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Actionable Threat Intelligence

Actionable Threat Intelligence: Reducing Risk with Data

In the world of cybersecurity, staying ahead of emerging threats is paramount. Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) plays a pivotal role in this endeavor, offering organizations invaluable insights into potential risks and vulnerabilities. Censys Search empowers threat hunters and their security teams with the actionable threat intelligence they need to quickly and accurately identify potential threats to their organizations. 

Understanding Cyber Threat Intelligence

CTI encompasses the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information regarding potential cyber threats and adversaries. It provides organizations with actionable insights into emerging threats, attack techniques, indicators of compromise (IOCs), and the evolving threat landscape. By leveraging CTI, organizations can bolster their defenses, proactively detect and mitigate risks, and make informed decisions to safeguard their digital assets.

Emerging Threats and Attack Techniques

The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, with adversaries employing increasingly sophisticated tactics to exploit vulnerabilities. From ransomware and phishing attacks to supply chain compromises and nation-state-sponsored espionage, organizations face a myriad of threats. Understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by adversaries is crucial for effective threat mitigation.


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The Threat Intelligence Cycle

The threat intelligence cycle comprises several key stages, including collection, analysis, dissemination, and feedback. This iterative process enables organizations to gather relevant data, analyze it for actionable insights, share intelligence with relevant stakeholders, and incorporate feedback to refine their defenses continually.

Types of Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence can be categorized into different types based on its source, scope, and specificity. These include strategic intelligence, which provides high-level insights into the broader threat landscape; tactical intelligence, which focuses on specific threats and adversaries; and technical intelligence, which offers granular details about malware, vulnerabilities, and IOCs.

What Is Actionable Threat Intelligence?

Actionable threat intelligence encompasses timely, relevant, and contextual insights that enable organizations to take proactive measures to mitigate risks effectively. Terms such as AI threat intelligence and automated threat intelligence highlight the role of advanced technologies in enhancing the efficacy and efficiency of threat intelligence operations.

The Value of Actionable Threat Intelligence

Actionable threat intelligence offers several key benefits, including:

Holistic Picture of the Threat Landscape: By providing comprehensive insights into emerging threats and attack techniques, actionable threat intelligence enables organizations to gain a deeper understanding of the evolving threat landscape.

More Time for Security Personnel: Automated threat intelligence tools reduce the burden on security personnel by automating repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Simpler Remediation: By providing actionable insights and IOCs, threat intelligence streamlines the remediation process, enabling organizations to respond swiftly and effectively to potential threats.

Stronger Cybersecurity: By leveraging actionable threat intelligence, organizations can enhance their cybersecurity posture, mitigate risks proactively, and thwart potential threats before they escalate.

Key Elements for an Effective CTI Program

Building an effective CTI program requires a holistic approach, encompassing several key components:

Comprehensive Data Collection: Collecting data from diverse sources, including open-source intelligence (OSINT), dark web monitoring, and internal logs, provides organizations with a comprehensive view of the threat landscape.

Threat Analysis and Contextualization: Analyzing threat data in context enables organizations to identify patterns, trends, and anomalies, facilitating informed decision-making and proactive threat mitigation.

Intelligence Reporting and Sharing: Effective intelligence reporting and sharing mechanisms ensure timely dissemination of relevant information to relevant stakeholders, fostering collaboration and collective defense.

Collaboration and Information Sharing: Collaboration with industry peers, government agencies, and cybersecurity communities enhances the collective resilience against cyber threats, enabling organizations to leverage shared insights and best practices.

Integration with Security Infrastructure: Integrating threat intelligence into existing security infrastructure, such as SIEM platforms and security controls, enables organizations to operationalize intelligence and automate response workflows.

Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the CTI program enable organizations to adapt to evolving threats, refine processes, and optimize resource allocation for maximum effectiveness.

Reducing Risk with Actionable Intelligence

Actionable threat intelligence empowers organizations to reduce risk across various fronts, including:

Proactive Threat Detection: By proactively identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, organizations can thwart attacks before they occur, minimizing the risk of data breaches and operational disruptions.

Early Detection of APTs: Advanced persistent threats (APTs) often operate stealthily, evading traditional security measures. Actionable threat intelligence enables early detection of APTs, enabling organizations to disrupt malicious activities and mitigate potential damage.

Proactive Vulnerability Management: By correlating threat intelligence with vulnerability data, organizations can prioritize patching and remediation efforts, reducing the window of exposure to known vulnerabilities.

Strategic Decision-Making: Actionable threat intelligence provides decision-makers with the insights they need to allocate resources effectively, prioritize security investments, and align cybersecurity initiatives with business objectives.

Incident Response and Forensic Investigations: During security incidents, actionable threat intelligence enables rapid response and forensic investigations, facilitating the containment, eradication, and recovery processes.

Malware Analysis and Detection: Actionable threat intelligence provides organizations with insights into the behavior, capabilities, and indicators of malware, enabling more effective detection and mitigation strategies.

Threat Hunting and Adversary Profiling: Proactive threat hunting enables organizations to proactively search for signs of malicious activity within their network, identify persistent threats, and profile adversaries for better understanding and attribution.


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Enhancing Risk Mitigation with Raw Threat Data and Effective CTI Strategies

To maximize the impact of CTI on risk mitigation, organizations should:

Define Objectives and Requirements: Clearly define the objectives and requirements of the CTI program, aligning them with organizational goals and priorities.

Set Comprehensive Data Collection Processes: Establish robust data collection processes that encompass a wide range of sources and provide timely, relevant intelligence.

Focus on Contextual Analysis: Emphasize contextual analysis to derive actionable insights from threat data and prioritize response efforts effectively.

Encourage Collaboration and Information Sharing: Foster a culture of collaboration and information sharing both internally and externally, leveraging collective intelligence to enhance cybersecurity defenses.

Integrate CTI into Security Ops: Integrate threat intelligence into existing security operations and incident response processes, ensuring seamless coordination and response to emerging threats.

Update and Refine CTI Processes Regularly: Regularly review and update CTI processes, technologies, and methodologies to adapt to evolving threats and organizational requirements.

Cultivate a Culture of Continuous Learning: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the organization, empowering security teams to stay abreast of emerging threats and best practices.

Uses of Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence finds myriad applications across various cybersecurity domains, including:

During Incident Response: Threat intelligence aids in the identification, containment, and remediation of security incidents, enabling organizations to respond swiftly and effectively to threats.

During Security Operations: Threat intelligence enhances security operations by providing real-time insights into emerging threats, enabling proactive threat detection and response.

For Vulnerability Management: Threat intelligence informs vulnerability management efforts by identifying vulnerabilities, prioritizing patching, and mitigating risks proactively.

For Effective Risk Analysis: Threat intelligence supports risk analysis by providing organizations with insights into the likelihood and impact of potential threats, enabling informed decision-making and risk mitigation strategies.

To Prevent Fraud: Threat intelligence helps organizations identify and mitigate fraudulent activities, protecting sensitive data and financial assets from exploitation by malicious actors.

Threat Hunting with Censys

The Censys Internet Intelligence Platform for Threat Hunting and Exposure Management enables organizations to proactively identify and mitigate cyber threats. With advanced capabilities for internet-wide visibility, threat detection, and contextual analysis, Censys empowers organizations to stay ahead of emerging threats and protect their digital assets effectively.

Superior Cyber Threat Intelligence: A Threat Hunting Necessity

Superior threat intelligence is a must for any successful threat hunt. When CTI is stale, incomplete, inaccurate, or difficult to parse – it becomes inactionable. If a threat hunter is going to ring the alarm to their organization’s leadership, they need to be sure they know what they’re looking at. 

Threat hunters therefore need CTI that is: 

  • Comprehensive: Global, multiperspective scanning of the publicly-visible internet infrastructure should be conducted. 
  • Up-to-Date: Top ports and all services should be scanned daily. 
  • Accurate: Data should have a low rate of false positives. 
  • Contextualized: Data should include deep protocol scans and indexed protocol fields. 

Censys Delivers Actionable Threat Intelligence

There are many different threat intelligence sources available to threat hunters, but not all offer the same quality of data. Only Censys’ proprietary internet scanning data, which powers Censys Search, gives threat hunters the breadth and depth of data they need to take action and outsmart their adversaries. 

Censys’ proprietary, industry-leading data provides the most complete, contextual, and up-to-date index of hosts and services on the internet. Censys is the only vendor to: 

  • Conduct daily comprehensive scans of the top 100+ ports
  • Conduct proprietary ML-based discovery across all 65K ports
  • Refresh all services daily to eliminate false positives 
  • Provide detailed visibility into open ports and protocols, regardless of standard port assignment, to understand host intent

Threat hunters can access data using Censys Search, which is available for use as a publicly-accessible community tool. Advanced Search capabilities, such as access to more historical data, regular expression queries, and matched services, are available to threat hunters with an upgraded subscription.

Visit our plans and prices page to learn more about Censys Search offerings. 

Using Actionable Threat Intelligence in Censys Search 

When beginning an investigation, threat hunters can use Censys Search to: 

  • Identify Vulnerable Services: Identify devices or services with known vulnerabilities. By querying specific service banners, software versions, or configurations, you can pinpoint systems that require immediate patching or remediation.
  • Discover Rogue Assets: Search for devices and services that do not belong to the organization’s known inventory. This helps identify rogue or unauthorized assets that may pose a security risk.
  • Monitor SSL/TLS Certificates: Track SSL/TLS certificates and search for expired or misconfigured certificates, identify certificate authorities used. 
  • Identify Malicious Infrastructure: Detect malicious infrastructure, such as command and control servers, phishing websites, and other suspicious domains or IP addresses. A user could run the following queries in Censys Search to look for popular C2 servers:

Deimos C2: same_service((services.http.response.html_title=”Deimos C2″ or services.tls.certificates.leaf_data.subject.organization=”Acme Co”) and services.port: 8443)

Posh C2: services.tls.certificates.leaf_data.subject_dn: “C=US, ST=Minnesota, L=Minnetonka, O=Pajfds, OU=Jethpro, CN=P18055077”

You can read more about some of the most common ways to use Censys Search in our 10 Ways to Use Censys Search cheat sheet. To learn more about hunting for threats with Censys Search, check out our 6 Steps Threat Profilers Can Follow to Uncover Ransomware (and Other Nefarious Activity) blog. 

Conclusion: Strengthening Cybersecurity Defenses with Actionable Threat Intelligence

In today’s cyber threat landscape, organizations face an ever-expanding array of risks and challenges. Actionable threat intelligence serves as a cornerstone of effective cybersecurity strategy, providing organizations with the insights they need to detect, mitigate, and respond to threats proactively. By leveraging comprehensive data collection, advanced analysis techniques, and strategic collaboration, organizations can maximize the impact of CTI on risk mitigation and bolster their defenses against emerging threats. 

With Censys as a trusted partner, organizations can harness the power of actionable threat intelligence to navigate the evolving threat landscape with confidence and resilience.

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