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Updated Oct 20, 2023

What Is Cyberthreat Intelligence, and Why Do You Need It?

Learning about current and developing cyberattacks can help your business defend itself.

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Andrew Martins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Businesses worldwide are forced to defend themselves daily from high-tech enemies at the proverbial gate. Cyberattacks around the world are expected to surpass $11 trillion in 2023, and that number is projected to rise to $20 trillion by 2026, according to Statista. As all signs point to the problem getting worse, small businesses are tasked with preparing a strong offense. 

Many combat the problem by hiring cybersecurity analysts to research hackers’ methods through a process called cyberthreat intelligence. As cyber criminals become better at conducting attacks, experts in the field are creating risk assessments that help small businesses find any potential weaknesses. 

While the digital landscape continues to shift, it can help to know where and how to keep an eye out for potential cyberthreats. Read ahead to learn all about cyberthreat intelligence and how you can use it to protect your business from the cost of cyberattacks

Did You Know?Did you know
According to the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2022, 40 percent of cyberattacks cost businesses $25,000 or more per year.

What is cyberthreat intelligence?

Cyberthreat intelligence is an area of cybersecurity that focuses on the collection and analysis of information about current and potential attacks that threaten the safety of an organization or its assets.

By implementing this tactic, businesses can take proactive steps to ensure that their systems are secure. Through cyberthreat intelligence and analysis, data breaches can be prevented altogether, saving you the financial costs of setting any incident response plans in motion.

Cyberthreat intelligence aims to give companies an in-depth understanding of the threats that pose the greatest risk to their infrastructure and devise a plan to protect their business. Analysts strive to give their clients as much actionable information as possible based on any existing threats they find.

Part of the understanding that comes from cyberthreat intelligence analysis is why a hacker would attack your systems to begin with. Knowing the opposition’s motive can shed light on what areas of your systems could be the most vulnerable. [Related: How to Improve Your Small Business’s Cybersecurity in an Hour]

Types of cyberthreat intelligence

There are three kinds of cyberthreat intelligence: strategic, tactical and operational.

  1. Strategic threat intelligence is a high-level assessment of potential threats, identifying who might be interested in attacking the organization or companies in its industry and their motivations. It is presented to executives in the form of whitepapers, reports and presentations to show them how the organization needs to respond.
  2. Tactical threat intelligence relates to how and where the organization may be targeted and focuses on cybercriminals’ tactics, techniques and procedures. It is technical and is presented to IT and network professionals, to have them put defenses in place to prevent these types of attacks.
  3. Operational threat intelligence is information gleaned from active attacks, cyber honeypots (traps to entice hackers to reveal their tactics) and data shared by third parties. It includes highly specific data such as URLs, file names and hashes, domain names, and IP addresses. This intelligence should be used to block attacks (if caught early enough), limiting damage and eliminating known threats in the network.

With enough information and forethought, you can implement the right tools to monitor for certain behaviors and conduct a potent incident response.

How do you use cyberthreat intelligence?

Numerous service providers staffed with cyberthreat intelligence analysts will work with your cybersecurity or IT team to hash out a plan for your small business. Once hired, the service will investigate and explain any potential threats your business faces and what you can do to keep those threats at bay.

Armed with that kind of information, whoever takes care of your network can make the appropriate adjustments. In addition to providing your company the proper tools to stymie any cyberattacks, cyberthreat intelligence can determine if you’ve already had a security issue. Through the use of indicators of compromise, intelligence analysts can determine whether your systems have been hit with malware that, if left undetected, could lead to stolen, corrupted or ransomed sensitive data.

One common type of malware is spyware, which can be installed on a system without your knowledge to obtain internet usage data and other sensitive information. This could be credit card information, customers’ and employees’ personal information, or other valuable data in a business setting.

Malware can become a costly problem for any business. In 2022, more than 493 million cyber attacks using a kind of malware called ransomware occurred, reported Statista. Ransomware locks systems down before demanding payment for the user to gain access. In 2021, it was used to shut down Colonial Pipeline, causing a gas shortage on the East Coast. Ransomware attacks are particularly costly. The average cost of a ransomware attack is $4.35 million, according to IBM, and breaches increased 41 percent in 2022.  

FYIDid you know
According to Cybereason, 80 percent of victims who submitted a ransom payment experienced another attack soon after. Additionally, 68 percent of those attacked were asked for a higher ransom within only a month following the first attack.

What should you do if you uncover a cyberattack?

When you discover that your organization has been attacked, time is of the essence. Take these steps immediately:

  1. Mobilize your incident response team. This includes your IT and network personnel and may also include software and external IT vendors, HR professionals if employee data was compromised, legal counsel if intellectual property was compromised, and operations managers if ransomware halted operations.
  2. Secure the systems. Depending on the type and scale of the breach, this might mean isolating or suspending the compromised section(s) of your network temporarily, or possibly the entire network, until protections can be put in place.
  3. Investigate the incident. Mobilize a team of internal technical professionals and, if needed, external experts to find out what happened and how it happened, as well as to assess the amount of the damage.
  4. Implement protections and countermeasures. This may include changing passwords, putting up or strengthening firewalls, implementing data encryption, and removing malicious code. If an employee was complicit, the employee should be fired and law enforcement alerted.
  5. Reassess your cybersecurity measures. See where you could add to and strengthen your practices.
  6. Check to see if your losses are covered. Review your business insurance policy and make a claim for anything your provider covers.
  7. Report the attack. Notify the appropriate regulatory agency, if necessary.
  8. Manage public relations. If the attack compromised customer data, make them aware of the breach. Learn more about how to write a press release.

Which cyberthreat intelligence providers are best?

If your small business uses the internet to keep itself running, or if you store your sensitive data in a local network that’s connected to the internet, a cyberthreat intelligence firm may be beneficial.

Here are some options to help you select a vendor:

  • Mandiant targets large enterprises and provides nation-state-grade threat intelligence and cybersecurity consultation. More than 300 analysts and experts in 23 countries are on hand to provide information from various sources. Consider this company if your business deals with highly sensitive information, such as classified government, financial or healthcare data.
  • IBM X-Force Exchange is the major hardware company’s cyberthreat intelligence solution. IBM X-Force Exchange researches threats and collaborates with peers through a cloud-based threat intelligence-sharing platform. Like Mandiant, it is tailored to larger companies that need a comprehensive intelligence program.
  • Anomali ThreatStream is a threat detection, investigation and response platform that helps you understand your potential cyber adversaries by collecting intelligence from various premium feeds. You can purchase additional intel through the company’s Anomali Preferred Partner (APP) Store. Anomali also uses machine learning to increase the efficacy of its threat intelligence platform and reduce the number of false positives.
  • CrowdStrike Falcon Insight offers a cyber intelligence platform for small businesses. It continually monitors your network, detects suspicious activity, and provides real-time alerts for quick responses. It can also track and unravel the details of attacks so you can address them most effectively.

How do you keep businesses safe with cyberthreat intelligence?

Businesses face new cyberthreats every day. Cyberthreat intelligence can help you stay one step ahead of threat actors. With the help of cyberthreat intelligence services, experts can serve as your lookouts and guide you with important risk management tactics. If you want to prevent your organization from becoming another cyber attack casualty, cyberthreat intelligence is essential to your business strategy. 

Natalie Hamingson and Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article. 

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Andrew Martins, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Andrew Martins is an award-winning business and economics expert who has spent years studying trends and profiling small businesses. Based on his on-the-ground reporting and hands-on experience, Martins has developed guides on small business technology and finance-related operations. In recent years, he focused on the small business impacts of the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. Martins, who has a bachelor's degree in communication, has been published on trusted financial sites like Investopedia, The Balance and LowerMyBills, on technology outlet Lifewire and in the New York Daily News.
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