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What is threat intelligence?

What is threat intelligence?

Threat intelligence is a big part of any cybersecurity strategy. Organizations should analyze and understand cyber threats to proactively mitigate risks, prevent data breaches, and reduce costs associated with cybersecurity incidents. Threat intelligence can be strategic, tactical, or operational, and it empowers organizations to leverage this information to make informed decisions and stay ahead of cybercriminals.


Understanding threat intelligence

Threat intelligence is the process of identifying and analyzing cyber threats. It involves gathering, processing, and analyzing data to understand potential threats. While threat data refers to a list of possible threats, threat intelligence goes beyond that by examining the broader context and helps decision-making.

Threat intelligence enables organizations to make faster and more informed security decisions. By examining data contextually, cybersecurity professionals can proactively identify and address vulnerabilities, rather than reacting to attacks after they occur. 

Related: What is threat management?


Why is threat intelligence important?

Implementing a cyber threat intelligence program offers several benefits, including:


Preventing data loss

A well-structured threat intelligence program allows organizations to identify potential cyber threats and prevent data breaches. Organizations can take proactive measures to safeguard sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access by effectively monitoring and analyzing threats.


Safety Measures

Threat intelligence helps identify patterns and tactics used by hackers. Cybersecurity professionals can develop and implement security measures to protect against future attacks by analyzing these threats. This proactive approach helps organizations stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.



To combat the ever-evolving tactics of cybercriminals, cybersecurity experts share intelligence within their community. Organizations can build a collective knowledge base to effectively fight cybercrimes by collaborating and sharing information about specific threats.


Types of threat intelligence

Cybersecurity threat intelligence is typically categorized into three types: strategic, tactical, and operational.



Strategic threat intelligence provides high-level analysis for non-technical audiences, such as board members or executives. It focuses on cybersecurity topics that may impact broader business decisions, covering overall trends and motivations. Strategic threat intelligence often relies on open sources like media reports, white papers, and research.



Tactical threat intelligence is designed for a more technically proficient audience. It focuses on the immediate future and identifies simple indicators of compromise (IOCs). These IOCs help IT teams search for and eliminate specific threats within a network. Tactical intelligence is often automated and has a short lifespan since IOCs quickly become obsolete.



Operational threat intelligence aims to answer the "who," "why," and "how" behind cyber attacks. It draws conclusions about the intent, timing, and sophistication of past attacks. Operational threat intelligence requires more resources than tactical intelligence and has a longer lifespan since cyber attackers cannot easily change their tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Read more: What are indicators of compromise? 


The cyber threat intelligence life cycle

The concept of a life cycle is often used to describe the process of threat intelligence. The typical cyber threat intelligence life cycle involves several stages:



In the direction phase, organizations set goals for their threat intelligence program. This includes understanding which aspects of the organization need protection, identifying the necessary threat intelligence, and assessing the potential impact of a cyber breach.



Organizations gather data to support their threat intelligence goals during the collection phase. This includes collecting metadata from internal networks and security devices, utilizing threat data feeds from credible cybersecurity organizations, conducting interviews with informed stakeholders, and monitoring open-source news sites and blogs.



The processing phase involves transforming collected data into a usable format. Different data collection methods require various processing techniques. For example, data from human interviews may need to be fact-checked and cross-checked against other sources.



Once the data has been processed, it is analyzed to derive actionable intelligence. Analysis involves turning information into insights that guide organizational decisions. These decisions may include increasing investment in security resources, investigating specific threats, blocking immediate threats, and identifying necessary threat intelligence tools.



After analysis, the findings and recommendations are given to relevant stakeholders within the organization. Teams may have different needs and require specific formats and frequencies for receiving threat intelligence.



Feedback from stakeholders helps ensure that the program aligns with the requirements and objectives of each group within the organization. This iterative feedback loop enhances the effectiveness of the threat intelligence program.

Read more: What is the threat intelligence lifecycle? 

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide  

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