What is Network Threat Hunting?

Network Threat Hunting is a proactive cybersecurity strategy aimed at identifying and mitigating potential threats within a network before they escalate. Unlike traditional cybersecurity measures that primarily focus on reactive approaches, threat hunting involves actively seeking out signs of malicious activity in real-time.

Network threat hunting involves leveraging advanced tools and methodologies to actively monitor and analyze:

  • Network traffic
  • User behaviors
  • System activities

By adopting a proactive stance, organizations can fortify their defenses, making it significantly more challenging for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities.

Why Is Threat Hunting Important?

While conventional approaches focus on known threats and signatures, threat hunting extends beyond these parameters. Plus, threat hunting contributes to reducing the ‘dwell time’ (the duration a threat remains undetected in a system) of threats – minimizing the potential impact of security incidents. 

This aligns with the principle that early detection and swift response are paramount in maintaining a robust cybersecurity posture. 

Explore more about the importance of threat hunting.

How Does Cyber Threat Hunting Work?

Skilled cybersecurity professionals leverage their expertise and intuition to actively search for suspicious activities that automated systems might overlook.

The process typically begins with defining hypotheses based on:

  • Intelligence
  • Patterns
  • Indicators of compromise

Threat hunters then conduct in-depth investigations, analyzing network traffic, logs, and endpoint data to validate or refute these hypotheses.

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The Most Effective Threat Hunting Techniques

There are tons of threat hunting techniques to choose from. To save you time, we’ve narrowed them down into 5 most effective ones. 

Behavioral AnalysisInvolves monitoring and analyzing network activities to identify patterns and anomalies. By understanding the typical behavior of systems and users, threat hunters can spot deviations that may indicate malicious activities
Endpoint AnalysisBy analyzing endpoint data, hunters can identify potential threats like malware or suspicious processes. Endpoint analysis helps uncover indicators of compromise (IoCs) and enhances the overall security posture by addressing threats at their source.
Anomaly DetectionBy leveraging machine learning algorithms, security teams can automate the detection of anomalies, making it easier to discover potential threats in real-time.
Threat Intelligence IntegrationBy staying informed about the latest threat landscapes and attack vectors, security professionals can tailor their hunting efforts to focus on specific indicators and tactics used by threat actors.
Memory ForensicsEffective in uncovering advanced malware and stealthy attacks that may not leave traces on traditional storage. Memory forensics provides insights into malicious activities that occur during runtime.

5 Top Tips for Effective Threat Hunting

Below are our five top tips for how to hunt and thwart threats:

  1. Continuous Training: Continuous education ensures that security professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively identify and mitigate emerging threats.
  1. Collaboration and Communication: By encouraging a culture of information sharing and collaboration, organizations can harness the collective expertise of their security professionals to tackle sophisticated threats more efficiently.
  1. Utilize Threat Hunting Platforms: These platforms often incorporate automation, machine learning, and analytics to streamline the hunting process, allowing security teams to focus on high-priority threats.
  1. Regularly Review and Refine Procedures: As threats continue to evolve, security teams must adapt their hunting methodologies to address emerging challenges effectively. Regular reviews ensure that hunting procedures remain relevant and efficient.
  1. Integrate Threat Hunting into Incident Response: By integrating threat hunting activities into incident response processes, organizations can create a more comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. This approach enables proactive threat detection and a swift, coordinated response to mitigate potential risks.

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Leveraging the most effective threat hunting techniques and following best practices can significantly bolster an organization’s cybersecurity posture. 

By staying vigilant, adopting advanced methodologies, and encouraging collaboration, security professionals can proactively identify and neutralize threats, safeguarding their digital assets from malicious actors. 

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What is the difference between IOC and IOA?
IOAs aim to spot and thwart attacks in progress by recognizing suspicious behaviors, while IOCs are employed for the post-event analysis, identifying and investigating security incidents based on artifacts and evidence left behind after a compromise.
What are IOC examples?
Instances of an IOC encompass abnormal network patterns, uncommon activities within privileged user accounts, irregularities in logins, spikes in database read activity, suspicious alterations to system files or registries, atypical DNS requests, and web traffic displaying non-human behavior.
What is the threat hunting life cycle?
Below is an outline of the threat hunting lifecycle:

Step 1: Develop Hypothesis
Initiate threat hunting by creating a hypothesis based on potential threats and attacker tactics. Leverage threat intelligence, environmental insights, and experience.

Step 2: Gather Quality Data
Ensure access to quality intelligence and data, utilizing tools like Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software for comprehensive insights.

Step 3: Trigger Investigation
Use the hypothesis as a trigger for investigating specific systems or network areas when advanced detection tools indicate potential threats.

Step 4: Investigate Anomalies
Deploy investigative technology to scrutinize potential malicious anomalies, distinguishing between benign and confirmed malicious activities.

Step 5: Respond and Resolve
Utilize data from confirmed malicious activities to automate security responses, resolving and mitigating threats. Actions may include removing malware, restoring files, updating rules, deploying patches, and adjusting configurations to enhance overall security.
How to use IoC in cyber security?
Initiating network monitoring is crucial for early attack detection. In investigations, logs and audit trails are equally vital. Real-time collection of IoC data facilitates quicker responses in investigative processes.

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