With the number of cyberattacks growing exponentially, companies all over the world are focusing on high-quality data protection. Security Operations Centers (SOCs) handle cybersecurity for an organization by monitoring IT assets for potential security breaches and managing incident response. To achieve these goals, top SOC teams use threat intelligence feeds.
Threat intelligence feeds are an effective source of information that enable SOCs to provide comprehensive cyber protection. Integrating them into your SOC’s technology stack is key to gathering current, informative, and actionable cyber threat intelligence.
In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of cyber threat intelligence feeds and find out how they can help streamline your internal cyber security processes.
What Is Threat Intelligence?
Threat intelligence is information about relevant threats to an organization that can be used to prevent, detect, and respond to incidents more effectively and efficiently. It begins as data that is gathered, processed, and analyzed to understand a threat actor’s actions and predict their future behavior. By leveraging threat data correctly, it’s possible to minimize the chances of cyberattacks, strengthen cybersecurity tactics, improve employee education strategy, and prevent unexpected costs associated with a data breach or security incident.
What Are Threat Intelligence Feeds?
A threat intelligence feed is a stream of actionable data related to potential cyberattacks that could threaten your organization. Essentially, it’s a continuous flow of threat intelligence that helps you make data-driven decisions to better protect your critical assets.
Sources of threat intelligence feeds can be:
- Data from your network
- Firewall logs
- DNS logs
- Past security events
- Open-source intelligence (blogs, news reports)
- Government intelligence
- Vendors of intelligence software
- Corporate sharing group
- Threat intelligence exchanges.
An example of an open-source intelligence source is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Indicator Sharing program.
How Do Threat Intelligence Feeds Collect Data?
Threat intelligence feeds collect data by gathering the available information from technical sources, data breach disclosures, deep and dark web forums, news media, and subject matter experts. This information can be analyzed and shared by security organizations or internal teams. Alternatively, it can be gathered, managed, and processed by a threat intelligence platform.
Threat intelligence feeds allow organizations to understand the broader threat landscape, investigate cyber incidents, and come up with comprehensive security measures that minimize loopholes.
Types of Threat Intelligence Feeds
Threat intelligence feeds can come from a wide variety of sources and have different applications. Four types of threat intelligence are:
Strategic threat intelligence is a collection of internal and external data, including historic information about security issues within your organization or those impacting your industry or geographic region. It’s especially effective for detecting long-term trends. Examples of strategic threat intelligence data include:
- High-level attack trends
- Known cybercriminals
- Industry or geographic threat landscape
These feeds are excellent for risk assessment. They help identify the financial impact of cyber activities and evaluate trends. Organizations use these feeds to design long-term cybersecurity strategies and allocate relevant budgets for cybersecurity support.
Operational threat intelligence focuses on the threat actor’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and provides insight into upcoming attacks. By understanding how attacks are orchestrated, your SOC can design effective protective measures.
Examples of operational threat intelligence data include:
- Malware trends
- Latest threat actor group TTPs
- Past attack details targeting peers
- Vulnerability exploits in-the-wild
These feeds assess both real-time and long-term attack data to provide comprehensive security support.
Tactical threat intelligence is evidence-based information that helps you understand the goals, methods, and attack patterns of threat actors to more effectively anticipate, detect, and prevent attacks against your organization. This information can often be used immediately without complex analytics.
Examples of tactical threat intelligence data include:
- Blacklisted URL and IP addresses
- Previous attacks
- Malware trends
- Supply chain intelligence
These feeds help you understand why threat actors are targeting your organization (or similar organizations) and what they leverage to achieve success. This allows you to predict future attacks by strengthening specific elements of cybersecurity measures.
Technical threat intelligence focuses on the threat actors’ resources. From command channels to breaching tools, this intelligence examines the “how” of cyberattacks. This type of data has a shorter lifespan than other intelligence but provides valuable insights into short-term cybersecurity planning.
Examples of technical threat intelligence data include:
- Phishing email headers
- Indicators of compromise (IoCs)
- Malware technical details
- Suspicious IP addresses
These feeds help analysts understand the technical resources of the malicious actor. This, in turn, can contribute to understanding vulnerability intelligence and assist with identifying the attack before it begins.
Components of Threat Intelligence Feed
An effective threat intelligence feed consists of several basic components. The combination of these elements can vary depending on the type of feed you are using.
Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)
Indicators of compromise are pieces of data that demonstrate the presence of a cyber threat within the system. In a threat intelligence feed, this information can include:
- The IP address of threat actor
- The domain name of infected website
- Virus signatures
These indicators give SOCs crucial information that can help stop a breach in progress and prevent similar attacks in the future.
Contextual information is a set of data that provides context to the IoCs. Since the volume of threat intelligence is high, context can help you find data that is relevant to your situation.
Examples of contextual information include:
- Threat source
It allows your cybersecurity experts to apply threat intelligence data to specific use cases and prevent similar attacks at your organization in the future.
Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs)
TTPs are tactics, techniques, and procedures threat actors use to design and launch attacks. Studying threat actors’ behaviors can help analysts correlate attacks to known threat groups or actors and better understand attack frameworks. Threat Actor Profiles
A threat actor profile is a set of characteristics that help you identify their behavior and assess your susceptibility to an attack.. Examples of these characteristics include:
- Past Victims
These actors can vary from cybercriminals and hackers to thrill-seekers and insider groups.
Vulnerability information is a critical part of a mature threat intelligence program. By identifying cybersecurity vulnerabilities within your organization’s external attack surface, you can fix the problem fast enough to prevent attackers from exploiting them. Knowing your security gaps or security weaknesses can help your SOC proactively protect your systems.
Selecting the Right Threat Intelligence Feed
Choosing the right threat intelligence feeds to suit your needs is key to obtaining high-quality information on time. These steps can help you identify the best feeds for your organization:
The threat intelligence feed you select should have broad coverage of different types of threats. Depending on the industry you are in, the size of your business, and the data you handle, these threat types can differ. Choose a feed that collects across a wide variety of data sources.
Assess Quality and Relevance
Data quality is the most important element of the threat intelligence feed. Find out what other users say about data quality and check it personally against your security team’s intelligence requirements. Make sure that the data provided by the feed is relevant to your industry, company size, and data type.
Make Sure Your Threat Intelligence Leverages AI
AI is an integral part of threat intelligence collection and analytics. Without it, data gathering and processing is too cumbersome to provide high-quality results on time and aid with risk mitigation. AI-powered threat intelligence feeds have higher data accuracy, better speed, and enhanced scalability.
Consider Integration and Compatibility
Since you have to use threat intelligence feeds together with the rest of your cybersecurity instruments, you need to make sure that they can integrate seamlessly.
Before using the feed, find out how well it can work with your Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platform, firewalls, and other security tools. Otherwise, the burden would be on your security team to disseminate and incorporate the intelligence manually. . This can lead to significant errors.
Determine Cost Effectiveness
Before settling on a threat intelligence feed, figure out if it fits into your annual cybersecurity budget. While the initial price of some of these feeds can be significant, their ROI is impressively high. Compare prices of several similar feeds before making the final choice.
Best Practices for Implementing Threat Intelligence into Your SOC
To maximize the effectiveness of threat intelligence feeds, you need to ensure smooth implementation and integration. These best practices can help you take advantage of threat intelligence faster and easier.
Ensure Integration with the Security System
Threat intelligence feeds should integrate with your security system so you can use the gathered data for rapid threat detection and response.
Automate Data Enrichment
Data enrichment involves gaining insight from threat intelligence data. By automating data processing (leveraging artificial intelligence), you can speed up analytics and gain valuable insight at the right time.
Establish a Threat Intelligence Sharing Policy
By sharing threat intelligence with peers, you can maximize awareness of threats and mitigation strategies.
Data-sharing communities are one of the most important sources of cyber threat intelligence. Working together powers the actionable approach to cybersecurity risk mitigation.
Monitor Feeds and Generate Alerts
Monitoring feeds continuously and setting up relevant alerts can help you glean the necessary data on time and prevent cyberattacks. Depending on the threat intelligence feed you are leveraging , continuous monitoring is often the key to catching the attack in progress and preventing serious consequences.
Learn More About Managed Threat Intelligence Services with ZeroFox
Leading-edge threat intelligence is an integral part of any successful cybersecurity strategy. However, leveraging that intelligence in the most effective way requires experience, expertise, and high-quality resources. That’s why many organizations prefer to work with managed intelligence service providers.
ZeroFox can implement threat intelligence feeds into your cybersecurity strategy and take on the most complex SOC responsibilities. Contact us today or request a demo to learn more about how ZeroFox can help you identify and disrupt potential cyber threats before they threaten your organization’s reputation or bottom line.