Intelligence has many different faces. The simplest way to describe intelligence might be - information discovery for a certain purpose. Now, there are lots of types of information, thousands of ways of discovering it, and clearly numerous purposes of collecting it, yet all types of intelligence will ultimately relate to uncovering the unknown in one way or another. And still, when looking at the last years' developments within the intelligence community, the area of cyber intelligence has its own uniqueness.
When it comes to necessity, the last decade has provided us with lots of tangible examples of why cyber intelligence is so critical to our world. A series of cyber-attacks on our governments, banks, social networks, and insurance companies have exposed sensitive documents, customer information, and user credentials, and caused massive social, financial and geopolitical damage. Even more recently, cyber threats have also proven themselves to be relevant to our daily lives when critical infrastructure around the globe was hit by APTs and the healthcare industry was surprised to discover that threat actors wouldn’t skip over the life-saving hospitals as a legitimate target. Therefore, the need is obvious. Cyber intelligence is intended to mitigate the next cyber-attack that will damage our privacy, money, health, and security.
But what about the method? What differentiates the actual work of generating cyber intelligence from other kinds of intelligence gathering? Well, it begins with urgency and promptness. Unlike business intelligence, in cyber intelligence things move fast. Really fast. There is a very short time gap between an assumed cyber threat until it becomes a cyber-attack in reality. Hence, in order to expose the attacker's intention before it becomes a reality, whether it is a denial-of-service attack or a malware attack, one must have the appropriate tools to monitor such actions in real time or at least have some sort of insight into potential attackers' activities.
The functionality of real-time threat monitoring enables the ideal situation where the cyber intelligence provider follows the situation closely - 24/7 - and thus is able to generates alert relating to threats with enough time prior to their realization. The sooner you know, the better you can act in order to mitigate the attack. Hence, valuable cyber intelligence tools must be equipped with some high-level automation so that they are able not only to monitor but also to identify the threats and alert the user about them.
In the past few years cyber-attacks against critical industries, such as the healthcare, transportation and energy, have unveiled a scary fact: there are cyber threat actors that have no boundaries or limits. For these actors, every target is legitimate. For example, hospitals' patient databases are at risk, as well as the actual medical devices they use. Therefore, cyber intelligence needs to answer the most difficult questions about the most devastating scenarios and to provide effective information to cope with them.
The pace in which cyber intelligence develops is far from slow and the next few years are expected to be even faster. Organizations will be seeking cyber intelligence solutions that will provide them with a better understanding of the current threats on their perimeter and will choose the solutions that provide proactive intelligence that can help them mitigate the next attack.