Threat Hunting

Threat Hunting

Published on

Published on

Published on

Jun 26, 2024

Jun 26, 2024

Jun 26, 2024

What is Cyber Threat Hunting?
What is Cyber Threat Hunting?
What is Cyber Threat Hunting?
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Threats from cyber attackers can come from anywhere and traditional defenses aren't always effective. That's where threat hunting comes into play. A proactive approach that can help organizations identify and neutralize hidden threats. Learn the best tactics for threat hunting to enhance your cybersecurity strategy and get ahead of the game - and the bad guys.

What is Cyber Threat Hunting?

Cyber threat hunting is the proactive act of looking for hidden threats that might otherwise remain unnoticed. As many organizations lack advanced capabilities to thwart advanced persistent threats, hunting should be considered a critical component of any defense strategy.

The process is meant to expose stealthy attackers who, after bypassing basic security barriers, extract data or credentials quietly, often for months at a time.

Defining Cyber Threat Hunting

Cyber threat hunting, at the highest level, is a deliberate and active process. Presuming attackers are already in the system and beginning to investigate can help uncover odd behavior that might indicate possible malicious intent. It allows organizations to be proactive in seeking out and quickly responding to threats as opposed to waiting for an automated notification to trigger.

It's the active pursuit of compromises, uncovering threat actor techniques and advanced threats such as APTs that typical security controls often miss. This involves employing various tactics, techniques, and procedures to systematically identify and mitigate potential threats.

The Role of Threat Intelligence in Hunting

At its deepest levels, threat hunting is heavily premised upon threat intelligence that provides actionable data and information that comprise the hypotheses and steps for threat identification and remediation. It can help develop aggregated risk scores and identify patterns or anomalies that might indicate breaches.

Hunting based upon intelligence involves:

  • Reacting to intelligence sources including indicators of compromise (IoCs), IP addresses, hash values, and domain names

  • Proactively anticipating and mitigating potential threats

  • Uncovering anomalies with cyber threat intelligence

  • Identifying stealthy threats

  • Providing actionable hunting tips for analysts to hunt.

Human vs. Machine in Threat Detection

Human cyber threat hunters often make the best detection engine due to the inherent abilities they bring to the table particularly when advanced threats are on the table. Intuition and the ability to perform threat remediation quicker and more accurately are critical parts of the threat hunting process.

However, we mustn't overlook the value of machine learning and advanced analytics. Automated security tools, including threat hunting platforms, rely upon these methods to detect anomalies and potential malicious activity. During deep-dive investigations, human threat hunters can work with machine learning systems to expose advanced attacks that automated systems often miss.

One significant advantage offered by our own Hunt.io is IOC Hunter, which leverages machine learning to make trusted public research machine-readable, enriching investigations with deep context and allowing for further pivots. By utilizing these capabilities, organizations can identify and mitigate potential threats more efficiently, staying one step ahead of cyber attackers.

Crafting a Cyber Threat Hunting Strategy

The creation of a robust threat hunting strategy necessitates an ideal mix of skilled security professionals, comprehensive data collection, and advanced analytics. The strategy needs to be strategically structured, supporting and furthering the organization's overall goals and resource capabilities, thus ensuring the success of the threat hunting program.

Building Your Threat Hunting Team

The effectiveness of a threat hunting program hinges on the competence of the team behind it. A skilled threat hunting team should consist of cybersecurity experts and analysts specialized in data analysis and the specific IT environment of the organization. These hunters must have a comprehensive understanding of the organization's operational environment and past threats to accurately identify and track possible security breaches.

To ensure the success of cyber defense activities within an organization's network, team members and other security entities must communicate effectively.

Selecting the Right Tools and Techniques

Selecting suitable tools and techniques forms a critical part of constructing an effective threat hunting strategy. Some aspects to consider when choosing a threat hunting service provider are:

  • Compatibility with existing systems

  • Scalability

  • Usability

  • Vendor support

The ideal threat hunting service provider should integrate well with the existing security infrastructure without requiring significant new investments.

Proactive threat hunting is the key

Proactive threat hunting can be categorized into hypothesis-driven investigation, investigation based on Indicators of Compromise or Attack, and advanced analytics and machine learning investigations. 

Hunt.io's Proactive Infrastructure Hunting solutions include high-fidelity IP scanning and fingerprinting, tailor-built to track malicious infrastructure and find a needle in a haystack. We enable organizations to investigate malicious infrastructure with deep context, avoiding dead ends. Additionally, we can track infrastructure not yet weaponized, associating the actor and expanding the understanding of malicious infrastructure.

For example, our research on tracking ShadowPad infrastructure demonstrates our capability to identify and monitor malicious infrastructure using non-standard certificates. By focusing on unique certificate characteristics, we can pinpoint and track the activities of ShadowPad operators, providing valuable intelligence to preempt potential threats.  Another study on how we identify malicious infrastructure highlights our techniques for deep context investigations. By employing advanced analytics and correlation methods, we can uncover hidden relationships and activity patterns within malicious networks.

Fig. 01. Active C2 servers found by Hunt.io's Platform

Additionally, our post on discovering and disrupting malicious infrastructure showcases our proactive measures in identifying and neutralizing threats before they become weaponized. This approach allows us to associate suspicious activities with specific threat actors, enabling preemptive action and reducing the risk of future attacks.

Fig. 02. Advanced search in action finding malicious malware families

To further enhance threat detection and response, solutions such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) can be integrated. These tools streamline hunting procedures by automating the monitoring, detection, and response to potential threats, complementing the proactive measures provided by Hunt.io's platform.

Adaptation and Iteration

The ability to adapt and iterate is an important component of a successful threat hunting initiative. A routine review of threat hunting campaigns is imperative for customizing and optimizing the threat hunting strategy to ensure it works effectively against attackers' new TTP.

The threat hunting service must be able to scale and adapt to meet the changing security requirements of an expanding enterprise. Threat hunting alone is not enough to detect and mitigate advanced cyber threats. The combination of threat intelligence and advanced security technologies is required for effective and proactive threat hunting.

How can enterprises effectively Threat Hunt?

Threat hunting demands a scientific method, which can be divided into threat hunting phases. It involves:

  1. Defining triggers that initiate an investigation

  2. Investigating deeply to reveal latent threats

  3. And finally resolving and reporting, where findings are reported and remedial actions are implemented.

Getting Started with the Hunt: Defining Triggers

The first phase of the threat hunting cycle is defining the trigger. A trigger may be:

  • Observed anomalies

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system alerts

  • Threat intelligence report insights

  • Known Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) or Indicators of Attack (IOAs) associated with an emerging threat

These triggers can serve as a starting point to commence threat hunting.

After defining potential triggers, hunters craft a hypothesis, which can be analytical, situational, or intelligence-driven, to direct the routine investigation.

Investigating Deeply: Revealing Latent Threats

The next phase of the threat hunting cycle is investigating deeply. Now that triggers have been identified and a hypothesis framed, the routine hunt work focuses on proactively looking for anomalies that will confirm or dismiss the hypothesis. It requires collecting context and answering the questions of 'Who?', 'What?', 'When?', 'Where?', and 'Why?' about the threat.

If the initial hypothesis is rejected during the routine investigation, the threat hunter will formulate a new one and proceed with the hunt for vulnerabilities or threats.

Resolving and Reporting: Findings to Remediation

The final phase of the threat hunting cycle is resolving and reporting. It involves documenting the threat type, addressing steps, and communicating the investigation findings to security teams for incident response to mitigate the threat.

Incident response and remediation support are imperative for reducing the severity of security incidents and enabling the organization's recovery efforts.

Advanced Techniques for Proactive Cyber Threat Hunting

Advanced techniques for proactive cyber threat hunting go beyond the basics to include techniques that include:

  • Intelligence-led hunting

  • Anomaly-based hunting

  • Hypothesis-driven hunting

  • Signature-agnostic hunting

  • Campaign-based hunting

  • Anomaly detection and behavioral analysis

These proactive techniques, when combined with historical data and process-oriented hunting methods, can predict and reduce potential cyber-attacks.

Anomaly Detection and Behavioral Analysis

Anomaly detection and behavioral analysis is one of the advanced threat hunting techniques. Behavioral analytics tools create a norm baseline of typical activities within an organization to identify deviations that may indicate security threats. AI and machine learning technologies can be used to analyze and filter data efficiently to improve pattern recognition and anomaly detection.

Using Threat Hunting Solutions

Another advanced technique is using threat hunting solutions. Threat hunting solutions like Threat Hunting-As-A-Service (THaaS) can provide expert threat hunting capabilities to organizations without the necessity to increase in-house staffing. They deliver solutions including proactive hunting, incident response, and persistent monitoring to safeguard an organization's digital assets.

Considerations for Using a Threat Hunting Service

Choosing the right threat hunting service is imperative. The service provider must:

  • Tailor services to meet client's specific security requirements and business needs

  • Provide monitoring and response 24/7

  • Employ a team that can promptly react to security incidents.

Vendor-client relationships and support with audits and security controls guidance should also be considered.

Blending Managed services with In-house efforts

The effectiveness of security teams can be improved with faster threat response and reduced investigation timelines by blending managed services with in-house efforts. These services can be embedded within organizations' existing security infrastructure and designed so that enterprises can leverage their existing technology stack to improve threat detection capabilities.

Adjusting Threat Hunting to Your Enterprise

Since no two enterprises or organizations are alike, threat hunting tactics should be tailored according to an organization's risk profile, available resources, and unique threats they face. This can be accomplished by evaluating the security data landscape and crafting a threat hunting roadmap.

Evaluating your Security Data Landscape

Involving data management and control systematic approach and evaluating the security data landscape is an imperative activity. Some top activities to consider are:

  1. Gathering granular system events data because it provides more detailed information for analyzing potential security incidents.

  2. Gaining access to detailed and consistent data from multiple sources since threat hunting requires data correlation.

  3. Deploying advanced analytics tools since they recognize subtle patterns or anomalies that could signify threats.

By considering these activities, you can efficiently evaluate the security data landscape and improve your overall organization's security posture.

Creating a Threat Hunting Roadmap

Adjusting threat hunting to your enterprise involves creating a threat hunting roadmap and it constitutes a basic activity. The roadmap should embed tools and strategies to tailor the hunt for potential vulnerabilities plus scheduled hunts to proactively pinpoint threats.

Incorporating custom threat hunting signatures ensures a precise and effective approach. Hunt.io's research team conducts full validation and signature writing to deeply validate Command and Control (C2) and malicious signals from a vast data collection apparatus, aligning threat-hunting efforts with the organization's specific security needs and challenges.

Fig. 03. Hunt.io custom threat hunting signatures

It should also feature a mechanism for continuous improvement, requiring regular reviews and performance assessments to constantly refine the threat hunting methodologies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get started with cyber threat hunting?

Identify anomalies to trigger hypotheses and actions for detecting and remediating threats. Consider SIEM system alerts and threat intelligence reports to get started with cyber threat hunting.

Why is threat intelligence important for threat hunting?

Actionable data from threat intelligence feeds informs hypotheses and actions for detecting and remediating threats. Therefore, threat intelligence is vital for effective threat hunting.

Overview

Proactive cyber threat hunting tactics are essential to successful threat hunting operations. The combination of advanced analytics tools, human expertise, and a culture of constant improvement is key to successful threat hunting. Remember that cyber threats already exist in your system, so proactive hunting tactics are required to detect and remediate threats before they cause damage. 

Ready to take your threat hunting to the next level? Book a demo today and explore our advanced threat hunting platform.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Threats from cyber attackers can come from anywhere and traditional defenses aren't always effective. That's where threat hunting comes into play. A proactive approach that can help organizations identify and neutralize hidden threats. Learn the best tactics for threat hunting to enhance your cybersecurity strategy and get ahead of the game - and the bad guys.

What is Cyber Threat Hunting?

Cyber threat hunting is the proactive act of looking for hidden threats that might otherwise remain unnoticed. As many organizations lack advanced capabilities to thwart advanced persistent threats, hunting should be considered a critical component of any defense strategy.

The process is meant to expose stealthy attackers who, after bypassing basic security barriers, extract data or credentials quietly, often for months at a time.

Defining Cyber Threat Hunting

Cyber threat hunting, at the highest level, is a deliberate and active process. Presuming attackers are already in the system and beginning to investigate can help uncover odd behavior that might indicate possible malicious intent. It allows organizations to be proactive in seeking out and quickly responding to threats as opposed to waiting for an automated notification to trigger.

It's the active pursuit of compromises, uncovering threat actor techniques and advanced threats such as APTs that typical security controls often miss. This involves employing various tactics, techniques, and procedures to systematically identify and mitigate potential threats.

The Role of Threat Intelligence in Hunting

At its deepest levels, threat hunting is heavily premised upon threat intelligence that provides actionable data and information that comprise the hypotheses and steps for threat identification and remediation. It can help develop aggregated risk scores and identify patterns or anomalies that might indicate breaches.

Hunting based upon intelligence involves:

  • Reacting to intelligence sources including indicators of compromise (IoCs), IP addresses, hash values, and domain names

  • Proactively anticipating and mitigating potential threats

  • Uncovering anomalies with cyber threat intelligence

  • Identifying stealthy threats

  • Providing actionable hunting tips for analysts to hunt.

Human vs. Machine in Threat Detection

Human cyber threat hunters often make the best detection engine due to the inherent abilities they bring to the table particularly when advanced threats are on the table. Intuition and the ability to perform threat remediation quicker and more accurately are critical parts of the threat hunting process.

However, we mustn't overlook the value of machine learning and advanced analytics. Automated security tools, including threat hunting platforms, rely upon these methods to detect anomalies and potential malicious activity. During deep-dive investigations, human threat hunters can work with machine learning systems to expose advanced attacks that automated systems often miss.

One significant advantage offered by our own Hunt.io is IOC Hunter, which leverages machine learning to make trusted public research machine-readable, enriching investigations with deep context and allowing for further pivots. By utilizing these capabilities, organizations can identify and mitigate potential threats more efficiently, staying one step ahead of cyber attackers.

Crafting a Cyber Threat Hunting Strategy

The creation of a robust threat hunting strategy necessitates an ideal mix of skilled security professionals, comprehensive data collection, and advanced analytics. The strategy needs to be strategically structured, supporting and furthering the organization's overall goals and resource capabilities, thus ensuring the success of the threat hunting program.

Building Your Threat Hunting Team

The effectiveness of a threat hunting program hinges on the competence of the team behind it. A skilled threat hunting team should consist of cybersecurity experts and analysts specialized in data analysis and the specific IT environment of the organization. These hunters must have a comprehensive understanding of the organization's operational environment and past threats to accurately identify and track possible security breaches.

To ensure the success of cyber defense activities within an organization's network, team members and other security entities must communicate effectively.

Selecting the Right Tools and Techniques

Selecting suitable tools and techniques forms a critical part of constructing an effective threat hunting strategy. Some aspects to consider when choosing a threat hunting service provider are:

  • Compatibility with existing systems

  • Scalability

  • Usability

  • Vendor support

The ideal threat hunting service provider should integrate well with the existing security infrastructure without requiring significant new investments.

Proactive threat hunting is the key

Proactive threat hunting can be categorized into hypothesis-driven investigation, investigation based on Indicators of Compromise or Attack, and advanced analytics and machine learning investigations. 

Hunt.io's Proactive Infrastructure Hunting solutions include high-fidelity IP scanning and fingerprinting, tailor-built to track malicious infrastructure and find a needle in a haystack. We enable organizations to investigate malicious infrastructure with deep context, avoiding dead ends. Additionally, we can track infrastructure not yet weaponized, associating the actor and expanding the understanding of malicious infrastructure.

For example, our research on tracking ShadowPad infrastructure demonstrates our capability to identify and monitor malicious infrastructure using non-standard certificates. By focusing on unique certificate characteristics, we can pinpoint and track the activities of ShadowPad operators, providing valuable intelligence to preempt potential threats.  Another study on how we identify malicious infrastructure highlights our techniques for deep context investigations. By employing advanced analytics and correlation methods, we can uncover hidden relationships and activity patterns within malicious networks.

Fig. 01. Active C2 servers found by Hunt.io's Platform

Additionally, our post on discovering and disrupting malicious infrastructure showcases our proactive measures in identifying and neutralizing threats before they become weaponized. This approach allows us to associate suspicious activities with specific threat actors, enabling preemptive action and reducing the risk of future attacks.

Fig. 02. Advanced search in action finding malicious malware families

To further enhance threat detection and response, solutions such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) can be integrated. These tools streamline hunting procedures by automating the monitoring, detection, and response to potential threats, complementing the proactive measures provided by Hunt.io's platform.

Adaptation and Iteration

The ability to adapt and iterate is an important component of a successful threat hunting initiative. A routine review of threat hunting campaigns is imperative for customizing and optimizing the threat hunting strategy to ensure it works effectively against attackers' new TTP.

The threat hunting service must be able to scale and adapt to meet the changing security requirements of an expanding enterprise. Threat hunting alone is not enough to detect and mitigate advanced cyber threats. The combination of threat intelligence and advanced security technologies is required for effective and proactive threat hunting.

How can enterprises effectively Threat Hunt?

Threat hunting demands a scientific method, which can be divided into threat hunting phases. It involves:

  1. Defining triggers that initiate an investigation

  2. Investigating deeply to reveal latent threats

  3. And finally resolving and reporting, where findings are reported and remedial actions are implemented.

Getting Started with the Hunt: Defining Triggers

The first phase of the threat hunting cycle is defining the trigger. A trigger may be:

  • Observed anomalies

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system alerts

  • Threat intelligence report insights

  • Known Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) or Indicators of Attack (IOAs) associated with an emerging threat

These triggers can serve as a starting point to commence threat hunting.

After defining potential triggers, hunters craft a hypothesis, which can be analytical, situational, or intelligence-driven, to direct the routine investigation.

Investigating Deeply: Revealing Latent Threats

The next phase of the threat hunting cycle is investigating deeply. Now that triggers have been identified and a hypothesis framed, the routine hunt work focuses on proactively looking for anomalies that will confirm or dismiss the hypothesis. It requires collecting context and answering the questions of 'Who?', 'What?', 'When?', 'Where?', and 'Why?' about the threat.

If the initial hypothesis is rejected during the routine investigation, the threat hunter will formulate a new one and proceed with the hunt for vulnerabilities or threats.

Resolving and Reporting: Findings to Remediation

The final phase of the threat hunting cycle is resolving and reporting. It involves documenting the threat type, addressing steps, and communicating the investigation findings to security teams for incident response to mitigate the threat.

Incident response and remediation support are imperative for reducing the severity of security incidents and enabling the organization's recovery efforts.

Advanced Techniques for Proactive Cyber Threat Hunting

Advanced techniques for proactive cyber threat hunting go beyond the basics to include techniques that include:

  • Intelligence-led hunting

  • Anomaly-based hunting

  • Hypothesis-driven hunting

  • Signature-agnostic hunting

  • Campaign-based hunting

  • Anomaly detection and behavioral analysis

These proactive techniques, when combined with historical data and process-oriented hunting methods, can predict and reduce potential cyber-attacks.

Anomaly Detection and Behavioral Analysis

Anomaly detection and behavioral analysis is one of the advanced threat hunting techniques. Behavioral analytics tools create a norm baseline of typical activities within an organization to identify deviations that may indicate security threats. AI and machine learning technologies can be used to analyze and filter data efficiently to improve pattern recognition and anomaly detection.

Using Threat Hunting Solutions

Another advanced technique is using threat hunting solutions. Threat hunting solutions like Threat Hunting-As-A-Service (THaaS) can provide expert threat hunting capabilities to organizations without the necessity to increase in-house staffing. They deliver solutions including proactive hunting, incident response, and persistent monitoring to safeguard an organization's digital assets.

Considerations for Using a Threat Hunting Service

Choosing the right threat hunting service is imperative. The service provider must:

  • Tailor services to meet client's specific security requirements and business needs

  • Provide monitoring and response 24/7

  • Employ a team that can promptly react to security incidents.

Vendor-client relationships and support with audits and security controls guidance should also be considered.

Blending Managed services with In-house efforts

The effectiveness of security teams can be improved with faster threat response and reduced investigation timelines by blending managed services with in-house efforts. These services can be embedded within organizations' existing security infrastructure and designed so that enterprises can leverage their existing technology stack to improve threat detection capabilities.

Adjusting Threat Hunting to Your Enterprise

Since no two enterprises or organizations are alike, threat hunting tactics should be tailored according to an organization's risk profile, available resources, and unique threats they face. This can be accomplished by evaluating the security data landscape and crafting a threat hunting roadmap.

Evaluating your Security Data Landscape

Involving data management and control systematic approach and evaluating the security data landscape is an imperative activity. Some top activities to consider are:

  1. Gathering granular system events data because it provides more detailed information for analyzing potential security incidents.

  2. Gaining access to detailed and consistent data from multiple sources since threat hunting requires data correlation.

  3. Deploying advanced analytics tools since they recognize subtle patterns or anomalies that could signify threats.

By considering these activities, you can efficiently evaluate the security data landscape and improve your overall organization's security posture.

Creating a Threat Hunting Roadmap

Adjusting threat hunting to your enterprise involves creating a threat hunting roadmap and it constitutes a basic activity. The roadmap should embed tools and strategies to tailor the hunt for potential vulnerabilities plus scheduled hunts to proactively pinpoint threats.

Incorporating custom threat hunting signatures ensures a precise and effective approach. Hunt.io's research team conducts full validation and signature writing to deeply validate Command and Control (C2) and malicious signals from a vast data collection apparatus, aligning threat-hunting efforts with the organization's specific security needs and challenges.

Fig. 03. Hunt.io custom threat hunting signatures

It should also feature a mechanism for continuous improvement, requiring regular reviews and performance assessments to constantly refine the threat hunting methodologies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get started with cyber threat hunting?

Identify anomalies to trigger hypotheses and actions for detecting and remediating threats. Consider SIEM system alerts and threat intelligence reports to get started with cyber threat hunting.

Why is threat intelligence important for threat hunting?

Actionable data from threat intelligence feeds informs hypotheses and actions for detecting and remediating threats. Therefore, threat intelligence is vital for effective threat hunting.

Overview

Proactive cyber threat hunting tactics are essential to successful threat hunting operations. The combination of advanced analytics tools, human expertise, and a culture of constant improvement is key to successful threat hunting. Remember that cyber threats already exist in your system, so proactive hunting tactics are required to detect and remediate threats before they cause damage. 

Ready to take your threat hunting to the next level? Book a demo today and explore our advanced threat hunting platform.

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