4 min

Threat intelligence or what the darknet already knows

Threat intelligence plays a critical role in the fight against the growing cyber threats that organizations face. Hackers already have extensive information and are sharing it on the darknet. It is critical that organizations understand what threat intelligence is and how they can use this technology to improve security measures and effectively protect themselves from attacks. Ultimately, it’s about leveraging the knowledge of the hackers themselves to protect their own network and data.

Cyber risks - Thomas Joos - June 08, 2023

Threat intelligence refers to the collection and analysis of information about current and potential threats to organizations. This includes gathering data on various cyber-attacks, malware, phishing campaigns, exploits, and hacked information. By using threat intelligence, organizations gain valuable insight into the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by attackers because the sources are available to everyone, not just the criminals. This enables organizations to take preventative and reactive measures to strengthen their security.

The darknet is where stolen data, hacked information, and tools for criminal activity are traded. Hackers use the darknet to hone their skills and prepare attacks. The knowledge already circulating on the darknet is a threat to organizations because it gives attackers a head start. At the same time, this knowledge represents an opportunity that companies should take advantage of.

One example of a threat is the sale of stolen data. Stolen corporate data, such as customer databases, credit card information, or confidential business information, as well as login credentials, are offered for sale on the darknet. Another example is the distribution of malware. The Darknet sells malware tools and exploits that hackers use to deliver malware into corporate networks. This allows them to steal sensitive information, launch ransomware attacks, or cripple the company’s infrastructure.

Ransomware-as-a-Service is a major threat that organizations should protect themselves against

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a cybercrime business model in which cybercriminals rent or sell ransomware to other criminals. This service allows less technically skilled hackers to carry out ransomware attacks, as the technical complexity of creating and distributing the ransomware is handled by the provider. The darknet is often the central platform for RaaS providers. If companies understand the dangers, they can protect themselves comprehensively. Companies that do not address the issue run the risk of falling victim to such an attack in the future.

In this model, the RaaS provider takes responsibility for developing and maintaining the ransomware, the payment infrastructure, and often the customer service to help victims pay the ransom. The RaaS provider’s “customers” are other criminals who distribute the ransomware. When a victim pays the ransom, the RaaS provider gets a cut of the money, while the rest goes to the “customer.”

This business model has helped to increase the prevalence of ransomware and expand the scope and reach of this type of cybercrime. Threat intelligence is a tool against such attacks.

Data of interest to hackers can also be valuable to organizations

In addition, hackers share their attack methods on the darknet. Access credentials to digital services are also often shared. Hackers often crack passwords or exploit security vulnerabilities to gain access to email accounts, social networks, or even bank accounts. These credentials are then often offered for sale on the darknet. When corporate security professionals discover that such data is circulating on the darknet, they can protect their own network from attack and take security measures.

In other cases, information about vulnerabilities in software and systems is shared. These so-called zero-day exploits are particularly valuable because they take advantage of vulnerabilities that are not yet widely known or patched by developers. Security professionals can also use this information to scan their own network for such vulnerabilities, using the information and tools available on the darknet for their own benefit.

How organizations can protect against attacks with threat intelligence

To effectively protect against these threats, organizations should leverage threat intelligence. With access to up-to-date information, they can proactively shape their defense strategies, implement early warning systems to detect attacks before they occur, and develop targeted responses to active attacks. In addition, organizations should partner with external threat intelligence providers to benefit from their expertise and extensive resources. By leveraging threat intelligence, organizations can be proactive, identify attacks early, and take appropriate countermeasures.

An important step is to monitor the darknet and gather relevant information. There are specialized companies and service providers that specialize in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information from the darknet and other sources. By working with these partners, organizations can gain access to real-time data about current threats circulating on the darknet. This allows them to identify threats that could affect their organization and take targeted action to protect themselves.

Another important aspect of threat intelligence is developing awareness of your own vulnerabilities and attack vectors. By analyzing threat intelligence data, organizations can identify potential vulnerabilities in their systems and networks that have already been discovered by hackers. This enables them to close these vulnerabilities and adjust their security measures to prevent attacks.

Organizations can also use threat intelligence to detect targeted attacks and phishing campaigns. By monitoring hacker forums and other sources on the darknet, suspicious activity can be identified that may indicate impending attacks. This enables appropriate defensive measures to be taken, such as updating security policies, training employees to recognize phishing, and implementing security solutions to defend against such attacks.

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