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What is Cyber Threat Hunting

A cyber threat refers to a potential attack, devastation, or damage to a computer system that is initiated through a network. The process of searching for hidden cyber threats in a network is commonly known as “cyber threat hunting.” Threat hunters can identify malicious actors who try to evade security measures. Due to the increasing number of cyberattacks, the importance of finding and protecting systems against them has grown significantly.

What is cyber threat hunting?

Cyber threat hunting is the proactive activity of searching a network system of an organization for security dangers that may be lurking there and going unreported. It is often carried out following the stage of cyber threat detection, during which an automated system is used to search for known threats. Threat hunting is an active strategy to find cyber hazards and threats that were not previously recognized, whereas threat detection is a passive strategy to continuously monitor network endpoints to spot anomalies.

Cyber threat hunting employs a hypothesis-based approach supported by threat data to identify any potential hazards and, in certain circumstances, create IOCs (Indicators of Compromise) rather than waiting for an alert to go off.

Why is threat hunting necessary?

The primary goal of traditional cybersecurity techniques is to create an automated threat detection tool. These techniques operate under the assumption that anything that passes through these barriers is secure.

However, if an attacker manages to breach this barrier undetected, they could spend months navigating the network and exfiltrating data, potentially through social engineering and acquiring authorized user credentials. Reactive threat detection systems, such as firewalls and antivirus software, won’t identify them until their behaviour corresponds with a known threat signature.

Proactive threat hunting aims to reduce the number of successful cyberattacks by identifying and fixing vulnerabilities before cybercriminals can exploit them. This involves carefully analyzing all the data generated by users, systems, applications, and devices to detect any anomalies that may indicate a breach. Doing so can minimize the amount of time and damage caused by successful attacks. Combining security monitoring, detection, and response on a single platform using cyber threat-hunting techniques can also increase visibility and efficiency.

How does cyber-threat hunting work?

The fact that cyber threat hunting is a data-driven endeavour is an important thing to note. Threat hunting adds a human intelligence layer to standard security information and event management (SIEM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) methodologies. Threat hunters use pre-drafted hunting models to comb through event logs and data. They look for any new patterns of security attacks.

Types of Threat Hunting

1. Structured

Based on an indication of attack (IoA) and the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by attackers, security hunting is carried out.

2. Unstructured

Threat hunters utilize unstructured hunting to look for any anomalies or patterns within the system. In this case, threat hunting is done in response to a trigger or indicator of compromise (IoC).

3. Situational

In this scenario, hypothetical situations are created based on real-life incidents and vulnerabilities identified through network risk assessments. The latest tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for existing cybersecurity threats are obtained from crowdsourced attack data to produce entity-focused leads. A threat hunter can utilize the testing system to search for these specific behaviours.

Threat-hunting methodologies

Before developing threat-hunting investigation models, it is crucial to establish a baseline. This baseline helps in identifying abnormalities by distinguishing between malicious and non-malicious events. There are several typical approaches to threat hunting that are commonly used. Let’s discuss them.

1. Investigation-driven hypotheses

The hunting model that is widely used utilizes a threat/attack library that contains the most recent tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) along with updated indicators of attack (IoAs). This library is derived from a large pool of crowdsourced attack data. The MITRE ATT&CK framework and other global detection runbooks align with these hunting libraries. The purpose of the hunting model is to proactively search for new threats in the system by using these IoAs and TTPs.

 2. Advanced or Situational Analytics and Machine Learning Research

This approach bases its ideas on situational factors, such as targeted strikes or geopolitical concerns. Combining intelligence-driven and hypothesis-driven models can utilize IoAs and IoCs in this study.

3. Analyses Using Indicators of Attack or Compromise (IoA)

The Intel-based hunting model is a reactive approach that utilizes the latest indicator of compromise (IoC) from various threat intelligence sources. It is executed when SIEM detects an IoC-based alert in the system.

Threat-hunting tool types and their functions

Security Monitoring

Firewalls, endpoint security software, and antivirus scanners are examples of security monitoring technologies. These systems are designed to monitor network traffic, devices, and users for any signs of a potential security breach or compromise. Security monitoring technologies are utilized in both proactive and reactive cybersecurity strategies.

sophisticated input and output for analysis

Security analytics systems analyze data gathered from networked devices, applications, and monitoring tools using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Compared to conventional security monitoring solutions, these tools offer a more realistic image of a company’s security posture or its overall cybersecurity condition.

Managed detection and response (MDR) systems

MDR is a managed service that combines proactive threat hunting, human management, and automated threat detection tools. This service utilizes EDR tools, threat intelligence, advanced analytics, and human expertise to provide businesses with a dedicated team of threat-hunting experts available around the clock.

Extended detection and response (XDR) solutions

XDR stands for extended detection and response. It is an advanced technology that enhances the capabilities of traditional endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions by incorporating additional threat detection technologies such as identity and access management (IAM), email security, patch management, and cloud application security. Furthermore, XDR offers automatic security responses and improved security data analytics.

Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) systems

SOAR systems (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) unify security monitoring, detection, and response integrations while also automating related processes. By coordinating automation workflows and security management procedures, teams can efficiently conduct threat hunting and remediation on a single platform. This enables effective and comprehensive

Penetration testing

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a simulation of a cyberattack. Security experts use specialized software and techniques to assess an organization’s network, applications, security architecture, and users to identify vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Pen testing aims to proactively detect security flaws, such as unpatched software or weak password security measures so that businesses can address them before a real cyberattack occurs.

Threat-hunting solutions


ESET - Cyber Threat Hunting

ESET offers a customizable threat-hunting platform that caters to the specific needs of an organization. The services and capabilities of the platform can be adjusted based on the size and protection level required. For instance, larger companies and enterprises can opt for cloud application protection, email security, and patch management for $338.50 per year for five devices. On the other hand, startups and SMBs can go for sophisticated EDR and full-disk encryption for $275 per year for five devices. Moreover, businesses can add MDR services to any pricing tier for an additional fee.


Crowdstrike - Cyber Threat Hunting

CrowdStrike offers threat-hunting tools like SIEM and XDR, which can be purchased individually or in groups. They have packages designed for small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, and enterprises, all available for $4.99 per device per month. These technologies and additional security connectors are combined on the CrowdStrike Falcon platform to create a more efficient experience.

Wrapping Up

The world of cyber threat hunting is both vast and vitally important. As we’ve seen, staying ahead of the nefarious actors in the digital realm requires not just sophisticated tools and methodologies, but also a proactive mindset and a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. Whether you’re a seasoned cybersecurity professional or just starting out, the journey of threat hunting is one of perpetual vigilance and constant evolution. So, let’s keep our digital defenses strong and our curiosity stronger, always ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow with the knowledge and tools of today. Happy hunting!

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