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The importance of cyber security has increased manifold in the past years. A keen eye on cyber security helps protect businesses from data breaches, which can have a substantial financial and reputational impact and result in legal liabilities and compliance issues.
Threat hunting is an integral part of the cyber security system. Threat hunters offer an additional layer of security to organizations. They look through security data and systems to find any breach or loophole a threat actor may have exploited. Companies can discover cyber threats faster by combining the strengths of humans and artificial intelligence (AI) tools in the threat hunting process.
Let’s begin with the basics.
80% of threats can be intercepted by tier 1 and tier 2 security operations centers (SOC) and automated security tools. But the remaining 20% are likely to be sophisticated threats with the potential to cause significant damage. Give a threat actor ample time and resources; it will sneak into your network and cause irreparable damage. Threat hunting helps bring down the detection time from intrusion to discovery.
A cost of a data breach can be around $9.44 million in the US, and early detection and proactive steps can help reduce this amount.
But what is threat hunting?
It is a proactive approach to cybersecurity that seeks to identify any threat that might have slipped passed an organization’s initial layer of defense and remains undetected inside the system. An attacker can remain undetected on a network for months, while quietly collecting data, confidential information, or obtaining login credentials.
Threat hunting is an integral part of the security strategy as it goes over the traditional threat detection processes.
Let's take a look at the key elements of threat hunting:
In short, threat hunting involves a combination of manual and automated processes to detect and investigate suspicious activity, such as suspicious network traffic, unusual user behavior, or suspicious files.
Different types of threat hunting are needed to ensure comprehensive protection of an organization's networks, data, and systems. Varying types of threat hunting allow security analysts to look for different kinds of malicious activity, such as malware, phishing attempts, insider threats, and unknown threats.
Structured threat hunting is a proactive cybersecurity technique that uses advanced analytics to identify malicious activity or potential threats that may otherwise go undetected. It involves leveraging data-driven analysis to detect malicious activities by looking for abnormal activity and suspicious behaviors in a network.
A structured threat hunt is founded on an ‘indicator of attack’ (IoA) and the ‘tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of attackers. The hunts are aligned and brought together based on the TTPs of all threat actors. So here, the hunter usually identifies the threat actors before the attacker causes damage to the environment.
Based on a trigger, one of the numerous indicators of compromise (IoC), an ad hoc hunt is started. This trigger frequently asks a hunter to search for pre- and post-detection patterns. The hunter can research to determine their strategy as far back as data retention and prior linked offenses permit.
An organization's internal risk assessment or analysis of trends and vulnerabilities specific to its IT infrastructure can yield a situational hypothesis. Entity-oriented leads are derived from attack data collected from the public, revealing the most recent TTPs of active cyber threats when examined. The threat hunter can then look around the environment for these particular actions.
Threat modeling is a reactive approach to security that involves analyzing an existing system to identify potential threats and their associated risks. The goal of threat modeling is primarily to identify, quantify, and prioritize threats to the system so that appropriate countermeasures can be taken to reduce the risk of attack.
On the other hand, threat hunting is a proactive approach to security that involves actively searching for malicious activity on a system. This consists in analyzing log data and other system activity to detect signs of malicious activity. Unlike threat modeling, threat hunting does not generate a list of potential threats before an attack occurs.
Instead, it relies on recognizing suspicious activities already present in the system.
Threat hunting is crucial to any security strategy because it helps identify potentially malicious activity that may have gone undetected by other security measures. By proactively searching for indicators of compromise, such as malicious files, suspicious network traffic, and suspicious user behavior, threat hunting can help organizations detect and respond to cyber threats quickly, reducing the risk of a successful attack.
With threat hunting, you can improve your organization's security posture by better understanding the threats they face and developing more effective security measures to protect against them.
If you want to become a threat hunter or are looking to upskill yourself to further your career as an IT security professional, then consider learning about threat hunting and threat modeling essentials from AppSecEngineer.