What is Threat Intelligence?

In the world of statistics, raw data and information is often mislabeled as intelligence. This means that the motives behind Threat Intelligence can be off-target, which creates large problems for your organization. This is why it’s important to understand what intelligence is, and how it aligns with Threat Intelligence.

 

Threat Intelligence is defined as “knowledge that allows you to prevent or mitigate cyber attacks”. Threat Intelligence is rooted deeply in data, and gives you valuable context that will help you make informed decisions in the realm of security. Threat Intelligence does this by answering important questions such as “who are your attackers?”, “what are their motivations?”, “what are their capabilities?”, and “where are there indicators for compromise in your system?”.  

The Three Subcategories of Threat Intelligence

Threat Intelligence is a vast and complex concept. Because of this fact, Threat Intelligence can be further broken down into three subcategories:

Strategic Threat Intelligence

Strategic Threat Intelligence focuses on broader trends in security and is meant for a non-technical audience’s consumption. This form of Threat Intelligence is used by high-level strategists to inform specific decisions for your organization. This is a “bird’s eye view” of an organization’s threat landscape. The Strategic level is not concerned with specific indicators, actors or attacks, but instead aims to help an organization understand the broader impact of business decisions.

 

Since Strategic Threat Intelligence is used for specific decisions and is almost entirely non-technical in nature, it is usually produced on demand rather than as an ongoing initiative, and is usually presented as a report or company briefing. These reports cover broad strokes like risk scores and analyzing the possible outcomes of organizational decisions.

Tactical Threat Intelligence

Tactical Threat Intelligence outlines the tactics, techniques, and procedures of threat actors designed for a more technical audience. This form of Threat Intelligence is vital to combat the goals of threat actors. It’s intended use is to help defenders understand how their organization is likely to be attacked so they may determine whether appropriate detection and mitigation mechanisms exist, or whether they need to be implemented.

 

Unlike Strategic Threat Intelligence, Tactical Threat Intelligence is almost completely technical and is consumer by personnel directly involved in the defense of your organization, such as system architects, administrators, and security staff. However, Tactical Threat Intelligence can also play a role in high-level decision making. Also, since threat actor TTPs are constantly changing all the time, Tactical Threat Intelligence is usually gathered as time goes on rather than on demand. 

Operational Threat Intelligence

Operational Threat Intelligence provides technical details about specific attacks and campaigns. This form of Threat Intelligence helps defenders understand the nature, intent, and timing of an attack. It also provides insight into the nature and sophistication of the groups responsible for the attack. In many ways Operational Threat Intelligence is seen as the king of security, providing defenders with the opportunity to put controls in place preemptively and to block attacks before they can occur.

 

While this form of intelligence is usually partial in nature, even partial intelligence can provide key insights into upcoming attacks. One way this is done is by highlighting likely attack vectors before they can be exploited. Also, Operational Threat Intelligence is used almost exclusively by a technical audience, so this form of Threat Intelligence inevitably includes complex technical context.

Why is Threat Intelligence Important?

Threat Intelligence is crucial for many reasons. In our day and age the cyber security industry poses numerous challenges to organizations, including increasingly persistent and devious threat actors, a daily flood of extraneous information and data, a shortage of skilled security professionals, and much, much more. Developing Cyber Security Threat Intelligence can help you address all of these issues, and that is why it is so important.


Using Threat Intelligence to solve problems on your networks and within your organization is something vital to the strength and wellbeing of your information systems. Overall, this means Threat Intelligence is both important and actionable in nature. Threat Intelligence is timely, provides context, and is able to be used by high-ranking individuals who make decisions. 

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