How Relevance Scoring Can Make Your Threat Intelligence More Actionable

April 2, 2020
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co-authored by Ron Williams
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2 min read

As businesses around the world become more global, the volume and complexity of attacks continue to grow. Protecting a company in today’s environment has become more difficult. For example, securing an organization with offices in London, Hong Kong and Santa Cruz represents a challenge of both scale and complexity for security analysts. In addition, the number of companies affected by data breaches, destructive malware and ransomware is growing at a rapid pace.

High-quality threat intelligence can offer immediate network protection, provide visibility to known threats and significantly reduce the time required for situational investigation or incident response.

Security analysts, whether performing incident response or general threat research, need automated tools with intelligent rules to help find, organize and filter the most relevant information for their primary task. Within the security operations center (SOC), analysts and incident response engineers use threat intelligence to quickly isolate the signal from the noise, identify real problems and their fixes, and prioritize remediation efforts.

Speed is imperative. More specifically, time to decision is everything.

Challenges Facing Security Analysts

In order to shorten their time to decision, security analysts need to quickly answer key questions, such as:

  • Do I understand the situation?
  • Is the threat real?
  • What is its potential impact on my organization?
  • How do I prioritize it against my backlog?
  • What evidence do I have to support my position?
  • What do I do next?

Threat intelligence can help answer those questions. It can provide context to the situation being investigated. Indicator-based threat intelligence can corroborate internal sightings, and vulnerability-based threat intelligence can help illuminate potential exposures and consequences for the organization.

However, a key problem for analysts, assuming they have quality threat intelligence, is relevance. How do you know if that threat intelligence is relevant to this situation?

How Relevance Scoring Can Help

Relevance scoring is a technique that correlates the properties of security analysts’ threat intelligence and those of their organization, such as the industry and region. By identifying indicators associated with one or more of the organization’s properties, analysts can place more weight on those specific to the organization compared to other indicators, especially when correlating against traffic they are investigating. Wouldn’t it be better if analysts’ automated tool sets understood and could use relevance scoring to provide more relevant insights automatically?

These techniques yield a relevance scoring system that is specific to the user’s organization, industry and region. Embedding relevance scoring in security tools provides professionals with the right data at the right time, contextualized to their situation. Organizations that share their sightings with other threat sharing organizations and threat intelligence vendors who accept direct or anonymized user sightings containing local properties can enrich their threat intelligence, benefiting the larger communities these organizations are a part of.

Quality threat intelligence combined with local relevance scoring can go directly to the bottom line in the form of faster incident investigation, determination, prioritization and remediation.

Learn how the X-Force Threat Score brings relevance scoring to IBM Security Threat Intelligence Insights
Ajay Punjabi
Product Management, IBM Security

Ajay Punjabi is a Director of Programs, Strategy and Product management at IBM Security. Prior to working in IBM Security, Ajay spent several years in IBM Wa...
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