The average cost of a data breach in the US at $9.48 million, a rise of 10% over the last three years, according to Statista’s latest figures. [1] Safeguarding your IT environment has never been more important. However, it’s not enough anymore to invest only in tools that defend and respond to cyber threats; organizations that see the best cybersecurity outcomes take a more proactive approach. When you’re prepared for potential cyber attacks by understanding who is targeting you and their methods, you can defend your essential networks more effectively and make your organization stronger. That’s where threat intelligence comes in.

Threat intelligence is a must in today’s world. When you get it right, you can anticipate security threats before they have the opportunity to wreak havoc on your IT environment. In addition, if attackers do manage to infiltrate your network, you can go into incident response mode much faster.

Implementing threat intelligence may seem daunting, particularly if you’re a smaller organization, but you only need to follow a few simple steps. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to handle cyber risk in your organization proactively. We’ll cover threat detection, defensive strategies (including threat intelligence powered by deception, the most effective threat hunting strategy available), and finally, how you can make threat intelligence part of your everyday operations to thrive amid growing cyber threats. Let’s get started.

Step #1 / Detect

If you don’t find out that a cyber attacker is inside your network until they’re actually in there, you’ve found out too late. Attackers don’t have to be in your IT environment for long to do serious, long-lasting damage. However, threat intelligence makes it possible to discover potential attacks and prevent them before they happen.

Understanding Threat Landscapes

The first step to effective threat detection is to gain a big-picture understanding of what’s out there. Proactive organizations generate threat intelligence first by looking at the general threat landscape, asking questions including:

  • What tools are cyber attackers utilizing right now? Malware, ransomware, or other tools?
  • What kinds of organizations are they focusing on? Are critical infrastructure attacks currently common, or are small businesses more at risk?
  • What tactics are they using to exploit vulnerabilities and compromise systems?

Collecting, processing, and analyzing this information to uncover trends can give you an accurate picture of the threats you need to guard against. But how do you relate that to your specific organization?

Indicators of Compromise

The next step in effectively detecting cyber threats is to focus on your organization’s network security situation. By monitoring user behavior in your network and identifying anomalies, you can see if an attack is taking place or about to take place.

These indicators of compromise (IOCs) could include:

Increased activity by privileged users. Threat Intelligence

Increased activity by privileged users – Attackers like to take over accounts with extra access privileges as they can do more damage

Unusual login activity. Threat Intelligence

Unusual login activity – If you’re seeing more logins after working hours than usual, it could be an indicator of a compromised account

Increase in database requests. Threat Intelligence

Increase in database requests – An uptick in database activity could indicate someone is trying to steal data, including sensitive information

Threat intelligence technology can automate threat landscape and IOC analysis so it doesn’t overburden your network security professionals. However, detecting (and neutralizing) threats early always makes for less work in the long run.

Advanced Detection Technology

Threat intelligence excels when it can identify threats before they have time to compromise your essential systems. The most advanced detection technology gets attackers to show their identities and methods before they reach your network so you can be alert and safeguard your IT environment. We call it threat intelligence powered by deception.

Deception technology creates a digital twin of your network that runs parallel to your live network. By attracting attackers with a breadcrumb trail, the technology lures in cyber attackers who believe that they’ve infiltrated your actual network. But in reality, they’re only in the deception environment, not impacting your organization.

While the attackers are in the parallel network, deception technology monitors their activities, allowing you to anticipate their next moves. The data generated during this time is specific, actionable threat intelligence delivered before the attackers reach your live network.

Security teams are often overburdened with false positives and alert fatigue. But an alert generated by threat intelligence powered by deception is timely, relevant and evidence of real activity. If there’s only one alert you take action on, it should be this.

Step #2 / Defend

Detection helps you identify potential threats. But what do you do with that information? Implementing proactive defensive strategies is essential to create a robust security infrastructure capable of enduring diverse cyber threats.

Defensive Tools

Defending your organization’s IT environment requires several tools that regulate user activity.

These include:

  • Network security – Tools to protect your network and the information within it. These include firewalls, access control, and VPNs.
  • Cloud security – With organizations migrating some or all of their business applications and data to the cloud, they require specific tools to protect their data wherever it is hosted.
  • Endpoint protection—Any connected device, whether a desktop computer, phone, Internet of Things-connected machine, or anything else, can be a target for cyber attackers. Organizations use tools to ensure every endpoint is safe

Incident Response

If a cyber attacker succeeds in breaching your network despite your best efforts, you must have a detailed incident response plan in place to quickly neutralize the attack with minimal disruption. A robust incident response plan may be a requirement by your industry regulator, but even if it isn’t, having a plan to follow means a faster response.

The first step is notifying the person or people nominated to run your response. (Remember to have a contingency plan to notify someone else if the principal nominee is on holiday.) You may also have to inform the relevant authorities.

Next should be the containment stage, where you stop the attack from doing more damage while assessing the situation as it stands. This could mean temporarily taking your network offline. After this stage, it’s about neutralizing the attack, which could involve deleting malware, eliminating malicious accounts, or patching up vulnerabilities. Finally, comes the recovery stage, where you gradually get your network back online, ensuring everything works as it should.

Depending on the nature of the attack, incident response can be time-consuming, costly, and highly challenging. That’s why it’s so valuable to head off potential attacks before they can cause serious damage. Proactive beats reactive every time.

Proactive Defense in the Real World

Threat intelligence powered by deception is the ultimate defense solution because it captures adversaries’ movements before they pose a genuine threat to your networks. Numerous organizations running the most critical infrastructure use threat intelligence powered by deception to keep their systems running.

Red Electrica de Espana (REE) is Spain’s national electricity grid. Concerned about the potentially devastating consequences of cyber attacks on their legacy operational technology, REE deployed CounterCraft’s threat intelligence powered by deception.

A few weeks after rolling out, CounterCraft The Platform detected threat actors in its digital twin environment attempting to exploit a critical vulnerability to gain control of an electrical substation. Over six hours, The Platform delivered real-time intelligence on their activities. From then on, REE’s security experts knew precisely how the attacker conducted reconnaissance during the discovery and exploitation phases of their attack. When the attackers eventually turned their focus to the actual network, it was easier to identify and neutralize them.

The threat intelligence powered by deception delivered by CounterCraft The Platform was specific and detailed, alerting REE’s security professionals to take immediate action to safeguard the critical infrastructure, knowing exactly where the priority areas were.

You can learn more about how it worked in this case study from CounterCraft.

Step #3 / Thrive

Cyber threats pose genuine challenges to organizations. But you shouldn’t let them stop you from excelling in whatever you do. When you take the right precautions, including robust threat intelligence strategies, there’s no reason you can’t thrive in this environment.

Integrating Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence platforms are extremely powerful technologies but you need to combine them with other cybersecurity tools to create a comprehensive solution to cyber threats. Innovative organizations choose a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution with an integrated threat intelligence powered by deception platform, enabling a proactive approach to threat analysis and strong, coordinated incident response.

Promoting Security Awareness

You can’t solely rely on tech tools to defend you from cyber threats. Organizations must develop processes to ensure cybersecurity is front and center. From the day a new team member joins your organization, they need to know the importance of cybersecurity and receive regular training on avoiding attack tactics like email scams and social engineering.

Other processes, such as regularly updating software to patch vulnerabilities, should be a must in your organization.

Ongoing Improvement

Cybersecurity is a never-ending job, and it’s no use having a brilliant threat intelligence program in your organization if you don’t act on its findings.

When you follow the steps in this guide, you have the foundations of a strong threat intelligence program. Your framework incorporates specific, actionable data, which your security teams can rely on as a priority and respond as necessary. But what next? Threat intelligence data will throw up areas where you can improve, vulnerabilities that need to be repaired, and perhaps even gaps in your existing processes.

When these improvement areas present themselves, act on them. You can bet that cyber attackers are watching, so make sure you’re always one step ahead. Be flexible, and don’t hesitate to change your approach when the evidence demands it.

Threat intelligence powered by deception is excellent for driving improvements in security and risk management processes as it delivers concrete evidence that cyber attackers are targeting you and the methods they use. Any investment you make on the back of evidence provided by deception technology will pay off, as it deals with real-world issues, not just theory.


Implementing the strategies outlined in this guide allows you to:

·  Detect cyber threats early, giving you time to respond.

·  Defend against evolving cyber threats before, during, and after attacks.

·  Thrive in a world where cyber attackers get more sophisticated every day.

The key to improvement in these areas is developing threat intelligence in your organization. Threat intelligence allows you to take a proactive, preventative approach to cybersecurity based on data and factual evidence. When you add threat intelligence powered by deception, you take that approach up a level.