Cyber threat hunting is the process of probing for cyber threats that are hiding in a network. Your endpoint security can be defensive. But cyber threats are evolving in such a way to bypass endpoint security. After evading, the actor can lurk in a network for months or even years to anonymously collect confidential data or compromise authentication credentials that allow them to move freely across the network. It enables the actors to successfully penetrate an organization’s strongest security defences. To mitigate the risk and stop the actors from causing a data breach, cyber threat hunting is essential for organizations. It proactively searches the network to find malicious threats in your IT infrastructure.
Cyber Threat Hunting – A step-by-step approach
Cyber threat hunting involves the following step by step strategic approach to detect unusual activities in the system.
A signal notifies threat hunters in the Security Operations Center that a malicious activity may start to compromise the system. It intimates to conduct further investigation. With advanced detection tools, the cyber threat hunters narrow down the unusual actions that may be the potential cause of the signal. The Security Operations Center creates an assumption about the new threat and triggers for proactive hunting.
The investigation step involves the use of Endpoint Detection and Response technology. The threat hunters thoroughly investigate the potential threats in the system. It continues till a malicious activity is found in the system.
Once a relevant malicious activity is identified, it is communicated to the operations and security team. They respond to the incident to mitigate the risk. The threat data is recorded in automated technology to enhance effectiveness. It enables the security team to respond to future threats without human intervention.
Different methods of Cyber Threat Hunting
The first step in cyber threat hunting is to assume that the system is already vulnerable and adversaries are lurking in the system. The next step is to start the security investigation to detect unusual activities that may signal the presence of threats. This investigation initiation happens in three methods.
Investigations based on assumptions
This type of investigation starts when a new threat and its tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) is identified. With the available data, the SOC team initiates threat hunting to look for specific behaviours across the system.
Investigations based on known attacks
This type of investigation involves threat intelligence in the Security Operations Center to leverage the known indicators of compromise or attacks. With the given data, threat hunters uncover potential attacks or malicious activities.
Investigations based on Advanced Analytics
This type of investigation utilizes the combined power of data analytics and machine learning. The cyber threat hunters analyze the huge volume of data to detect inconsistency that may lead to potential attacks.
Automation in Threat Hunting
Today, cyber actors are utilizing automation to accelerate the execution of their techniques, tactics and procedures. With effective implementation of automation scripts, they evade the preventative defences. So, automation is the need of the hour to keep up with emerging attacks. Slotting in automation in the process of cyber threat hunting supports SOCs to respond to cyber threats effectively. The benefits include:
Data Collection and Distribution
Cyber threat hunting is an extensive process that involves collecting a huge volume of data from various sources. It consumes time to manually categorize and delineate valid data from insufficient data. The use of automation in data collection and distribution can significantly reduce the amount of time spent and improve the productivity of the SOC team.
In a typical day at SOC, the security team constantly receive countless threat alerts and warnings. It overwhelms even the most experienced security experts. With automation, the SOC team can reduce the threat noise by quickly prioritizing threats such as high, media, and low risk. This allows them to efficiently address the high priority risks.
When a threat is identified, mitigations need to be created instantly throughout the organization’s networks, endpoints, and Cloud. This process can be proactively automated.
Automation can be used to respond to small and routine attacks. This includes deleting customized scripts, isolating compromised endpoints, deleting malicious files and backup automation to restore compromised data.
Cyber Threat Hunting Tools
Cyber threat hunters should thoroughly analyze both the historical and current state of actions transpired across the network. The team need to rely on several tools to assist with their hunting process. The tools include:
The SOC team use data from various security monitoring solutions. The sources of the data are firewalls, endpoints protection, network intrusion detection systems, data loss prevention, insider threat detection system and other security tools. They provide threat hunters with detailed attack data to identify the attack pattern in the network.
Security Incident and Event Management
SIEM tool collects structured log data from various sources within a network environment. It offers real-time data analysis and alerts the security team. Threat hunters use SIEM to automate the data collection process and analyse a huge volume of log data.
Analytics tools help cyber threat hunters to correlate security events data and respond in time. They are statistical and with intelligence analysis powered by pre-defined rule sets, the security team can identify any data anomalies that may signify malicious activity. The tools support the team to visualize complex relational data through intuitive dashboards.
Threat Intelligence tools in the modern Security Operations Center, hold a repository of data on known malicious IP addresses, malware hashes, etc. Security experts use threat intelligence to make quick, informed, data-driven security decisions.
Cyber Threat Hunting to Strengthen your Security Posture
Organizations who proactively use cyber threat hunting are less likely to fall victim for cyber actors. It significantly reduces the breaches and breach attempts. With the increase in speed and accuracy of response, cyber threat hunting fortifies the network from emerging cyber threats.