Your Guide to Automated Cyber Threat Hunting

Threat hunting is a powerful – yet time-consuming – piece of the security operations puzzle. Learn more about streamlined threat hunting with automation.

Ashlyn Eperjesi
Aug 25, 2023
 min read
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Threat hunting is an essential security practice for any business or organization responsible for protecting data and assets. As malicious actors become more sophisticated, so must security professionals in the way they detect and defend against cyber threats. Threat hunting offers a proactive approach to identifying hidden threats as well as providing insights into attack activities already underway. Through focused investigation, threat hunts can enable organizations to respond faster and more effectively to emerging risks while addressing known adversaries in their environment. 

Let's dive further into what threat hunting is, how it helps your security operations team stay ahead of evolving attacks – and ultimately – how to get started with your own important automated threat-hunting initiatives.

What is Threat Hunting?

Cyber threat hunting is a practice in cybersecurity that involves proactively searching for threats that may be present in a network or system. Essentially, threat hunting is a proactive security approach, whereby threat hunters search for advanced threats lurking in networks that may have evaded traditional security measures. It's like going on a cyber safari, except instead of seeking out elusive animals in the wild, you're searching for hidden threats who could wreak havoc on a business or organization's operations. 

Threat hunting has grown in popularity and importance as hacking techniques are becoming ever more sophisticated. By leveraging innovative tools and techniques, cyber threat hunting offers a way to stay ahead of cybercriminals and protect against potentially devastating attacks.

How Threat Hunting Works

Threat hunting goes beyond traditional security measures by actively searching for and prioritizing potential threats. To be successful, threat hunting requires a combination of deep technical knowledge and strategic thinking. Threat hunters also work closely with other security teams to share intelligence and coordinate responses when a threat is identified. 

Generally, threat hunting frameworks follow five common steps:

  1. Hypothesis: When embarking on a hunt for threats, threat hunters start with an idea of the potential dangers within the environment and how they plan to uncover them. Their hypothesis often encompasses threat actors' tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), as well as valuable threat intelligence and personal expertise, all contributing to the formation of a well-crafted hunting path.
  2. Collect Data and Intelligence: Threat intelligence and event data is pulled from security analytics tools to paint a clearer picture for threat hunters. This data can highlight a threat actors bread crumbs to provide context during the hunt.
  3. Trigger: In threat hunting, a trigger can be an enriched hypothesis or unusual activity within particular systems and networks.
  4. Investigation: During the investigation phase, threat hunters collect data either manually or from dedicated tools to inform their response. This is used to inform hunters whether the threat is benign or malicious. 
  5. Response and Resolution: Once collected, the information is leveraged to address verified threats. Data from previous investigations is carefully analyzed and stored, enriching future endeavors. By utilizing this data, automation tools can enhance efficiencies, while security teams fortify protective measures and anticipate emerging trends.

Common Types of Threat Hunting

There are typically three main types of threat hunting methodologies:

Structured: Effective structured threat hunting starts with indicators of attack (IoAs) and revolves around analyzing the TTPs employed by threat actors. These hunts frequently leverage the MITRE ATT&CK Framework, empowering hunters to proactively identify and mitigate threats before any harm ensues.

Unstructured: Unstructured threat hunting typically starts with a trigger or indicator of compromise (IoC). The skilled hunter meticulously analyzes and scrutinizes patterns in behavior, both before and after detection, to uncover hidden threats and potential vulnerabilities. 

Situational or Entity-Driven: Situational hunting dives deep into business risks, trends, and vulnerabilities, to unearth hidden threats. It serves as a starting point for a threat hunt so that companies can identify and address potential threats unique to their systems and operations.

Cyber Threat Hunting Challenges

Threat hunting, while a valuable practice for enhancing your security posture, comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the biggest challenges associated with threat hunting include:

Skill Gap: Effective threat hunting requires a deep understanding of cybersecurity, the threat landscape, network architecture, and various attack techniques. Finding skilled threat hunters who possess the necessary knowledge and experience is a challenge, and organizations need to invest in regular training and development.

Complexity of Data: Organizations generate vast amounts of data from various sources, such as logs, network traffic, and endpoint data. The sheer volume and variety of data can make it difficult to identify meaningful patterns and anomalies without the right tools.

Limited Resources: Threat hunting can be resource-intensive, requiring dedicated personnel, time, and technology investments. Smaller organizations struggle to allocate sufficient resources for effective threat hunting practices.

Constantly Evolving Threat Landscape: Threat actors continuously develop new tactics and techniques to evade detection. Threat hunters need to stay updated with the latest threat intelligence and adapt their strategies to address emerging threats.

Automated Threat Hunting – What it is and How it Works

As a security professional, you know that the threat landscape is constantly evolving and your organization needs to be prepared for potential attacks. Traditional security measures are useful in keeping threats at bay; however, they can only do so much. 

That’s why an automated threat hunting solution has become an important tool in modern cybersecurity operations. Automated threat hunting helps detect advanced adversaries through the use of machine learning algorithms and cues from network activity patterns that may indicate malicious activity. 

Blink automated workflow: Search CrowdStrike IOC Across Devices

Benefits of Automated Threat Hunting

Reduce Labor-Intensive Tasks: Automating repetitive and routine tasks allows threat hunters to dedicate more time to unearthing sophisticated threats that require human logic.

Enhanced Skill Development: Automation allows threat hunters to focus on higher-value tasks, which can lead to skill development and specialization in more advanced security areas. Automating low-level tasks also frees up time to dedicate to professional development and training opportunities. 

Boost Productivity Metrics: Automation accelerates the gathering of relevant data and the identification of suspicious activity, which aids in improving security performance. For example, you can significantly reduce dwell time and the time taken to complete hunt tasks, as well as increase the number of hunts completed.

Demonstrable ROI: The impact of automation on key metrics such as dwell times, MTTR, and workload reduction can be quantified in hourly and monetary savings. The qualitative value of automation can also be highlighted in reduced employee turnover and improved job satisfaction.

Automated Threat Hunting Tool Considerations

When it comes to automating threat hunting workflows, finding the right tool can make all the difference. However, choosing a suitable threat hunting tool can be a daunting task with the myriad of options available. It's imperative to consider key factors such as the tool's capabilities, scalability, ease of use, compatibility with your current security infrastructure, and cost-effectiveness. With a hyperautomation platform, you should expect capabilities such as:

Accessible Automation: Accessible automation at your fingertips is crucial. Security professionals save valuable time and resources so they can focus on the most critical security issues facing their organization. Key criteria to look for include flexibility in the level of coding you can leverage, including a range of no-code and low-code capabilities. 

Generative AI: Tools that utilize generative-AI technology help threat hunters automate workflows faster, which in turn boosts productivity. Instead of spending time finding correct APIs, you can leverage generative AI to streamline workflow automation. 

For instance, with a single prompt Blink Copilot can automate a workflow that finds AccessDenied events in AWS and sends a report via Slack. 

Blink automated workflow: Find AccessDenied Events and Send Report to Slack Channel

Automating Workflows Outside the SOC: The ability to automate workflows outside traditional SOC use cases ensures that threat hunting teams have the flexibility to tackle cybersecurity problems unique to their organization. A well-rounded automation platform

Boost Threat Hunting Productivity with Hyperautomation

Streamlined threat hunting with a security hyperautomation platform, like Blink, offers proactive management without requiring overloaded security practitioners to dedicate considerable time to repetitive, lower level tasks. This allows organizations to focus on deep investigations, rapidly responding to any emergency situations that arise and minimizing their overall risk. 

You must stay one step ahead of attackers, and automated cyber threat hunting with hyperautomation multiplies your security efforts. Schedule a demo of Blink today and learn more about how you can get the benefit of automating threat hunting workflows for your organization.

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