Threat Hunting Like a Pro — With Automation

It’s no secret that cyber attacks are on the rise. Not only are they becoming more frequent, but the malicious actors who mount these attacks are constantly improving their skills and evolving the tools in their arsenals. Protecting your organization is challenging at best; especially since we measure the return on investment for cybersecurity as ‘preventing losses’ instead of ‘increasing revenue.’

Threat hunting is a proactive approach to securing your systems. Unfortunately, manual threat hunting can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Combine that with a shortage of trained and talented threat hunters in our industry, and it is apparent that we need a different and more effective approach to the problem. This article will investigate the challenges involved with threat hunting and explore how you can automate the process of threat hunting in your organization to proactively improve your applications and systems’ security without requiring an excessive investment.

What Is Threat Hunting?

Cyber attacks come in many different forms. Aggressive tactics, such as those used in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, are easy to identify. However, it is the more subtle attacks — the ones that quietly infiltrate your systems, compromise security from the inside, and steal data — that are the most dangerous and the hardest to detect. Threat hunting is how organizations identify and mitigate these threats.

Successful cyber attacks require patience, combined with a variety of tools and intelligence. The attacker might start by compromising an authorized user’s account using a phishing scheme or social engineering. Once they assume a valid identity, they attempt to elevate their privileges, leverage known vulnerabilities, or install malware to find and extract data within the corporate environment. Ideally, the attacker tries to accomplish all of this without triggering traditional security monitoring systems.

The threat hunter uses monitoring, identification of suspicious patterns, and other proactive tools to identify and mitigate such attacks before compromising the system’s integrity. Like the would-be hacker, the threat hunter requires patience, cunning, and access to a comprehensive set of tools. Automation and machine learning further enhance the role of threat hunting by gathering data, identifying suspicious patterns in real-time, reducing human error, and freeing up resources to improve existing processes.

Why Threat Hunting Can Be Challenging

Public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, help companies expand their capabilities, and scale in unprecedented ways. Unfortunately, this potential growth also increases the attack surface for an organization’s systems. The attack surface isn’t limited just to the infrastructure hosting applications and data. Malicious actors use email, identity management, and all other corporate systems as part of an attack on the organization.

It is incredibly challenging to support an effective threat hunting initiative, given the extensive nature of an organization’s system, the evolving nature of attacks, and the expense of hiring well-trained experts from a limited talent pool.

Leverage the Experience of Experts

You don’t have to stand alone against attacks on your organization. Fortunately, cybersecurity is a common problem, and as such, there are experienced and talented experts who dedicate their time to supporting organizations like yours. You can supplement your security initiative by utilizing these tools directly or by partnering with an organization like Torq that provides tooling and automation for a more comprehensive solution. 

When looking for a security solution, ideally you want to find one that offers Extended Detection and Response (XDR) integrations to monitor, detect and respond to potential attacks on:

  • Network Endpoints
  • Cloud and Data Center Workloads
  • Corporate Firewalls
  • Identity Management Systems
  • Email 

Information and anomalies from each system can be correlated and analyzed to identify potentially malicious activity and instances of compromise.

Gaining the Advantage with Automation

XDR security solutions provide your threat hunting team with the tools they need to actively monitor and detect threats to your systems. When you integrate them with automation tools, such as those available from Torq, you create a scalable, efficient system that can work around-the-clock to keep your systems secure.

Let’s look at some potential use cases that you can address with an automated threat detection solution. The most critical use of such a system is to identify events or activities that might indicate a potential threat. The system collects this information by querying events and agents within the network, and enriching them with related information. External services such as Joe Security and VirusTotal, among others, are used for a more complete picture of the threats involved.

The comprehensive alert information is automatically correlated and analyzed against all events to identify and provide comprehensive alerts about possible attacks. For known and familiar attacks, the system can automatically remediate the attack, and suppress warnings before the support team is notified. 

Once the system identifies an attack, it is critical to respond as quickly as possible. Using an automated process to isolate and quarantine suspicious human and machine entities, processes, or emails within your system reduces the blast radius of the attack and limits additional exposure.

Supporting Constant Change

Our systems have evolved dramatically from the old monoliths with periodic changes based on a release schedule. In the modern era of DevOps, our systems morph and change constantly. Automating security scans on new and existing infrastructure is critical to ensure the integrity of your environment. As you add new devices and remove retired ones, you can automate updates to allow-lists while at the same time updating deny-lists based on indicators of compromise (IOC). 

As you identify vulnerabilities and create or modify security rules for different user groups or security groups, an effective automation suite will facilitate the system’s propagation of the necessary changes. Automating these processes ensures that your systems remain up-to-date with the latest security patches and changes.

Learning More

Even though the systems we develop and support are unique and different depending on our client’s needs, we share the common need for security and to protect the data with which our clients entrust us. We don’t need to face these attacks alone, and partnering with experts in security and automation can help us better protect and secure our systems.

If you’d like to learn more about how Torq can help you more effectively hunt threats, reach out to us for no-code automation to support your security teams, and keep you one step ahead.