What is Cyber Threat Hunting?
Cyber threat hunting in a cyberspace network is the practice of farsighted searching for threats that are sulking undetected in a virtual cyber network. It is a dynamic information security approach employed by security experts and analysts. Cyber threat hunting hunts iteratively through the entire network to identify the (IoC) indicators of compromise, such as hacker’s tricks and tactics, procedures and techniques (TTP), besides the other threats, such as advanced persistent threats that can evade the existing security system.
In other words, cyber threat hunting is a proactive search approach to identify the previously unknown cyber threats or the present-day non-remediate within a network. It hardens the endpoint security and response strategies to minimize the breach. It is the practice of searching for cyber threats that might otherwise remain undetected for a crucial time.
What is Threat Hunting?
Threat hunting of a network is a security function that employs innovative technology; threat intelligence coordinates with a proactive methodology to check malicious activities. Every business firm takes a precautionary approach to cyber security to stop attacks before hackers get deep into them. Therefore include threat hunting to their network security program in their net security protocol. It is a hard-line tactic to protect. Sophisticated threats can easily break into cyber security; therefore, Threat Hunting is essential.
In layman’s terms, Hunting is finding a way for evils to do evil things in cyberspace. The enterprises have done only preventive mechanisms with the prevention-centric security posture. Even now, Triage is critically employed, but it cannot be the only goal of SOC. Therefore you can not entirely rely on security information and event management (SIEM). SIEM is only counterproductive.
Why is Threat Hunting Important?
Network protections are not always 100 percent secured; therefore, Threat Hunting is one of the must-needed security tools. It is a kind of active defense mechanism.
Why We Need Security Tools:
- It proactively uncovers security incidents.
- Improve the Speed of Threat Response
- Minimize the response time
- Helps the cyber security analysts in the network of the company
- It helps to improve the network defense system
- Forces the company to get the best cyber security professionals
- It minimizes False Positives and Improves better SOC Efficiency
- Controls Damage and Overall Risk to the Organization
Generally, sophisticated hackers and intruders have access to almost all the defensive tools and tactics employed by enterprise defenders. And the intruders generally test their offensive tools and tactics against the enterprise infrastructure prior to deployment. Once the hacker judges that his steps may evade or be fruitful, he begins executing his plan.
Further, enterprises lack the resources, platforms, and techniques to fully control and protect their network system and data. As a result, the enterprisers are very much struggling to balance between business challenges, risk management, and security.
Technology is the only thing that quickly changes. Every day new apps are introduced, and new versions of the software are released; therefore, everything is changing rapidly in the technology world. Therefore network security team is expected to identify, manage, and protect their network from a new type of intrusion every second, every minute, and every day without slag in their routine.
Though the attackers can test against all defensive tools and tactics to intrude, but they cannot actually test against the professional threat hunters. In this sophisticated technology world, it is tough to protect the firm, but a cyber threat hunter can do a better job. Since they can dedicate themselves to the armor of digital defense system tools and techniques, they can protect the network efficiently.
What are the types of Threat Hunting?
The hunters start with the inputs based on the security data or triggers they receive from the environment. Then, with the available inputs, they investigate the potential risks deeply.
There are three types of threat hunting. They are:
- Structured Hunting
- Unstructured Hunting
- Entity-Driven or Situational Hunting
In Structured Hunting, hunting is performed based on IoA (Indicator of Attack), in addition to the tactics, procedures (TTPs), and techniques executed by the attackers. Structured hunting purely relays on threat intelligence inputs, such as MITRE ATT&CK Framework, which provides detailed data analysis about a wide variety of TTPs. Structured hunting is a hypothesis-based threat hunting. Further, Structured Hunts are always aligned and based on the TTPs of the threat actors.
Unstructured hunting starts from a trigger or IoC (Indicator of Compromise). Next, the hunter needs to search the network for malicious patterns or anomalies before and after the trigger or IoC. Further, they will analyze and investigate the historical data as far as the data retention limit is permitted. This type of investigation can help the hunter to discover new types of threats that can penetrate the network and the threats that have already penetrated the network and are staying dormant.
Entity-Driven or Situational Hunting:
Its primary objective is to focus on and prioritize the hunting activity’s effectiveness. Entity Driven or Situational hypotheses are derived from circumstances and network risk assessment. Situational hunting focuses on high-risk/high-value entities such as critical data or sensitive computer resources.
The Entity oriented leads are collected from crowd-sourced attack data that have the latest TTP of Current network security threats. Generally, the attackers target high-value assets or privileged users such as administrators, domain controllers, and developers in charge; therefore, this type of hunting helps to identify the high-priority targets and focus on the searches for relevant threats.
Threat Hunting Indicators
Indicators of Compromise:
IoCs are the forensic data evidence of potential intrusions on a host node of a network. IoC security event and event management (SIEM) systems help forensic investigators organize and analyze data for any breach or threat.
They provide the information security professional or system administrator to identify intrusion attempts or other malicious activities. The analyst uses IoCs to analyze particular malware behaviors and techniques. They provide actionable threat intelligence that can be shared with the community to strengthen the network for response and remediation strategy. Security professionals employ various tools that to extract the footprint from the event logs and time-stamped entries in the system and the applications and services to ascertain the breach or attack.
The skill to detect the indicators of compromise is an important thing in a comprehensive cyber security strategy. In Hunting, it can help to improve the detection accuracy, speed, and remediation time. Indicators of compromise can also be employed in the heuristic analysis. The IoC data can be collected in real-time to reduce the response time during the investigation. SIEM helps the investigator separate the noise from valuable evidence needed to identify exploit vectors and attacks. IOC is used in reactive forensic-driven responses.
Indicators of Attack:
An Indicator of Attack (IOA) is any digital or physical evidence that a cyber-attack is likely to occur.
Indicator of attack, otherwise termed IoA, focuses on detecting the intent of what a hacker is trying to accomplish with an attack. Then, when the attackers get the internal credentials, he moves laterally through the networking to get the privileged credentials that will help them to access highly sensitive resources.
Once the breach gets the privileged credentials, then the network system is compromised, and the data breach happens. With the IoA, the hunter can identify the attacker’s motivation with the help of specific tools. And he can easily identify why the attack happened. Generally, the IoA occurs before any data breach; if the incident responses are activated on time, the security breach could be intercepted and averted.
Since the cyber criminals’ movements are dynamic and he needs to employ numerous attack stages and multiple attack techniques, therefore the IoA data are dynamic. Whereas the IoC-based detection methods are static in nature. IoA detection aims to detect the activity of hackers. IoA supports a proactive approach to cyber security.
If both IoA and IoC are implemented altogether, it can help the hunters to understand the primary objectives of the attack so that they can effectively do the damage control measure.
Threat Hunting Methodologies:
The hunters assume that the hackers or adversaries are already in the system, and they initiate investigations to find the abnormal user pattern that may indicate the presence of malicious activity. The investigation typically falls into three main categories:
- Intelligence-Based Hunting
- Hypotheses-Based Hunting
- Investigation Based Hunting
All three approaches are human-powered endeavor that combines threat intelligence resources with advanced security technology to proactively protect network systems and information.
Intelligence-Based Hunting is a reactive threat-hunting technique designed to react according to the input source of Intelligence. The indicators are nothing but IP addresses, hash values, domain names, etc. The process may be integrated with SIEM data with threat intelligence tools to hunt threats.
It combines powerful data analysis tools and machine learning to sift through the enormous amount of data in order to detect any abnormalities that may suggest potential infiltration activity. These anomalies become the leads that are investigated by skilled hunters to identify stealthy threats. In Intelligence-based hunting, the inputs are the IoC from the threat intelligence inputs. From it, the hunt follows predefined rules established by the SIEM and threat intelligence.
Hypotheses-Based Hunting investigations are often triggered by a new threat that has been identified by the crowd-sourced attack data giving more insights into the attacker’s latest techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTP). Once they have identified the TTP pattern, then they will identify the attackers specific behaviors found in their environment.
The Hypotheses-Based Hunters use IoAs and TTP of attackers. They identify the threat based on the environment, domain, and attack behaviors employed in alignment with the MITRE framework. Once behavior and pattern are identified, the hunter can proactively detect the threats before damaging the network environment. Hypotheses-Based Hunting employs three types of hypotheses. They are analytics-driven, Intelligence-driven, and situation awareness driven.
Investigation Based Hunting is an approach of threat hunting leveraging tactical threat intelligence data known as IoC and IoA. It is a human-powered effort that combines intelligence resources with advanced security technology to proactively protect an environment’s network. Additionally, it helps to identify the advanced persistent threat APT groups and malware attacks.
The hybrid hunting technique combines all methods allowing the analysts to customize the hunt.
Key Tool for Cyber Threat Hunting:
Security analysts utilize various data sources, tools, and techniques to identify threats. The hunters analyze the data from MDR, SIEM, and security analytics tools as a base for the hunt. They can also use other tools and analyzers to execute network-based hunts. All essential sources and tools in a network are to be integrated to utilize the SIEM and MDR tools needs. This integration provides valuable clues from IoA and IoC.
Security Data and Telemetry:
SIEM (Security data and telemetry) helps cyber threat hunters with data navigation and forensic analysis by collecting and correlating data from EPP (endpoint protection platforms), EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response Platforms), Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS) Cloud Security and networking monitoring tools.
DRM (Digital Risk Monitoring):
Digital Risk Monitoring tools crawl the dark web and other media to give hunters an external view of the current threat exposure.
MITRE ATT&CK Framework:
Hunters can draw from MITRE ATT&CK document indicators of attack (IoA), tactics, techniques, and procedures to inform and test their hypotheses.
Security organizations document detailed cyber risk scenarios and countermeasures to protect their critical data and network systems. The hunters can use these to prioritize the investigations.
The security analytics platforms utilize artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and behavioral analysis of network data to identify potentially malicious activity. Security analytics can accelerate threat investigations by providing detailed data for cyber threat hunting.
MDR (Managed Detection and Response):
Managed Detection and Response applies threat intelligence proactive threat hunting to identify and remediate advanced threats. This helps the hunters to reduce the residing time of attacks and deliver fast and decisive responses to the attack within the network.
Combining SIM (Security Information Management) and SEM (Security Event Management) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) provide real-time monitoring of the network and analysis of events happening in the network, as well as tracking and logging of security data. It can uncover user behavior anomalies and other anomalies that provide essential leads for investigations.