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Beginner’s Guide to Threat Intelligence for Cybersecurity

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, cybersecurity has become an increasingly important concern for individuals and organizations alike. One of the most effective ways to stay ahead of potential threats is through the use of threat intelligence.

What is Threat Intelligence?

Threat intelligence is the process of analyzing data to understand potential threats and their characteristics. It involves collecting and analyzing information about known and unknown threats in order to better understand the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by attackers. This information can then be used to improve an organization’s security posture by identifying vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors.

Why is Threat Intelligence Important?

Threat intelligence is important because it allows organizations to proactively defend against potential threats. By understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by attackers, organizations can better protect themselves against future attacks. Threat intelligence can also help organizations identify vulnerabilities in their infrastructure, enabling them to take steps to address these weaknesses before they can be exploited.

Types of Threat Intelligence

There are three main types of threat intelligence:

  1. Strategic Threat Intelligence: This type of threat intelligence focuses on high-level, long-term trends and risks. It’s often used by executives and decision-makers to inform strategic planning and resource allocation.

  2. Tactical Threat Intelligence: Tactical threat intelligence is more operational in nature and is focused on immediate threats and vulnerabilities. It’s used by security analysts and incident responders to prioritize and respond to threats.

  3. Operational Threat Intelligence: Operational threat intelligence is focused on the technical details of specific threats, such as malware or phishing campaigns. It’s used by security analysts to identify and respond to specific threats.

How to Use Threat Intelligence

The process of using threat intelligence involves several steps:

  1. Collection: The first step in using threat intelligence is collecting relevant data. This can include data from a variety of sources, such as open-source intelligence, dark web monitoring, and internal network logs.

  2. Analysis: Once data has been collected, it needs to be analyzed to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities. This can involve using a variety of tools and techniques, such as machine learning and data mining.

  3. Dissemination: Once potential threats have been identified, the information needs to be disseminated to the appropriate parties. This can include security analysts, incident responders, and decision-makers.

  4. Action: Finally, the information needs to be acted upon. This can involve taking steps to address vulnerabilities or responding to an ongoing attack.

Types of Threat Intelligence Feeds

Threat intelligence feeds provide a way for organizations to receive up-to-date information about potential threats. There are several formats for threat intelligence feeds, including:

  1. STIX and TAXII: STIX (Structured Threat Information Expression) is an open-source format for automated threat intelligence feeds. It is closely related to TAXII (Trusted Automated eXchange of Intelligence Information), an administrative protocol that provides a framework for organizing and distributing STIX-formatted data.

  2. OpenIOC: OpenIOC is an XML format for communicating IoC (Indicator of Compromise) data. It was developed by Mandiant/FireEye and is free to use.

  3. MAEC: Malware Attribute Enumeration and Characterization (MAEC) is an open-source project that produces a range of layouts that can be used to send or extract threat intelligence about malware.

Threat intelligence feeds can also be provided in JSON and CSV formats.

Best Practices for Using Threat Intelligence

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when using threat intelligence:

  1. Integrate threat intelligence into your existing security operations: Threat intelligence is most effective when it is integrated into an organization’s existing security operations. This can include integrating threat intelligence feeds into security information and event management (SIEM) systems or other security tools.

  2. Use multiple sources of threat intelligence: Relying on a single source of threat intelligence can be dangerous, as it may not provide a complete picture of the threat landscape. Instead, organizations should use multiple sources of threat intelligence to ensure that they are aware of all potential threats.

  3. Ensure the quality of the threat intelligence: Not all threat intelligence is created equal. It’s important to ensure that the threat intelligence you are using is accurate, up-to-date, and relevant to your organization. This can involve using a variety of sources and tools to verify the information.

  4. Automate threat intelligence processes where possible: Threat intelligence processes can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Automating these processes, such as using machine learning algorithms to analyze threat data, can help organizations to more effectively identify and respond to threats.

  5. Train your security personnel on threat intelligence: Threat intelligence is only effective if it is understood and acted upon by security personnel. Organizations should provide training and education on threat intelligence to ensure that security personnel are equipped to use it effectively.

  6. Regularly review and update your threat intelligence strategy: The threat landscape is constantly evolving, and threat intelligence strategies need to evolve with it. Regularly reviewing and updating your threat intelligence strategy can help ensure that your organization is prepared to respond to new threats.

By following these best practices, organizations can effectively leverage threat intelligence to improve their cybersecurity posture and stay ahead of potential threats.

Sources of Threat Intelligence Feeds

There are many sources of threat intelligence feeds available. Here are some of the best:

  1. CrowdStrike Falcon Intelligence: This is a cloud-based service that offers automated feeds sent straight to security services. The service provides human-readable reports and can be integrated with third-party security tools. CrowdStrike Falcon Intelligence offers a free trial of the software, and it is available in three plan levels.

  2. AlienVault Open Threat Exchange: This is a free-to-use, crowd-sourced threat intelligence collection that processes more than 19 million new IoC records every day. The service delivers threat intelligence in various formats, including STIX, OpenIoC, MAEC, JSON, and CSV formats. Each feed instance is called a “pulse,” and you can define your requirements to get specific pre-filtered data.

  3. FBI InfraGard: This threat intelligence feed from the FBI is free to access and carries a lot of authority. Feeds are categorized by industry according to the definition of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, providing a filtered list of IoCs according to the activity sector. Joining the service also enrolls you in a local chapter, which is an excellent opportunity to network with other local business leaders.

  4. Anomali ThreatStream: This aggregator service consolidates threat intelligence feeds from multiple sources down to one. The service uses AI to filter out false positives and irrelevant warnings, and it handles TTP data and IoCs. Anomali ThreatStream produces an automated feed for your security software and a human-readable report. The tool can be run on-premises as a virtual machine or accessed as a SaaS.

  5. Mandiant Threat Intelligence: This highly respected threat intelligence service offers regular feeds in various formats, including reports for analysts and inputs for software. The information covers both IoCs and TTPs, and there is a free version of the service available.

By using these sources of threat intelligence feeds, organizations can stay up-to-date on potential threats and protect themselves from cyberattacks.


In today’s threat landscape, it is more important than ever for organizations to leverage threat intelligence to protect themselves from cyberattacks. Threat intelligence can provide valuable insights into potential threats and help organizations to identify and respond to security incidents more effectively.

By following best practices such as integrating threat intelligence into existing security operations, using multiple sources of threat intelligence, ensuring the quality of the threat intelligence, and regularly reviewing and updating the threat intelligence strategy, organizations can maximize the benefits of threat intelligence.

There are many sources of threat intelligence feeds available, including crowd-sourced collections, aggregator services, and highly respected threat intelligence services. By using these sources of threat intelligence feeds, organizations can stay up-to-date on potential threats and protect themselves from cyberattacks.

In conclusion, threat intelligence is an essential tool for organizations to effectively protect themselves from cyber threats. By leveraging threat intelligence feeds and following best practices, organizations can stay ahead of potential threats and minimize their risk of a cyberattack.