Cyber Threat Analysis – A Complete Guide- The process of examining the cyber actions and capabilities of unknown intelligence entities or criminals is known as cyber threat analysis. A cybersecurity threat, often known as a “cyber threat,” is a harmful act that attempts to disrupt digital life. This crime could involve the disruption of a communication channel, data damage, or data theft.
Hackers prey on businesses, governments, institutions, and even individuals with sensitive data. Denial of service (DoS) assaults, computer viruses, malware, phishing emails, and other cyber-attacks are all potential threats. Anyone with an internet presence is a target of the attacks. Electrical blackouts, breaches of government security details, failure of military equipment, interruption of computer networks, paralysis of phone networks, unavailability of secret data, and disturbance of human existence are all possible outcomes of cyber-attacks.
Cyber-threats are becoming more prevalent every day as artificial intelligence and intelligent systems evolve, necessitating the development of new abilities to circumvent highly guarded systems. As a result, company executives must conduct a thorough and extensive cyber threat analysis to determine the level of their company’s or enterprise’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
The basic goal of cyber threat analysis is to generate findings that can be used to help start or support counter-intelligence investigations. The threat is then removed from the specified organisations, businesses, or government systems. The knowledge of external and internal information vulnerabilities linked to a particular business model is matched against actual or real-world cyber-attacks in cyber threat analysis. This method to cyber-attack defence is a desirable move from a reactive security state to a proactive, efficient state.
A threat assessment’s final output should include best practises for implementing protective controls to ensure integrity, availability, and confidentiality while maintaining functionality and usability.
Components of the Cyber Threat Analysis Process
What will be included and excluded from the cyber threat analysis is defined by the scope of the analysis. Included objects are those that should be safeguarded from the threat.
Identifying every vulnerable object that needs to be secured from hostile third parties should be the first step in any cyber threat investigation. Following that, the analysis drafters draught and extensively specify the item’s level of sensitivity and intended degree of protection.
Collection of Data
Procedures and rules govern how people, machines, and other organisational components are supposed to operate in every well-structured firm. For the sake of compliance, all of these must be mentioned explicitly.
In actuality, about a quarter of businesses fail to fulfil the industry’s baseline security standards. Most firms fail to fulfil the required security standards because they are in a rush to meet a policy, according to Hewlett Packard’s Senior Vice President, Art Gilland. Instead of adopting preventive measures to the levels determined by the scope of the threat and the exposed item, organisations tend to “check boxes” for compliance.
The initial step in the Data Collection stage is to gather information regarding the actual cyber-attack or threat situations. Phishing email headers and content, exposed hostile command and control infrastructure of IP addresses and domain names, URLs to malicious websites, and so on are only a few examples. It’s important to distinguish between real threats and threats that aren’t real but are perceived as such. The scope should aid in filtering away perceived risks, allowing the focus to be on the specific threats that do exist in reality.
An information technology analyst must have unrestricted system access in order to translate data into intelligence. Internet searches, intrusion incidents, firewall logs, digital forensic analysis, reverse engineering of malware, digital forensic analysis, detection system logs, honeypots, and other sources can all be used to conduct research.
Corporate procedures and policies should be examined and thoroughly investigated to determine whether they fulfil the organization’s compliance criteria or level.
Vulnerability Analysis of Acceptable Risks
In this step, the analysts put what they’ve learned to the test in order to figure out how much of a risk they’re dealing with right now. The competence of the present security defence to neutralise information threats in terms of integrity, availability, and confidentiality is tested. This stage should double-check that the current policies, security measures, and procedures are sufficient safeguards. In order to uncover vulnerabilities, penetration tests are performed as part of vulnerability assessments.
Threat analysis is a continual activity, not a one-time or infrequent occurrence. It is a continuous procedure that ensures that all safeguards are in place and functioning effectively. Risk assessment should be implemented as an important element of an organization’s complete life cycle. This aids in the identification of hazards that have not yet fully developed, causing maximum damage and cost to the firm.
Mitigation and Anticipation
After all of the previous processes have been completed, a highly qualified analyst can use the corpus of threat data to determine preventive measures. The analyst’s job is to categorise threat data into groups, assign each pattern to individual threat actors, and put mitigation plans in place. As a result, the analyst must prepare for another comparable attack in the future.
This section’s threat models and metrics are intended to aid in the characterisation of individual threats, hence achieving the primary goal of threat analysis.
When proper measurement of events is done, understanding how anomalies and trends develop can help with the threat analysis process. It can also highlight the capability of specific threats. This is accomplished by connecting the gaps between known risks and their potential repercussions. In a nutshell, qualitative threat measurement techniques and processes should yield exact risk management outcomes. Defining and implementing acceptable threat measures is a practise with a lack of maturity and consistency in its execution.
A metric unit is a unit of measurement. Measure, on the other hand, is a description of a certain characteristic of performance. For example, if a threat is precisely quantified in a consistent manner, using a good metric that is both clear and unambiguous, the analyst is more likely to improve his ability to comprehend, affect, control, and defend against that threat for a particular period of time. If the nebulosity isn’t too dark, making decisions based on the correct interpolation is considerably easier.
The amount of intrusions or attacks every month is an excellent example of an acceptable quantitative portrayal in cyberspace. When these figures are collected over a lengthy period of time, they can show the adversary’s capacity and intent. This assigns an analyst the job of accurately calculating all potential hazards and allocating the resources needed to resolve them.
A threat model is a well-organized representation of all the required information that impacts a system’s, application’s, or network server’s security. Simply said, this is the perspective of information technology via a security glass. Threat modelling is the process of gathering, organising, and analysing all available data in a logical and intelligible manner. Instead of a single metric, a measurement framework, which is a collection of measures, is chosen to do this. This is due to the latter’s inability to capture the behavioural properties of complex actors or systems.
A threat can be defined as a hostile actor with a specific personal, political, or societal aim that is meant to oppose an accepted social standard, a private enterprise, or an established government, in addition to the definition given at the outset. In this example, the actor could be a company, an institution, or an individual with self-serving goals to pursue. On the other hand, a model is a simplified depiction of anything. As a result, a threat model is a hybrid of the two definitions, emphasising elements that are relevant to the danger.
In threat analysis, using a consistent threat model increases consistency while also reducing the negative consequences of personal bias, preconceived beliefs, and notions. As time passes, the amount of data collected increases, as does the success rate index. For these reasons, it is strongly encouraged, among other things, to preserve a clear and trackable record of all data saved in a continuous way. Data that has been properly documented serves as a reference database that may be used by other cyber-security specialists.
There are three important steps in the risk assessment and threat modelling process:
- Assess risk – determine the amount you are to lose from the assessment
- Determine potential threats – list several aspects of your system that could be targeted, such as what libraries and frameworks do for you.
- Mitigate threats – make sure that the parts of your code that are susceptible to attack are well protected.
Threat Modelling Process
The threat modelling process is described in detail below.
- Identify assets – make a list of all the assets that must be safeguarded.
- Create an architecture overview – record the architecture of your system using tables and basic diagrams. Trust boundaries, data flow, and subsystems are among the other elements to be included.
- Break down the application — to come up with a security profile for the system, break down the architecture of your application, including the underlying host infrastructure design. The main goal of building a security profile is to find every single flaw in the system’s design, configuration, or implementation.
- Identify the risk – with the attacker’s goal in mind, as well as knowledge of your system’s architecture and potential vulnerabilities, identify the risks that could have a significant impact on the system or application.
- Document the dangers in a logical and orderly manner – utilise a standard threat template to capture the elements unique to each threat.
- Rate the threat – order the dangers in order of the potential damage they can cause to the system, with the most serious risks appearing first.
The Generic Threat Matrix
An analyst employs threat attributes to identify the type of risk depending on the overall nature of the threat in this manner. An analyst can adequately explain dangers using this type of characterisation without subscribing to a preexisting assumption. To clarify, a matrix is a framework or a model that is used to organise a group of connected metrics into the required structure. The matrix is divided into magnitude levels, each of which represents a distinct threat.
A threat characteristic is a distinct aspect of a danger that falls into one of two categories:
Commitment Attribute Group
A commitment is a promise that binds a person to a specific course of action. Using the same logic, attributes in the commitment group attest to the threat’s unconditional willingness to achieve its specific aim. Threats to reach a higher level of dedication essentially stop at nothing to achieve their goal. There are three types of attributes:
- Stealth (Is there any confirmed knowledge about the threat that the organisation has?)
- Time (Question: how much is the threat willing to invest in terms of time?)
- Intensity (Question: To what extent is the threat willing to go?)
Attribute Group for Resources
The attributes in this category show how much a threat can deploy in terms of resources. Unlike the commitment attribute group, a higher magnitude value indicates that the threat is more sophisticated, and hence can easily achieve its aim.
There are three attributes that make up a resource family:
- Access (Question: How effective is the threat actor’s capacity to compromise the system?)
- Technical Personnel (Question: How many people does the threat employ to achieve its goals?)
- Knowledge (Question: What is the level of competence that drives the threat engine?)
This is the path or route taken by a threat to acquire access to a system, network, or device, with the goal of launching a cyber-attack, installing malware, gathering important data, and so on. The following are the attack vectors:
- Mobile phones
- Wireless networks that aren’t secure
- Attacks through phishing
- Media that can be removed
- Malicious web content Viruses and malware
Because certain targets are more vulnerable and appealing than others, the rate at which they are attacked by threats varies. The frequency with which a target is attacked is another important information that can be stated in metrics.
The concept of attack trees is a logical and hierarchical means of collecting and documenting the predicted or likely assaults on a given system. The tree divides the threat agents into groups based on the type of attack they use.
Pros of attack trees
- It offers a straightforward and transparent mode for analysing assault agents.
- The concept promotes the use of deductions or conclusions that can be used to produce high-quality results.
- They’re extremely adaptable, so they can handle the whole range of threats and attack agents across the entire platform.
- It works with other models, and data from attack trees can be used in another model’s analysis.
This is a measure that can be used in conjunction with data indicating the severity of an attack. When employing an attack tree model for threat analysis, the idea of combining a vulnerability index and a frequency metric can be considered.
Threat Analyst Job Description and Assessment Skills
A threat analyst is in charge of calculating the amount of danger in their organisation based on risk and vulnerability assessments. The threat analyst determines which security measures should be implemented and which ones should be abandoned. Excessive measures may result in overprotective controls, resulting in greater initial installation costs and unnecessarily high maintenance expenditures.
With technological innovation, threats and the nature of assaults continue to evolve. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on innovation and training. The only way to combat the fast evolving cyber-attacks is to become a strong technical specialist. Continuous practise and learning from books, blogs, and journals are essential to develop your information technology security abilities. To become an excellent analyst who can properly deal with faced security challenges, you must put in a lot of effort.
Data for analysis is typically received from intelligent goods, which require technical expertise to analyse. The threat analyst must be able to analyse and interpret security event data. To prepare a report on their findings, the analyst should have technical writing abilities. These abilities are frequently more of an art than a science.
Cyber threat analysis is an ongoing activity that should be performed on a regular basis to ensure that security solutions are working as intended. This is due to fast changing technology as well as other elements that affect cyberspace, such as political, social, and other issues. Organizations that do not do threat and risk assessments leave themselves vulnerable to cyber pests, which can permanently harm their organisation. Nothing is more damaging in the cybersecurity hemisphere than feeling vulnerable, as it leaves you with no choice but to hope that your lucky star will miraculously extend its reach to patch up every loophole in the system via which threats invade.