Breached companies regret lack of threat-intelligence foresight, but even users struggling to exploit it well

Four out of five companies that have suffered an IT security breach wish they had had a threat-intelligence platform in place before the attack, according to new research that also found just 1 in 3 respondents consider their company's security defence to be strong enough to protect them.

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Report 2015, a Ponemon Institute survey of 693 IT and IT security decision-makers, found that companies are suffering from a strong disconnect between understanding the value of security tools, and actually implementing them.

Fully 68 percent of respondents said the threat intelligence provided more benefits than it costs, with almost half of respondents turning to formal threat-intelligence offerings to improve their visibility of their security posture. And some 49 percent rely on fee-based sources of intelligence rather than free sources – held to be inadequate for sophisticated threat analysis.

Threat advisories were in use at 64 percent of respondent companies, while just 24 percent were actively exchanging threat intelligence with other companies in the same industry.

A strong threat-intelligence back end, strengthened by the acquisitions of security innovators BrightCloud and Prevx, has helped Webroot integrate threat intelligence capabilities into its security offerings – helping its customers, product marketing manager George Anderson told CSO Australia, to keep well apprised of evolving security threats.

Threat-intelligence information “used to be quite siloed,” Anderson explained, “but then we started to correlate and contextualise between those silos. We started to use all the intelligence our systems were gathering in a contextual way to make our own products even better.”

Yet despite the growing adoption of threat intelligence tools, most companies are still struggling to make use of the volumes of data they gather. While 71 percent of companies that rely on internal threat intelligence, for example, just 25 percent said their processes for using that intelligence to predict malicious online activities were effective.

Just 15 percent of companies believe they were using externally sourced threat intelligence data to effectively predict malicious activities.

“The results of the study indicate that, while some companies have figured out how to leverage threat intelligence into a viable enterprise security defence,” said Ponemon Institute chairman and founder Larry Ponemon, “many more have not. But, given the rapidly changing threat landscape, we expect threat intelligence to evolve to the point that it will become a key component of IT security.”

Yet many of those tools are still “immature”, Gartner recently warned in an analysis that said providers of threat-intelligence solutions were rapidly turning them into more-sophisticated offerings that not only analyse security threats, but apply the analysis against specific business or compliance metrics.

The majority of respondents – 80 percent – said that threat intelligence would have helped prevent or minimise the consequences of an attack and 53 percent believe threat intelligence is essential to having a strong security posture.

Of those who are using threat intelligence well, the results suggested that the technique works and works well: 46 percent of respondents said they had used their threat-intelligence tools to detect 26 or more cyber attacks that had evaded conventional defences, with an additional 23 percent of respondents reporting they had discovered 1 to 25 attacks.

The survey also showed a strong preference for real-time threat analytics, with 56 percent saying they felt that threat intelligence becomes “stale” within seconds or minutes.

“A lot of what we've done has been to move things into being real time,” said Webroot's Anderson.

“We invested a lot in machine learning technologies, and invested in things that cut out the human side of this process to a certain extent. Our threat-intelligence investment has helped us automate the process to make real-time decisions, and make them extraordinarily quickly.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.