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Threat Detection and Response Techniques

In any cybersecurity environment, threat detection and response techniques play a pivotal role in helping organizations adequately defend themselves against the latest threats. As IT infrastructures have grown ever more complex, so too has the threat landscape. With new attack vectors constantly emerging, investing in threat management capabilities is more of a priority than ever. 

The majority of organizations employ some form of antivirus or antimalware software, but as attackers grow sophisticated, it’s often all too easy for attackers to bypass basic cybersecurity software. To respond, it’s imperative organizations embrace more comprehensive threat detection and response techniques. Effective threat management requires organizations to follow a five step process to better secure their networks against bad actors.

In this guide, we’ll explore various threat detection and response techniques, sharing exactly how they work and what they involve. We’ll also cover the best practices that security analysts should bear in mind when implementing threat detection and response techniques in their organization. 

But first, let’s start with a definition of exactly what we mean by threat detection and response.

What is Threat Detection and Response? 

Threat detection and response programs automatically monitor an organization’s IT infrastructure for known threats, and instantly alert administrators when security threats are discovered. These programs help administrators appropriately prioritize risk, and provide IT teams with the necessary information to remedy attacks. 

Threat detection and response initiatives have various applications, and should form one prong of a multi-pronged cybersecurity approach that also includes practices like vulnerability assessments and security awareness training. Threat detection and response is primarily used proactively, aiming to identify and remedy any threats before they escalate, but can also be applied reactively after a known breach has occurred. 

There are clear benefits to threat detection and response strategies. They help organizations to protect themselves from attacks, avoid unnecessary downtime, and secure proprietary data. 

How Does Threat Detection and Response Work?

There are five key steps to a comprehensive approach to threat detection and response, each of which play an important role. Let’s explore what’s involved in each step of the process. 

#1 Secure Vulnerable Assets

By identifying where your most important assets are located, security teams can better protect them from potential threats. Once these areas have been pinpointed, take every step you can to make sure they are secure. Check how these systems are configured, that all software and applications are updated, and that access is restricted to only those who absolutely need it.

By implementing proactive security measures to protect the most critical elements of your infrastructure, organizations can significantly reduce their exposure to attacks. This also minimizes the number of security alerts IT teams must process on a daily basis, freeing up time for them to focus on the most pressing cybersecurity issues. 

#2 Data Collection for Security Events and Alerts

To effectively tackle any threat, it’s important to gather as much data as possible to inform your decision-making. The more data you’re able to glean on security events and alerts, the quicker, and better, you’re able to respond. 

However, data alone isn’t enough. It’s the responsibility of the IT team to seek out and add a layer of context to the signals and alerts they receive from their threat detection tools. There are two main categories of information that IT analysts should seek out to better inform their decision making:

Event-Centric: the majority of organizations use Security Incident and Event Management tools, also known as SIEMs, to collect data on security events. SIEMs are configured to source and aggregate data from points across the organization’s network. This data is normally presented as log files related to security, access, and user activity. IT analysts should work to make sense of this data and draw insights that help their team respond to potential threats.

Threat-Centric: this approach makes use of current trend intelligence to predict the potential attack vectors an organization faces. Armed with this knowledge, IT teams can monitor their systems for any signals that these types of attacks are occurring. Gathering threat intelligence on a routine basis helps organizations to stay a step ahead of attackers and put preventive measures in place. 

It’s important to note that many organizations adopt a hybrid approach that utilizes both event-centric and threat-centric approaches to data collection to paint a more complete picture of the threat landscape.

#3 Prioritization

Data collection and alerts play an important role, but it’s even more important that organizations can effectively prioritize these signals and channel their resources towards the most important threats. Fail to do this, and IT teams could find themselves drowning in relatively minor threats while much larger-scale attacks go undetected. 

This process can be guided by data and aided by artificial intelligence, but should ultimately be led by security professionals with a firm grasp of both their organization’s IT infrastructure and the latest known threats. Only by piecing together data with contextual information can firms prioritize the most important threats.

#4 Investigation

Once you’ve identified and prioritized potential threats, investigate them in more detail to understand how to best respond. Collate the data and insights gathered by internal teams, and compare this to established industry frameworks. Resources like MITRE ATT&CK provide invaluable insight on the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) commonly used by attackers. 

There are a couple of key things to bear in mind as your investigation progresses. Firstly, align the attack signals evident in your systems with known attacker TTPs. Secondly, identify what stage of the attack is currently occuring within your systems. Clarifying exactly what the attack is, and what stage it’s at, significantly improves your ability to effectively respond. 

#5 Response 

Once you’re confident in your diagnosis of the attack, you have to respond. There are two phases to this: addressing the immediate issue and identifying the root cause.

The first, and most immediate step, is to act to stop the effects of the attack. It might only require minimal actions to resolve the issue, but for more advanced attacks, it’s possible that your cybersecurity team will have to dive deep into your networks. 

Once you’ve resolved the initial issue, bear in mind that the underlying root cause of the problem may still be present. It could be that you’ve only addressed one element of the problem, and that others remain, or that your system has vulnerabilities you’re not aware of. Whatever the case, ensure you deeply investigate the root cause of the attack and have addressed all issues before closing out the incident. 

What Does Threat Detection Include?

There are various types of threat detection technology that organizations should apply across their IT infrastructures. Organizations shouldn’t rely on one single solution, and should leverage a network of interconnected technologies that act as a safety net across the organization’s entire infrastructure. The three main areas of threat detection are:

  • Security Event Threat Detection – SIEM platforms that aggregate data from events across an organization’s networks, including log files related to access and user activity. 
  • Network Threat Detection – these technologies help organizations to better understand traffic patterns on and between their networks.
  • Endpoint Threat Detection – provides behavioral and forensic information on malicious events on end user devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. 

By using a combination of all of these technologies, an organization’s ability to detect and adequately respond to an attack is significantly improved, provided they have a capable team of IT analysts to systematically identify, prioritize, and respond to threats. 

Best Practices for Threat Detection and Response

When executing a threat management strategy, there are several best practices that IT teams should bear in mind:

  • Real-Time Protection – opt for solutions that provide your security team with instant alerts. This enables your team to move fast, minimizing any downtime or risks to important systems.
  • Systematically Prioritize Threats – with so many threats out there today, it’s easy for teams to become overwhelmed. Determine the best way to distinguish the signal from the noise to hone in on the most important threats. 
  • Pair Internal and External Intelligence – monitor data from your internal systems as well as external threat intelligence to improve your ability to quickly identify and respond to attacks.
  • Partner with Experts – without the right personnel, all the threat detection technology in the world won’t help protect your organization. If your security team doesn’t have sufficient expertise, consider working with a Managed Cybersecurity Service Provider.

Start Detecting Threats Today with TechHeads

Not sure where to start with threat detection and response? Consider partnering with TechHeads, a leading cybersecurity firm based in the Pacific Northwest. With a portfolio of services including Managed Detection and Response, Microsoft365 Security, and IT Consulting, our team of experts has all the expertise you need to ensure your organization is well protected against the latest threats. 

To learn more, schedule a call with one of our experts today