chance to cause major damage. To do this, you need data and analysis from all areas within your organization so that when someone finds something strange going on with their computer systems or network traffic it can be quickly identified as an incident requiring remediation instead of being treated like any other random problem members might come across while working away on computers over the course of the day.
Proving the hypothesis just means that the threat hunter knows that a threat exists. After providing the existence of the threat, the hunter is “triggered” to perform an in-depth investigation to determine the scope and details of the incident required for remediation.
Step 4: Investigation
If a trigger event occurs, it’s time to investigate. The goal of the investigation is to determine the scope and details of the incident so that it can be remediated.
The investigation involves looking at all the data that was collected in step 2, as well as any new data that has been collected since then.
By identifying infected systems and determining details about how the attack was performed and its impacts, the threat hunter can determine what remediation steps are necessary.
As in step 2, in the investigation, it’s important to incorporate a range of solutions, as well as both internal and external data sources. In addition to searching corporate systems for signs of infection, threat hunters should look on dark web marketplaces for stolen data or other information about the attack.
Step 5: Resolution
The final step in the cyber threat hunting process is to take action to resolve the incident. This involves working with the relevant teams within the organization to determine the best course of action.
Depending on the severity of the incident, the resolution could involve anything from implementing new security controls to taking legal action against the attackers.
The end result should be a clear understanding of what happened and how to best protect the organization against future attacks. The investigation process ensures that your organization is equipped with all the information needed, so they can take action when an incident occurs in order to significant disruption or damage from preventing again.
A thorough examination into who was impacted by this particular threat alongside any compromised devices will also aid you during remediation efforts of your systems as well.
You can learn more about priority intelligence requirements for threat hunting here.