The partner ecosystem is integral to any security provider to ensure maximum coverage for clients. Open standards such as the STIX, TAXII and CybOX protocols provide the ability to communicate across multiple platforms, but of what benefit are these puzzle pieces without meaningful insights to cement the picture? A good shake would cause the whole thing to fall apart.

That is where threat intelligence comes in. As threat intelligence generators pump out information, these insights and observables add context to the internal network landscape to prioritize risks and remediation plans.

Observables and Indicators

The base level of threat intelligence data such as vulnerabilities, IP and URL reputation, spam reporting and malware are the tactical elements of data that flow from one system to the next. When an IP address is scanned and assessed to be at a high risk for hosting malware, this insight is funneled to a security intelligence solution and a flag is raised or a rule is created to block traffic from the network to this external address.

When that IP is then associated with an MD5 hash for a specific malware file, another layer of insight is added to help direct specific action for the security operations center (SOC) analyst. So what can that analyst do in the event of mutating malware that regenerates as a new file?

Higher-Order Threat Intelligence

Higher-order intelligence speaks more to the tactics, techniques and practices that encompass the whole of a security event — the actors involved, campaigns and even specific similar incidents in other companies. If a particular malware campaign can be classified and its behavior identified and codified into observables, the insights can be applied to help make security decisions. How threat intelligence aggregators collect and disseminate this information varies, however.

The best application is guided by the use of the aforementioned open standards. Much like knowing that wood glue is most useful for wood (shocking!) but not metal, and that two-part epoxies are good for just about everything else, the key comes down to labeling standards. Similarly, that’s how you can apply the query/response model for threat intelligence in an API and get interoperability between platforms. It’s all in the formatted labeling so you know exactly what you’re getting out of the threat intelligence.

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Sticking Together

The scenario outlined above speaks to an SOC analyst, but that analyst could be in a stand-alone company or at a managed security services provider (MSSP) that provides monitoring for clients. The beauty of threat intelligence is that it can stick to many things; the usefulness of it becomes apparent in its application. The MSSP wants to help analysts speed their investigations and prioritize threats so that responders address the most severe issues first, increasing their overall efficiency.

If you’d like to know more about the application of threat intelligence, check out the on-demand webinar “Streamlining Threat Intelligence Value With Open Standards.” To learn more about IBM X-Force’s specific threat intelligence offering, visit the IBM X-Force Exchange platform to sample threat intelligence at no charge.

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