What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

How It Works and Why It Is Important

Cybercriminals are getting better. Gone are the quaint days of emails from far away princes and their promises of untold wealth. Cyberattacks are also becoming more frequent and for every big data breach that makes the news, there are a thousand that don’t. The damage is difficult to estimate, but the U.S. Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information, Technology and Government estimates that “malicious cyber activity” costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually.

Today, cyberattacks are efficient, organized and, depending on the type of breach, oftentimes so stealthy, a company might not even know it has happened. This is where knowing how to run smart cyber intelligence operations can make a huge difference in preventing costly attacks.

Ideally, cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is like trying to prevent a crime by attempting to solve it before it happens. It’s not just protecting your information from hackers but really understanding how a hacker might go about an attack and why they would attack you to begin with.

What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?

Cyber threat intelligence is evidence-based information about cyberattacks that cybersecurity experts organize and analyze. This information can include:

  • Details of past or current attacks on similar organizations
  • Hypothetical criminal profiles including motivation, methods, and capabilities
  • The logistics of an attack
  • Clues that indicate an attack is in progress
  • The cause and effect of different types of attacks on different parts of an organization
  • Action-oriented advice on attack defense

Three Types of Threat Intelligence

The information and evidence gathered by CTI is typically organized into three different types depending on how it’s used.

  • Tactical intelligence is focused on attacks currently taking place. Tactical threat intelligence includes the details of how threats are being carried out and defended against, including attack methods, tools, types of businesses or technologies that are targeted, and defense strategies. It helps an organization understand how likely they are to be a target for similar types of attacks and make informed decisions in the moment.
  • Operational intelligence is concerned with attacks that could take place. It assesses risks and attack potential. Operational intelligence also studies an adversary’s capabilities and motivations and is used to thwart threats before they become active attacks.
  • Strategic intelligence takes operational and tactical intelligence and turns that data into action that goes beyond the IT department of a large company. This is information designed for higher-level leadership to make decisions and technological investments.
  • Why Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?

    CTI is important because it provides actionable information to an organization’s IT team so that they can be better prepared to stop an attack while it’s happening and prevent a threat before it causes damage. Good cyber threat intelligence can save time, money, and potentially a company’s reputation. The more intelligence cybersecurity professionals can gather, the better equipped their arsenal of defense will be.

    The larger an organization, the more complex its information technology infrastructure is likely to be. CTI is a way of constantly maintaining oversight of the multitude of systems and services currently in place and understanding how they all work together to prevent attacks.

    What Roles Use Cyber Threat Intelligence?

    A cyber threat intelligence analyst is the specific position designed to be able to synthesize the tactical, operational intelligence and create strategic intelligence that empowers leadership to make cybersecurity-informed decisions. However, all roles in an organization’s IT and cybersecurity division use, and benefit from, threat intelligence including:

    • Information security analysts
    • Security operations center (SOC) analysts
    • Members of a computer security incident response team (CSIRT)
    • Member of executive management, including chief information security officer (CISO)

    These job titles are just a selection of some of the lucrative career options available to qualified cyber professionals. Ready to boost your salary? Read more about Excelsior’s BS in Cybersecurity and MS in Cybersecurity programs to get started.