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What is Threat Hunting?

Cyber threat hunting is an investigative process for detecting, analyzing, and responding to malicious cyber threats in a network before a data breach occurs. It is used to identify potential security incidents that have not been detected by traditional security measures such as antivirus systems, firewalls, IDS/IPS, Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) and more. Cyber threat hunting allows organizations to detect malicious activity before it causes significant damage. Threat hunting can also discover insider threats.

Unlike other security detection mechanisms, cyber threat hunting is an active process that seeks out threats rather than waiting for them to be detected by traditional security tools. As such, it requires significant human input and effort in order to be effective as malicious actors are constantly evolving their methods of exploiting networks.

The best threat hunters will improve your existing security solutions with the collected data to further protect against cyber adversaries and mitigate threats.

Advanced persistent threats and threat actors are more capable of avoiding your current threat detection, as these threat actors have much more patience, time, and budget, to achieve their goals.

cyber threat hunter finding an anomaly

How Does Cyber Threat Hunting Work?

Cyber threat hunting is a proactive approach to security. It involves analyzing system and network logs, IDS/IPS alerts, endpoint activity, user behavior analytics and more to identify suspicious activity or patterns in the data that may indicate a malicious attack. The hunting process typically starts with an initial investigation of the log data to establish normal baseline activity on the network. This baseline is then used to identify abnormal or suspicious activities that could indicate malicious activity.

Once suspicious activity has been detected, the next step for cyber threat hunters is to conduct further investigation and analysis of the data in order to determine its nature and potential impact. The aim is to quickly detect any malicious activity before it can cause significant damage.

threat hunting corridor

Cyber Threat Hunter Tools and Techniques

Cyber threat hunters rely on a variety of tools, techniques and log sources to investigate and analyze data for malicious activity. Some common tools and log sources used by cyber threat hunters include SIEMs, IDS/IPS systems, Active Directory logs, endpoint detection & response (EDR) solutions, user behavior analytics (UBA), data mining techniques, machine learning algorithms or other raw security data.

SIEMs are used to collect log data from multiple sources such as firewalls, servers, PCs, and other network devices in order to provide centralized visibility into system activities.

IDS/IPS systems monitor traffic going in and out of the network for any suspicious patterns or activities that could indicate an attack.

EDR solutions focus on monitoring individual endpoints for malicious behaviors in real time.

UBA is used to identify unusual user behavior that could indicate a malicious actor.

Data mining techniques and machine learning algorithms are used to detect patterns in the data that may indicate an attack or malicious activity.

By combining the security data these tools and analyzing events and logs they contain, cyber threat hunters can detect, analyze and respond to advanced cyber threats on their networks.

This allows organizations to stay one step ahead of malicious actors and protect their networks from potential security incidents.

How does cyber threat hunting work and what are the steps?

Proactive threat hunting works by searching for malicious activity on a network. It typically involves the following threat hunting steps:

  1. Either forming a hypothesis or identifying potential security events or indicators of compromise (IOCs) in log data or other sources of information.
  2. Analyzing the data to identify suspicious activities or any patterns that could indicate malicious behavior.
  3. Investigating and validating identified cyber threats, including verifying the source and nature of any malicious activity detected.
  4. Responding to identified cyber threats quickly and effectively in order to prevent further damage from occurring.
  5. Documenting all findings, actions taken, and results achieved in order to improve future cyber threat hunting efforts and provide evidence for incident response processes if needed.
cyber threat hunters investigating

What Are the Top Challenges of Cyber Security Hunting?

Cybersecurity hunting is a complex process that requires significant resources and human input. It also involves dealing with large amounts of data and recognizing suspicious activities or patterns in the data which can be difficult.

Other challenges include:

  1. Staying ahead of malicious actors who are constantly evolving their methods of exploitation.
  2. Dealing with false positives that can occur when analyzing log data or other sources of information.
  3. Keeping up to date on latest cyber threats, vulnerabilities and attack techniques so human threat hunters can stay one step ahead of attackers.
  4. Ensuring all tools, technologies and accesses used for threat hunting are properly configured and up to date as well as appropriate policies are in place to protect the network from threats.
  5. Allocating the necessary resources to create and maintain an effective threat hunting program.
  6. Ensuring that the security personnel involved in threat hunting have the right skills and expertise to carry out their roles effectively.
  7. Developing a clear process for investigating and responding to threats quickly and efficiently so as not to cause further damage.
  8. Coordinating with other teams within the organization, such as incident response and IT security, to ensure a comprehensive approach to threat hunting and prevention efforts.
  9. Documenting all findings, actions taken, and results achieved in order to improve future threat hunting programs and provide evidence for incident response processes if needed.
  10. Ensuring that all threat hunting activities comply with relevant laws and regulations.

Threat hunting is an effective way for organizations to stay one step ahead of malicious actors and protect their networks from potential security incidents. However, it requires a significant investment in both time and resources in order to be successful. Organizations must ensure they have the right people and processes in place to carry out effective threat hunting efforts as well as the necessary tools and technologies. It is also important for organizations to document all findings, actions taken, and results achieved in order to improve future threat hunting programs. By taking these steps, organizations can ensure they are better prepared to detect and respond to advanced threats on their networks.

Hypotheses-based hunting

This is a method of threat hunting where the hunter starts with an idea or hypothesis about what they believe to be true, and then design their searches to find evidence that could support or refute it. Hypotheses hunting can often times yield results that are more specific than other types of searches because the search is focused on a particular question or hypothesis. For instance, if an organization suspects that there is a malicious actor trying to gain access to its network, they may start with a hypothesis such as “Are any users attempting to log in from foreign countries?” or “Do we have any incoming RDP connections from the internet?”. This type of cyber threat hunting allows the hunters to look for any signs of suspicious activity indicating the attempt at unauthorized access.

Another important aspect of hypotheses-based hunting is the ability for threat hunters to use their creative and analytical skills to design searches that will uncover malicious activity. By having an understanding of the different techniques attackers might use, as well as knowledge about the company’s environment, hunters can create search queries that are tailored to identifying specific types of threats. This type of approach allows organizations to focus their efforts on locating potential threats more quickly and efficiently than using other methods.

Overall, hypotheses-based hunting is a powerful tool for threat hunters as it provides them with an effective way to design targeted searches based on specific questions or hypotheses. It also allows hunters to use their creativity and analytical skills in order to uncover potential security incidents on the network.

Investigation based on known Indicators of Compromise or Indicators of Attack

Threat hunters use Indicators of Compromise/Attacks (IoCs/ IoAs) as another important part of the threat hunting process. By analyzing log data or other sources of information for known attack patterns, organizations can identify potential malicious activity on their networks and take action to mitigate these hidden threats.

However, in order to effectively use IoCs/IoAs to hunt for threats, organizations must have an understanding of the different types of attacks and their associated indicators as well as the tools and techniques required to uncover them.

Furthermore, they must also stay up to date on new threats that may emerge over time in order to remain ahead of attackers.

In conclusion, threat hunting is a complex yet essential process that requires significant resources and human input in order to be successful. Organizations must ensure they are properly prepared with the right people, processes, and tools in order to effectively hunt for threats on their networks. By taking these steps, organizations can ensure they are better equipped to detect malicious activity and protect their systems from potential security incidents.

Incorporating threat intelligence with threat hunting

Using a Threat Intelligence platform this can provide even greater investigation, or threat hunt. By leveraging external threat data and combining it with cyber threat intelligence, organizations can gain a more comprehensive view of the security landscape and more effectively identify advanced threats before they cause damage.

In addition, threat hunting teams should also consider incorporating machine learning and other advanced technologies to their processes in order to quickly detect malicious activity and respond accordingly.

threat hunt investigation

What is the output of a successful threat hunt?

The output of a successful threat hunt typically includes detailed reports about the identified threats, including the type of attack or malicious activity that was discovered and the potential impact to the organization. In addition, these reports should provide clear recommendations for dealing with the threats and mitigating their risks, as well as steps for future prevention. Organizations should also take note of any lessons learned during the hunt process in order to improve their threat detection technologies and overall security posture in the future.

In case the security teams unravels an ongoing attack during threat hunting investigations they will naturally escalate this immediately to the respective Conclusion

A successful threat hunting program should not be a one-time-event but rather a continuous process, and a compliment to your existing security technologies.

By taking the right steps towards effective threat hunting, organizations can ensure they are better equipped to detect malicious activity and protect themselves from potential security incidents.

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