Threat Intelligence Lifecycle | Phases & Best Practices Explained

Breaking the threat intelligence lifecycle into digestible phases

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What is the threat intelligence lifecycle?

The threat intelligence lifecycle is the entire process of gaining evidence-based intelligence about potential cyber threats, using that information to build defenses against them, responding proactively, and investigating successful attacks to learn from the outcome and improve intelligence.

Cyber threats are increasing in both frequency and sophistication across the globe. Companies must respond in kind by obtaining deeper threat intelligence that can tell them where their systems are vulnerable, what potential threats are most likely and most damaging, and how to adjust detection and response tactics to effectively create a secure environment.

When should you use the threat intelligence lifecycle?

In an ideal scenario, threat intelligence should be an ongoing cybersecurity strategy. Consistently collecting and analyzing data about existing and potential threats increases an organization’s ability to protect their systems from known and unknown attackers.

Even if your company’s security posture is still in its infancy, following the framework of the threat intelligence lifecycle will put you on a path to greater insight and quicker response times. The threat intelligence lifecycle provides the core steps you need to build a cybersecurity defense that is effective against cyber criminals.

Who benefits from the threat intelligence lifecycle?

At a high level, everyone in your organization benefits from the threat intelligence lifecycle. While the CISO and board of directors will often take the most personal blow from a breach, attacks against your systems cause a ripple effect and everyone in every department feels the pain.

From an asset perspective, the greatest beneficiaries of the threat intelligence lifecycle are your sensitive data, proprietary digital assets, and system functionality. The value of these assets is difficult to quantify — which is why they are so often the targets of hackers.

What are the 6 stages of the threat intelligence lifecycle?

The threat intelligence lifecycle has six generally agreed-upon stages. These stages are cyclical, meaning that stage six isn’t a final step — it  should feed right back into the first stage again

  1. Requirements

  2. Data collection

  3. Data processing

  4. Analysis

  5. Dissemination

  6. Feedback and continuous improvement

1. Requirements

In addition, ask questions about your organization’s current ability to shift security left and make it continuous. Has security been incorporated into the software development lifecycle (SDLC)? What improvements do you need to make in building DevSecOps at your organization?

It’s also valuable at this stage to determine exactly who is playing what role in the threat intelligence lifecycle. Who is responsible for overseeing each stage and who are your tactical players?

2. Data Collection

You might consider this step your “reconnaissance mission.” Your goal is collect as much information as possible about potential threat vectors, existing vulnerabilities, and publicly available information a threat actor could use to gain unauthorized access to your systems.

Places to look for this information include online news resources and blogs, forums and communities, and network event logs. Vulnerability scanners are also valuable tools to identify weak points in your applications.

3. Data Processing

Data processing is the next step in the threat intelligence lifecycle. Raw data needs to be transformed to a consumable format for analysis, which means it needs to be:

  • Deduplicated

  • Structured

  • Decrypted

  • Translated

  • Sorted and prioritized

The bad news is that taking these steps can be extremely time consuming if you have large quantities of data. But it’s worth the effort to have usable, accurate information to inform your threat intelligence.

4. Analysis

The key to this stage is action. You are converting your data and research to intelligence — but it is only useful if it enables you to make actionable decisions. Questions this stage can answer include:

  • What threats pose the greatest potential loss?

  • Which threats are most likely to occur?

  • Which assets are at greatest risk?

  • Where can security protocols be improved?

  • How can resources be reallocated, removed, or bolstered to provide better protection?

Security analytics are an important pathway to building a proactive approach to threat prevention — a key aspect of threat intelligence. Take the time to dive into the data and understand exactly what your company is doing well and where problematic security gaps exist.

5. Dissemination

Now that you’ve answered some incredibly important questions, it’s time to share them with the relevant parties. Start by prioritizing your insights. You can’t present every potential weak point in your report, so stick to the most valuable, actionable data and the overarching themes that carry the most weight. From there, it’s time to leverage your communication skills to build a report and presentation that guides stakeholders through your findings and recommendations.

6. Feedback and continuous improvement

The final stage — or the first stage of the next cycle — of the threat intelligence lifecycle is evaluating your findings and determining the next steps. This includes evaluating the execution of the threat intelligence lifecycle itself. Asking open-ended questions following the dissemination of your report is one way to do this, as is distributing a monthly or quarterly survey.

Effective threat intelligence relies on continuous improvement; you won’t get very far in improving your security posture if you don’t make consistent changes to protocols, tools, processes, and strategies.

What are the types of threat intelligence?

Threat intelligence comes in four primary forms: strategic, tactical, technical and operations. Knowing the differences between each can help you categorize your findings and establish guidelines for data collection and processing.

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4 types of threat intelligence

Strategic

This type of threat intelligence is broad and high-level. It informs your security posture, overall risk profile, and security strategy across the board. It should also include social, industry, and political trends that can affect your company and its approach to cybersecurity. This information is used by executive teams, management, and CISOs.

Tactical

Tactical threat intelligence scopes in a little bit and looks at attack vectors, cybersecurity capabilities, and knowledge leakage that could play a role in a breach. This information is used by cybersecurity professionals, architects, and administrators.

Operational

Gathering operational threat intelligence will establish the context of past threats and potential future threats. This is threat intelligence in-action that is gathered from human behavior, social media, and real-world events. This information is consumed by heads of security and incident response.

Technical

threat intelligence is related to indicators of specific attacks organizations can look out for, especially when it comes to social engineering. This type of information needs to be updated frequently because cyber attacks are constantly evolving.

How Snyk fits into the threat intelligence lifecycle

Many organizations are anxious to find accurate and comprehensive resources to identify potential vulnerabilities during the data collection and data processing phases of the threat intelligence lifecycle. Snyk, backed by our Intel Vulnerability Database, is that resource.

Snyk exposes many vulnerabilities before they are added to public databases. The Snyk database is managed by a team of experts, researchers and analysts – our Snyk Security Research team – ensuring the database maintains a high level of accuracy with a low false-positive rate. This team draws from multiple public sources and provides hand-curated data and enriched metadata to guide prioritization and remediation decisions.

In fact, 92% of the JavaScript vulnerabilities in NVD were added first to the Snyk vulnerability database. You can take a sneak peek right here.

Or request a demo of Snyk to learn how we can integrate with your developer tools and workflows to automatically fix vulnerabilities.

Up Next

Continuous security within DevSecOps

Find out how implementing continuous security processes can benefit your DevSecOps culture and processes to help you secure your code at every phase of the SDLC

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