Why threat hunting is obsolete without context

Cybersecurity is an undisputed concern within any industry – but how are organizations and businesses using the security data and information they collect to best ensure their businesses are protected from cyber threats?

threat hunting context

Threat hunting context

According to PwC, 71% of U.S. CEOs said they are “extremely concerned” about cyber threats – ahead of pandemics and other health crises. Threat hunting is one of the more recent methodologies implemented by IT professionals to find dormant or active threats on their network to better understand and harness network visibility and threat actor entry points. Yet this capability can only be effectively leveraged when practiced in a broader security context.

There exists a need for a slyer intelligence-gathering strategy than what is currently deployed across most organizations, with a focus on not only speed, but accuracy in evaluating incoming threats.

Understanding a network environment by maintaining full data visibility, leveraging multiple platforms via a capable, relational MSSP, and consistently monitoring the flow of information and overall network habits are all inextricably tied to effective threat hunting. Without such informational context and external partners, threats could easily be missed and go unaddressed, giving hackers the enough time to wreak havoc.

Investment in threat hunting is on the rise, however reaping the benefits of such an investment may take a while longer. Although threat hunting’s proactive appeal has made it an increasingly popular practice to secure networks, its success is only as valuable as the contextual information gathered within the network the threat was found in, which inherently requires a more sophisticated, comprehensive approach to threat detection and identification.

With companies eager to invest in threat hunting training for their respective security teams, implementing a clear deployment and upkeep strategy for such a deliberate security effort should be a top priority. Automation, responsiveness, data analysis and threat management are four key capabilities of a larger, modernized SOC that aims to effectively add threat hunting to its arsenal of tools.

Automation

The ability to contextualize the exponential amounts of data being produced within a single SOC environment, in addition to responding to what the data indicates, cannot feasibly be carried out by human talent alone. Standing as a customizable tool that lessens the load in a myriad of ways, automation addresses both simple tasks as well as more sophisticated multi-step analysis needs. Intelligent automation can supplement threat hunting efforts managed by personnel, adding an additional layer of security analysis that could easily be overlooked otherwise.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Analyzing potential breaches in real-time during both working and non-working hours is non-negotiable. Attackers aren’t always a reflection of their targets – they can originate from other countries, time zones, cultures, or exhibit differing personal habits.

By equipping both threat hunters and other trained security analysts with cyber threat intelligence and detection capabilities that identify such activity around-the-clock, security teams can quickly nab an unwelcome visitor. The result is an informed prediction rather than a shot in the dark.

Data analysis

The SOC security perimeter is ever expanding, as evidenced by the dramatic and likely permanent increase in remote work and the pre-existing push to migrate to the cloud. Security events originating from multiple logging areas cannot serve any real contextual purpose if not correlated and cross-examined with each other.

Full network visibility is crucial to a comprehensive, educated threat hunting strategy. SaaS, remote devices, and other pieces of the security environment are all potential weak points waiting to be breached. Identifying residual activity across these logging areas requires not only well-trained personnel, but effective software management across disparate platforms.

Threat management

Combining both data analysis and automation tools with a tiered SOC allows for the necessary separation between monitoring, managing, and advising a response to potential threats while maintaining needed communication between each tier in order to execute dedicated tasks adequately. Because of the complexity of a modern SOC, countless security events across scores of platforms can occur within the same security environment, requiring a delegation of responsibilities across a network to avoid confusion and congestion.

Separating monitoring, management, and advising into three tiers eases the workload on a likely overburdened IT department, making room for threat hunting-specific training in addition to existing tasks related to SOC management.

Tracking potential vulnerabilities within IT infrastructure is clearly a necessity. However, its effectiveness is measured by whether these threats can be fully evaluated with tools on-hand. A powerful combination of security automation with threat detection and response, in conjunction with a relationship focused MSSP, can make threat hunting far more useful than relying on one-off predictions devoid of context.

A robust security posture requires a multi-pronged, layered approach that can be achieved with good partnerships that manage threats effectively without overburdening IT personnel. Threat hunting, although not an antidote on its own, can significantly close the gap by effectively training already experienced IT professionals to not only look for odd behavior within a network, but to harness existing tools at their disposal in a more efficient, proactive, and comprehensive manner.

An approach that fosters timeliness, data correlation, automation, and tiered threat management will enable better threat detection and overall risk reduction.




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