What Is Threat Hunting And How To Get Started?

Cyber security + Global news admin_scs todayDecember 8, 2021 507 196 3

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INTRODUCTION:

The process of identifying security issues manually or by using automated tools is known as threat hunting. Threat hunters require advanced knowledge of cybersecurity tools, penetration testing, programming languages, etc. So that they can use their tools in detecting threats accurately. The experts may also have ample knowledge related to different types of security threats (Network Protocols, Exploits, Malware) so that they navigate data containing packet capture data, metadata, logs, etc.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THREAT HUNTING:

It is not compulsory that threat hunting is reserved for big organizations only, in fact, any small company can use this practice. Following are some characteristics of threat hunting;

PROACTIVE

Threat hunting techniques did not wait for an already existing security system to give an alert, instead, they continuously sniff for potential risks before any kind of damage.

RELYING ON GUT FEELINGS

Efficient threat hunters always search for clues and to some extent listen to their gut, create detection rules based on the gut feeling. They avoid relying only on tools alerts and other detections as well.

ATTACKERS TRACES

Attackers in any organization always leave behind some traces which can be tracked by threat hunting techniques in any organization. So those traces are very important no matter how much time it will take.

EMBRACE THE CREATIVITY

Threat hunting techniques do not always follow predefined rules hence they embrace creativity to remain up to date with the latest tools and techniques.

From these characteristics, it is also clear that many organizations are struggling to create a threat hunting system. However, this work can only be done by one or two people, and it also requires a huge investment of time from them. This lack of reproducibility is due to the lack of support for this process by most existing security tools, and even skilled threat hunters have difficulty in producing consistently valuable results.

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MYTHS ABOUT THREAT HUNTING:

There are some misconceptions regarding threat hunting around us. Due to these misconceptions, many experts avoid being proactive in threat hunting. In this article, I would try to clear some misconceptions that I heard from someone or I assumed by myself. Some of these misconceptions are true to some extent.

THREAT HUNTING IS FULLY AUTOMATED:

Threat hunting is not a reactive activity. If a person’s main contribution to the hunt governs the outcome of something that the tool automatically finds, you are being reactive. and not proactive. You resolve an identified event that is a very important practice in a security operation center, but not in hunting.

Hunting is proactive as it requires the input of a human analyst and involves hypothetical research based on hypotheses. The main purpose of this hunting is to find what is missing from your automated alerting systems. An automated tool can help us in researching or presenting a hypothesis, but the analyst must conduct an investigation to understand and expand the context found so that the full value of hunting can be obtained.

In other words, hunters look for anomalies by proceeding with the data rather than examining the call of the dispatch.

THREAT HUNTING REQUIRES MASSIVE DATA AND TOOLS:

Security analysts have been searching for years in various sectors. However, basic hunting techniques can be very effective and useful in helping you detect malware. An analyst who wants to start a threat hunt should not be afraid to use basic techniques, data sets, tools, etc. 

Of course, specially designed tools can help with large-scale hunting and simplify advanced hunting procedures. The Sqrrl threat management platform is specifically designed to facilitate the process of integrating different data sets and using advanced methods.

THREAT HUNTING SHOULD ONLY BE DONE ONCE:

It can be easily assumed that the task is completed after closing the current security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, this is not the case because risk actors are persistent and will never give up on finding new vulnerabilities to exploit. They work continuously to develop and implement new strategies that surpass the latest security solutions.

Likewise, defenders must continually identify and mitigate the vulnerabilities in their networks. So that they can prevent threats from exploiting any vulnerabilities.

THREAT HUNTING TECHNIQUES:

Threat hunters use a number of techniques to analyze the data. With the help of these techniques, they can quickly and easily identify the potential risks. Analysis of data does not require any expensive tool instead spreadsheets, free tools, and command lines are used to get started. There are four different techniques that are used to highlight risks in an organization;

SEARCHING

Searching is the first technique that is used by most threat hunters to identify a threat. This technique uses certain queries to get desired artifacts and results. Due to high risks, it is difficult for us to know when exactly we have to start searching. To deal with this issue, try to avoid broad and narrow searches.

Threat hunters analyze massive amounts of data so that they know where the search is essential. This data can be obtained through different means such as log files, events, digital files, alerts, etc.

It is practically impossible to search this huge amount of data without any tool. Specialized tools use threat modeling and artificial intelligence techniques to search efficiently.

CLUSTERING

Clustering is a method in which statistical analysis of data is performed. Different artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques are used to separate similar kinds of data from data sets. This data is available in the form of log files and threat hunting search results. This helps data analysts to get a broader view of the relevant data, unnecessary correlation, similarities, etc. All of these provide a clearer picture of an organization’s network and its working module. 

This technique allows you to analyze unrelated information as a single database. It is especially useful for data that is obtained from outlier data systems because it monitors a lot of behavioral data.

GROUPING

Grouping is another technique that is very similar to clustering. The main difference is that grouping involves the searching of those items that are already marked as suspicious while on the other hand clustering involves the searching of large amounts of data and separating the data which needs to be investigated further through grouping. 

The grouping technique uses different types of artifacts that pass through filters to detect which ones appear together. Unrelated artifacts are grouped together through which an analyst can identify their relationship with each other as well as possible threats.

STACK COUNTING

It is one of the most important techniques of threat hunting. This technique is applied to that data that shares one or more commonalities. The stack counting technique relies on the datum and then compares this with other data in the set. By using this technique, organizations can easily identify static extremes. Different types of data can be stacked effectively;

Data regarding installed programs within an organization.

Names of different processes and their paths within a department.

Strings regarding user agent.

Names of files and their location.

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH THREAT HUNTING:

We have repeatedly seen that it is a challenge for companies of all sizes to create a threat hunting plan, due to the constant requests that have already been made to security teams and the variety of skills and capabilities needed to be effective. Our threat research experts facilitate us with better threat hunting plans;

INTERNAL HUNTING VS OUTSOURCED

The first step in threat hunting is to decide whether to use your internal threat hunting team or outsource it from external service providers. Some organizations have qualified security experts that can lead to sessions on hunting. In order to exercise properly, they simply need to work on the fishing project during the operation and let them focus solely on this work.

When a safety team does not have the time and resources needed to fish, it should consider hiring an outside team to carry out this work.

PROPER PLANNING

Whether you use an internal team or outsourced, the best effort begins with proper planning. Gathering a process on how to manage hunting provides the most value. Proper planning will ensure that hunting does not interfere with the day-to-day operations of an organization.

PROPER TOPIC TO EXAMINE

The next step is to consider a proper security topic that can be examined. The aim must be to accept or deny that a particular activity is taking place in their organization. For example, security teams may want to see if advanced threats are targeted at them by using different tools such as fileless malware to dodge the organization’s ongoing security setup.

DEVELOP A HYPOTHESIS

After determining the outcome from hunting, the experts made a hypothesis. In a fileless malware application, the purpose of the hunting is to identify hackers who attack using tools such as PowerShell.

Collecting all PowerShell processes in the organization will affect the data analysts and prevent them from finding any relevant information. They need to develop a smart hypothesis testing strategy without reading every event.

Let’s say experts know that only a few server administrators use PowerShell for day-to-day operations. Because the scripting language is not used in the company, experts can expect to see only limited use of PowerShell. Extensive use of PowerShell may specify the malicious activity.

COLLECT INFORMATION:

To evaluate PowerShell functionality, professionals will need network information that can be retrieved by browsing web files and endpoint data found in database files, server files, or event files.

To determine what it looks like to use PowerShell in a particular environment, an expert will collect data including process names, command files, digital signatures, etc. This information will enable the hunting team to take a picture of the relationship between different types of data and look for links.

ORGANIZE THE DATA

Once this data has been collected, experts need to decide the tools to organize and analyze the information. When using structured data, professionals need to capture what is happening in their environment. In an overview of the company’s use of PowerShell, they were able to convert event files to CSV files and link them to endpoint analyzers.

CONCLUSION:

Cybersecurity is a fascinating and challenging aspect of cybersecurity and requires attention to detail, innovation, and a wide range of information technology and information security principles, systems, and best practices. The methods used by cybercriminals are becoming increasingly difficult to understand, and many business solutions fail to secure the network environment.

While companies may struggle to use an advanced hunting method. This is often because each expert will look at the problems in a different light and use their own tools. However, understanding some of the common tactics and techniques can allow teams to get started faster.

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