In the 21st century, it’s important to have active, effective threat management systems guarding your networks, but a firewall, IDS, or SIEM only work up to a point—and often only after the warning of a threat. To truly be protected, your business must be proactive with its digital protection.
No matter how good your security measures are, you shouldn’t believe they are impenetrable. You may already have hidden threats lurking in your networks. Threat hunting is a cybersecurity method on the rise that allows you to take your defense measures on the offensive, actively searching for hidden threats and in-progress attacks and isolating any damage they can do—or have already done.
Defining “Threat Hunting”
There are many things that threat hunting is, and a few that it is not. In short, it’s a focused hypothesis-based plan to search, find, and contain threats that are already inside your network. For a threat to actually be a threat, it must include the intent, capability, and opportunity to commit harm.
That is why hunting does not focus on external forces trying to break in or on potential vulnerabilities to your systems. Its focus remains strictly on identifying current threats and counteracting their efforts.
Why Use Threat Hunting
If the only possible threat your company had to worry about was automated malware, hunting for threats would be unnecessary. Anti-virus software and firewalls would be sufficient to battle against any invading threat of that nature. But threats are not just viruses and malware; threats are people.
A person on the other end of a threat is adaptable, clever, and persistent. Security programs may delay a person, but in the long run, they will be unable to keep a human hacker out. By having a human actively hunting for threats, rather than waiting for alerts, you have an equal measure capable of adapting just as fast as the threat in order to minimize damage.
Hunting for Threats Should Be a Part of Security, Not the Whole
In all likelihood, your company is already committed to an informal version of hunting, but the goal should be to formalize and integrate this method into daily workflows and dedicate a security team purely to hunting threats. You may have hunting as a part of a security analyst’s duties, though it is likely not the analyst’s dedicated focus. To be effective, threat hunting should be an ongoing strategy.
As your business scales up, your security model and process should scale with your growth, but at no point should hunting be relied on as the be-all, end-all of security. It is a particular process and role that works in tandem with your other security measures.
The Basics of Getting Started
Threat hunting is an active intelligence method that involves collecting data, turning it into useable information, and then analyzing that information until it becomes useful knowledge. The entire process can be complicated, but when done well, it can be reduced to a few basic concepts and methods.
Start with a hypothesis as to where a threat may come from; what information or asset is vital to your business and may be the most tantalizing to a potential threat? How would a threat gain access to this information on your network? What may he or she choose to do with this information once found? The answers to these questions become the place a hunter starts to collect data; only with good data can hunters do their job effectively. Following the trail of data, interpreting the results, and spotting—then stopping—an active threat makes a threat hunter well worth the investment.
Threat hunting is an important part of every cybersecurity team. This focused, proactive, ongoing method of rooting out current threats allows your business to minimize the potential damage a hacker could do in your network.