Threat Hunting Principles and Techniques

Threat Hunting Principles and Techniques

Cyber threats evolve and become more and more sophisticated day by day. When a set of classic information protection tools (a firewall, antivirus software, intrusion detection system) is not enough to deal with them, countering threats moves to the stage of applying active and proactive methods and techniques. One of the methods of such protection is threat hunting, a process of heuristic search and detection of malicious activity.

Threat hunting (or cybersecurity threat hunting) is the general name for the processes, the essence of which is the constant, cyclical search and elimination of threats that have bypassed existing security solutions. The concept of threat hunting is based on the activities of the defenders, and this allows us to classify it among the proactive ways to deal with threats.

Principles and Methods of Threat Hunting

The proactive search for threats begins with the fact that the cyber hunter formulates a hypothesis – the assumption that some fact of compromise has occurred. After that this hypothesis must be tested, and then the violation of the security policy will be confirmed or refuted. The success and efficiency of the entire security hunting process will largely depend on the skill of forming a hypothesis.

How does an analyst formulate hypotheses? First of all, he does this based on his observations. There may be some strangeness in network traffic, similar to an anomaly, or the appearance of markers and processes that are not justified by the regular functioning of the IT infrastructure. In any case, these are events that automation can perceive as noise, and only the experience of the analyst will allow them to pay attention. Another important feature of hypotheses is their testability: assumptions that cannot be tested are meaningless.

So, what is needed to implement cyber threat hunting method in an organization?

First, this is the data collected. The more data is collected, the more opportunities there are to detect threats.

Second, these are certain threat hunting tools used to analyze data.

And finally, these are the skills of analysts.

Data, technology, and people are three main components of threat hunting.

main components of threat hunting

These components underlie the Hunting Maturity Model (HMM, a system for assessing the readiness of a business to use proactive threat hunting), which distinguishes 5 levels of such readiness.

  • HMM0 – Initial (the company relies primarily on traditional security systems).
  • HMM1 – Minimal (analysts regularly collect information from the IT infrastructure and use cyber intelligence data).
  • HMM2 – Procedural (the organization uses standard scenarios for active threat detection. At this level, information security specialists collect and analyze a large amount of data, but do not develop their own threat search procedures.
  • HMM3 – Innovative (specialists collect and analyze a large amount of data, develop their own methods for detecting threats, implement and use them on a regular basis).
  • HMM4 – Leading (specialists not only develop methods for searching and analyzing threats, but also automate them).

In order of technology maturity, there are such threat hunting techniques as basic search, statistical analysis, visualization techniques, simple aggregations, machine learning, and Bayesian methods.

The simplest method, basic search, is used to narrow the field of study with the help of certain queries.

Statistical analysis is used, for example, to build a typical user or network activity in the form of a statistical model.

Visualization techniques are used to visually display and simplify the analysis of data.

The technique of simple aggregations by key fields is used to optimize search and analysis.

A more advanced type of machine learning algorithms are Bayesian methods, which allow for classification, sample size reduction, and topic modelling.

Based on the mentioned above, the following principles for threats searching can be distinguished:

  1. Proactivity.
    Threat hunting is a proactive approach that involves active search for threats before they cause damage.
  2. Assumption of compromise.
    Instead of assuming that all of a company’s security measures are sound, you should start by assuming that its network can already be hacked.
  3. Continuous improvement.
    Finding threats is an iterative process. You need to review and adjust your search regularly.
  4. Data driven approach.
    It is important to focus on collecting and analyzing data from various sources such as logs, network traffic, and endpoints.
  5. Cooperation.
    Effective threat hunting involves collaboration between different teams such as security analysts, incident responders, and IT staff.

It is important to understand that threat hunting is a dynamic and evolving field.

Staying up to date on the latest threat patterns and constantly improving your methods will help you effectively identify and mitigate potential cyber threats.

If you are seriously concerned about the cybersecurity and would like your business to be reliably protected, consider collaboration with cyber security professionals. Reach out Klik Solution, an MSSP with a proven track of record of successful projects in cybersecurity. If you are looking for Miami Corporate Computer Support and cybersecurity services in Baltimore MD, Klik Solutions is here to help. 

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