Cyberattacks have become an everyday occurrence for organizations of all sizes. Global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have further escalated the intensity and frequency of attacks. The threat landscape is constantly shifting, making threat detection increasingly important to the enterprise.
To protect themselves in this environment, organizations must continuously identify new threats in the digital ecosystem. The best way to achieve this is by implementing a threat detection program.
What Is Threat Detection?
Threat detection is a series of activities that enable enterprises to find threats consistently across the IT infrastructure. The goal is to detect threats quickly before they can cause major harm.
Although the words threat and attack are often used interchangeably, a threat is not an attack but rather the possibility of an attack — or anything that could be exploited to launch one. Some examples include viruses, backdoors, and misconfigurations. Threats can be either known (such as malware published in publicly available databases) or unknown (such as vulnerabilities that haven’t yet been identified by software vendors).
A successful threat detection program has multiple components, including different types of technologies, processes, people, and threat intelligence. Many organizations also implement advanced techniques, such as threat hunting, which allows for a more proactive approach to cybersecurity.
Threat Detection and Response
Once a threat is detected, organizations must move quickly to eradicate it and avoid the worst-case scenario — a full-scale cyberattack. That’s where threat response comes in. Threat response is different from incident response, which takes place once a threat has turned into a cyber incident or attack.
Threat detection methodology should consider all the attack vectors that cybercriminals can exploit to launch an attack. Solutions use tools such as automation and artificial intelligence to make threat response and detection faster and more effective.
The Evolution of Threat Detection and Response
Threats are constantly changing. Attackers are always inventing new ways to compromise networks while avoiding detection. For example, AV-TEST Institute registers more than 450,000 malware strains and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) on a daily basis. Of those two types of threats, malware comprises of more than 95%.
It can take days, weeks, or months — and in some cases, even years — to discover threats that are lurking in the enterprise, giving cybercriminals plenty of time to act.
Consider how a cyberattack develops. The adversaries first need to gain entry into the network. They may do this by exploiting a vulnerability such as unpatched software or a misconfiguration in one of the organization’s systems, or they may send a phishing email that lures an unwitting employee to deploy malware. If the company doesn’t detect these threats early, the bad actors will eventually succeed in gaining a foothold and launch an attack.
Establishing a Threat Detection Program
As mentioned earlier, threat detection combines multiple components — including technology, processes, and people. Organizations need an approach for understanding both internal and external threats and scanning for them across the enterprise.
Important aspects to consider for a strong threat detection program include:
- Visibility across the entire environment, including every device, application, and piece of data
- Behavior monitoring to enable teams to spot anomalies, both in human and systems behaviors
- Playbooks to save threat detection and response team time and effort
- Threat hunting so businesses can detect threats proactively, before they even trigger alarms
- Automated mitigation to help the organization contain threats more efficiently
A comprehensive threat detection approach also needs to span different layers in the environment, such as network and endpoints.
Network Threat Detection
Network threat detection looks for malware, suspicious traffic behavior, and misconfigurations in the network. Network detection and response solutions often search for threats that may have slipped past other security tools. Depending on the specific solution, it may combine signature-based techniques with more advanced analytics (e.g., machine learning).
For effective network threat detection, raw traffic should be monitored and analyzed in real time — whether that’s traffic coming in, going out, or traversing the network. This ensures that organizations can identify threats regardless of their point of origin.
Extended Detection and Response
An emerging trend in cybersecurity is extended detection and response (XDR). XDR creates an end-to-end, integrated approach by combining threat detection, incident investigation and response across several security layers — including the network, the cloud, applications, and endpoints.
XDR improves response by collecting data and telemetry from a range of tools that previously worked in siloes, consolidating visibility into threats, and allowing the enterprise to orchestrate response.
What Is API Threat Detection?
In a cloud-based, interconnected world, application programming interfaces, or APIs, are a growing threat for many organizations. APIs are very popular for integrating third-party applications and creating interoperability; however, they’re often improperly secured. Because APIs have a public IP address that’s outside of the organization’s boundary, they’re an attractive target for attackers.
Like anything else connected to the internet, APIs have exploitable vulnerabilities. Common API threats include:
- Broken user authorization (e.g., poorly implemented authentication policies that enable threat actors to impersonate legitimate users)
- Sensitive data exposure (e.g., exposing more sensitive data than is necessary for the client app to have)
- Security misconfiguration (e.g., using default permissions)
As with the network and endpoints, organizations must continuously scan the API attack surface for threats and act quickly to close any gaps.
Using APIs to Improve Security
When used and secured properly, the APIs themselves can also help organizations better detect threats across the environment. They allow businesses to integrate different security solutions, such as identity and access management (IAM) and security information and event management (SIEM) platforms. This integration, in turn, enables the enterprise to automate various workflows and processes, as well as gain enhanced visibility and controls.
Managed Threat Detection and Response
Many organizations that don’t have the resources to continuously monitor threats turn to managed threat detection and response. These services are offered by vendors such as managed detection and response (MDR) providers and managed security services providers (MSSPs). Managed threat detection solutions vary from vendor to vendor, but often include core capabilities such as:
- 24/7 cybersecurity monitoring of your network, devices, and other surfaces — often combining technology and human analysts working remotely from the vendor’s SOC
- Advanced threat detection and analysis to help you prioritize threats
- Threat containment and incident response
Benefits of Managed Threat Detection
Benefits that managed services offer include:
- Highly trained analysts and other security experts who specialize in specific areas and stay up to date on current threats
- Advanced technology, such as an integrated platform, that enhances visibility across the security architecture
- Strategic expertise that helps organizations understand and prioritize cybersecurity risks
Even larger companies that have full in-house security teams often outsource threat detection to an outside vendor, because it allows them to focus on more strategic or advanced activities.
Threat Detection and Identity Security
Threats today come from a range of sources, including employees and cloud applications. In an evolving IT environment, organizations need solutions that help them identify threats from all of these sources consistently. One way this is done is through integrating identity security into your cybersecurity ecosystem, which helps enterprises prevent unauthorized entry into systems.
SailPoint’s Identity Platform integrates with many popular applications and platforms to help organizations gain visibility into and control of their digital environment. Learn how you can stay ahead of threats and enable identity security.
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