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Threat Hunting

What Is Threat Hunting?

Threat hunting is a proactive cybersecurity approach that combines digital forensics and incident response tactics to identify unknown and ongoing cyber threats that have remained undetected inside an organization's network. The primary goal of threat hunting is to discover potential incidents before they negatively impact your organization. 

This can be done by:

  1. Checking your system’s memory for malicious activity using memory dumps, which are snapshots of a device's random access memory (RAM) at a specific point in time
  2. Analyzing server images for threat activity
  3. Checking endpoint protection data for signs of suspicious activity
  4. Analyzing the disk images of individual workstations to see if anything raises a red flag
  5. Checking your network protection infrastructure for alerts or anomalous data points that may indicate the presence of a threat, such as malware

Threat Hunting vs. Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence is different from threat hunting in several ways. 

For instance, cyber threat intelligence provides security teams with information on current or potential threats—typically via a threat intelligence feed or platform. These feeds come in various formats. For instance, they may contain a list of domain names or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses where questionable activity has been detected by security analysts. Threat intelligence can also involve analyses of particular threat actors' behavior, identifying the tools and procedures hackers use in their attacks.

Threat hunting, on the other hand, proactively goes after certain threats by examining systems and the data they produce vs. merely gathering information from intelligence feeds.

Threat Hunting Definition: Role of Threat Hunting in Enterprise Security

Cyber threat hunting plays a unique role in enterprise security, particularly because it uses a combination of human intelligence and engineering to search for indicators of compromise (IOCs). By leveraging the IOC search process, threat intelligence analysts can more efficiently examine an organization's environment and weed out events that require more in-depth analysis.

This threat hunting methodology improves the accuracy of threat detection, lowers the risk of an event, and enables proactive discovery and mitigation of hidden threats. The sooner threats are discovered and reported to an incident responder, the sooner they can be eliminated, ensuring networks and data remain safe.

How Does Threat Hunting Enhance Incident Response?

Threat hunting is a proactive approach of dealing with attacks, while incident response is a reactive strategy. Used together, threat hunting enhances incident response. In other words, to strengthen your cybersecurity posture and achieve cyber resilience, both threat hunting and incident response are necessary. A well-crafted threat hunting program supplements incident response in various ways, primarily by identifying potential threat variables that can put an organization in harm's way.

Threat hunting initiates the incident response process once it identifies dangerous activity or uncovers a network vulnerability. Also, organizations can use threat-hunting data to create an effective incident response strategy. For example, if the threat-hunting process discovers a potential threat and how it may attack network resources, the incident response team can use this data to prepare ahead of time and maximize resiliency in the wake of an attack.

How To Detect Advanced Attacks with Cyber Threat Hunting

Detecting advanced attacks using threat hunting involves three phases: trigger, investigation, and resolution.

Auslöser

If an anomalous activity is detected, an alert gets triggered. Because threat detection tools will point out exactly where the threat is located, cybersecurity teams know which specific area of the network to examine. Security teams can then develop a hypothesis regarding the threat's activities within the system.

Investigation

The next step is to look at various tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to find new threat behaviors and patterns in the data that has been gathered. Data examination continues until the hypothesis developed in the previous step is either supported or disproved.

Auflösung

Once the nature of the threat has been established, security professionals should immediately neutralize the attack, then take steps to understand what vulnerability caused it in the first place. This helps improve security and prevent future intrusions.

Top 4 Effective Threat-Hunting Tools

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

An MDR is an outsourced service security providers offer to protect organizations from threats. A remote team of threat hunters identifies, analyzes, investigates, and responds to threats on behalf of the organization that engaged their service.

SIEM

Security information and event management (SIEM) aggregates security information and event management data from different sources. It uses software products and services that provide real-time analysis of the security alerts produced by various hardware and software components in your network.

Security Analytics

Security analytics combines software, algorithms, and analytical techniques to find possible vulnerabilities in IT systems. Because security analytics tools provide easy-to-digest graphs and charts about threat data, detecting correlations and patterns is faster and much easier. 

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

As a cyber hunting tool, an endpoint detection and response (EDR) system performs the following functions:

  1. Observe and gather endpoint activity data that may indicate a threat
  2. Examine this information to spot any threat patterns
  3. Automatically eliminate or contain threats once they are recognized, and then alert security staff
  4. Use forensics and analysis to investigate risks that have been detected and look for anomalous activity

Five Tips for Effective Threat Hunting

For threat hunting to be effective, teams must focus on three main goals: which information to gather and in what context, how to obtain this information, and how to analyze the data to support or refute a threat hypothesis. 

Here are five tips to do this effectively:

  • Use third-party tools as appropriate: As they say, no need to reinvent the wheel. Leverage the appropriate third-party tools for your objectives.
  • Enhance your programming knowledge: PowerShell, Python, or other scripting languages may be a challenge to learn now but can be very helpful later on.
  • Maximize your organization's security technology: Your company invests a lot of time and resources in security tools, so get the most value out of them.
  • Document your processes and scripts: You can use this information later to analyze the effectiveness of your techniques.
  • Do not be a silo: Discuss ideas not just with your team but with other teams as well, and allow various viewpoints to enhance your threat hunting.

How Fortinet Can Help?

The Fortinet endpoint protection tool, FortiEDR, offers real-time visibility, analysis, protection, and remediation of your organization's various endpoints. As an essential element of the threat-hunting process, FortiEDR actively shrinks your attack surface, stops malware in its tracks, identifies and neutralizes threats in real time, and automates response and cleanup processes using customizable playbooks.

FortiSIEM architecture enables unified data collection and analytics from diverse information sources including logs, performance metrics, security alerts, and configuration changes. FortiSIEM combines the analytics traditionally monitored in separate silos of the security operations center (SOC) and network operations center (NOC) for a more holistic view of the security and availability of the business.

FAQs

What are some threat-hunting techniques?

Threat-hunting techniques can involve the following:

  1. Memory dumps, which check your system’s memory for signs of malicious activity
  2. Analyzing server images for threat activity
  3. Checking endpoint protection data for possible incidents
  4. Analyzing the disk images of individual workstations to see if anything raises a red flag
  5. Checking your network protection infrastructure for alerts or anomalous data points that may indicate the presence of a threat

What is required to start threat hunting?

To start threat hunting, use tools such as:

  1. Managed detection and response (MDR)
  2. SIEM
  3. Security analytics
  4. Endpoint detection and response (EDR)

What are the types of threat hunting?

The types of threat hunting include:

  1. Structured hunting, which involves studying attack indicators and methodologies and then using what you find to identify a threat
  2. Unstructured hunting, which is triggered by an indicator of compromise (IOC)
  3. Situational hunting, which is based on a hypothesis about the kind of threat that may attack an enterprise—or one that is already attacking it