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Threat Detection and Response: An Overview

Mark Stone

For most organizations, defending against modern cyber threats is becoming more challenging than ever as the threat landscape evolves. Monitoring critical networks and devices in the cloud, on-prem, and remote locations is crucial for detecting and containing potential threats before they become an incident. 

The expertise, time and resources required to monitor the steady flood of data and logs are often overwhelming for many organizations. 

Defining threat detection and response

Before defining threat detection and response, it’s important to understand what a threat means to an organization. A threat means anything that could potentially cause harm to a computer system, application, or cloud network. 

Threat detection, then, represents an organization’s ability to accurately identify threats —  whether it’s to the network, endpoints, other assets or applications. Threat detection analyzes an organization’s entire security infrastructure to identify any malicious activity (or threat) that might compromise the ecosystem. 

Mitigation efforts must be in place to properly address the threat before it can multiply by exploiting other vulnerabilities. The faster a threat is detected, the easier it is for an organization to respond. 

The next step, threat response, is most effective when strategies are formed in advance, so all parties have a blueprint for the necessary actions to take.

For organizations leveraging cloud infrastructure, threat detection and response plays a crucial role in determining their cybersecurity posture. If an IT security team can’t recognize malicious intruders or adversaries within an adequate time frame, the risk of effectively mitigating the damage from a threat increases dramatically. 

Typically, organizations that prioritize all the information generated from network activity can leverage the data as a defense mechanism. The best security programs plan for potential breaches and assume that one day, someone or something could bypass their preventative technologies.

Fortunately, many cybersecurity software solutions exist to support the ongoing need for threat detection and response.

Primary attacks to defend against

As mentioned above, the threat landscape is constantly evolving and new threats are emerging seemingly every day. But most threats can be classified by common types, the most prominent of which are covered here. Remember, understanding what the threats are is a critical first step in establishing an effective threat detection and response strategy.

Malware and ransomware – Malware is a malicious piece of software or code created to infect the target system by stealing sensitive data or causing a severe impact on computers and networks. Types of malware include viruses, trojan horse applications, and spyware. Today, one of the most common forms of malware is ransomware, which typically encrypts a company’s data or systems until they pay the ransom to have things unlocked. 

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – DDoS attacks leverage a network of devices or computers to bring down a website, service or network. The targeted system is flooded with much more traffic than it can handle in a DDoS and typically shuts down.  

Botnets – A botnet, which gets its name from the words robot and network, is a group of infected computers. Bots are controlled by hackers without the computer owners’ knowledge and are typically a part of a multi-staged attack strategy. Botnets are often used in a DDoS attack but can also carry out other mass scams and attacks.

Phishing – Phishing attacks are used to dupe the recipient into clicking on what appears to be a legitimate link or attachment within an email, resulting in the attackers stealing sensitive data. Many phishing attacks lead victims to a phoney website that prompts the user to enter login information or other personal data.

Zero-Day Threat – Zero-day threats are probably the worst type of threat type because nobody has seen them before. Zero-day threats are so new they are named zero day, essentially meaning the attack has existed for no days. These threats are unpredictable and can easily catch unprepared organizations off guard.

Blended Threat – Blended threats leverage multiple techniques and different attacks simultaneously to increase the odds of success. 

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) – An advanced persistent threat (APT) describes an attack campaign in which the attacker (or typically, a team of attackers) infiltrates a network and establishes a targeted, prolonged presence. APTs are used to steal highly sensitive data, and usually go undetected for long periods of time.

Tools and software that support threat detection 

There are countless solutions that support threat detection, but the objective here isn’t to list every tool on the market. What’s equally critical about threat detection is the human element —security teams must have the expertise and experience in analyzing data, behaviors and reports to make decisions.

Of course, threat detection solutions play a key role. While no single tool can do everything required, a combination of solutions makes up the threat detection team. The most common tools in this space are Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). 

But leading that team of tools — the quarterback, so to speak — is typically the SIEM, which acts as the centralized location for all security data to be routed, parsed, and analyzed. The best SIEM tools take all the log data across the entire infrastructure and presents the data in a way that can be leveraged for threat detection.

No matter what software or tools an organization uses for threat detection, the key is to have as much data available from which to harness threat intelligence. If you don’t know what is happening on your systems, threat detection is impossible. 

The value of good threat intelligence

Put simply, good threat intelligence provides security teams, threat researchers and other key stakeholders with enough ammunition in the fight with cybercriminals and attackers. When they have access to the critical data they need to grasp the ramifications of current and past attacks, the ability to predict and prevent future attacks skyrockets. 

With good threat intelligence, organizations can apply what they know to all of their security tools like firewalls and intrusion detection systems. 

Good threat intelligence should also provide context about the attack — in other words, who is attacking you, why they’re attacking, what they are capable of, and which of your systems or assets are vulnerable to compromise.

The best threat intelligence solutions aggregate and process unstructured data and activity from all your systems to paint a clear picture of your security posture.

Ultimately, good threat intelligence should be actionable, understandable by decision-makers,  timely, and provide context. 

Rethink TDR with a serverless approach

The shift to the cloud has resulted in an explosion of security-relevant data that security teams need to collect and analyze to detect threats. But, traditional tools were not built with cloud-scale in mind and cannot meet the demands of today’s modern workloads.

With a traditional SIEM, you’d have to delay running detections until data is at rest, extending the time that attackers have to pivot and exfiltrate data.

With Panther’s serverless approach to threat detection and response, your security team can detect threats in real-time by analyzing logs as they are ingested, giving you the fastest possible time to detection. 

Want to learn how Panther does it? Request a demo today.