EDPACS _ 2023 _ Kevin Lynn McLaughlin, PhD & Erik S. A. Elliott
Unleashing the Power of Mobile Threat Hunting Toolkits: Why They Are Crucial in Today’s Cybersecurity Landscape
“Mobile threat hunting toolkits are a crucial component of modern cybersecurity strategies, providing greater efficiency, accuracy, & agility in detecting and mitigating threats.”- Kevin Lynn McLaughlin, PhD
In today’s highly connected world, the cybersecurity landscape has become increasingly complex and challenging, requiring organizations to implement strong and adaptable cybersecurity measures to protect their digital assets and data. The development of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), along with the rise of quantum computing, has made the job of cyber defenders more difficult and complicated. One important strategy for strengthening an organization’s cybersecurity is to deploy specialized teams focused on threat hunting. These skilled professionals, who have extensive knowledge of cybersecurity, work diligently to examine the organization’s infrastructure every day, determining whether any adversaries have breached their systems.(Hermawan, et al, 2021)
The strategic execution of threat hunting responsibilities is facilitated by the utilization of sophisticated threat hunting toolkits, designed to meticulously unearth the presence of bad actors lurking within the organization’s environment. These toolkits empower threat hunting teams to detect abnormal activities early in the cyber kill chain, enabling them to take swift and decisive action to neutralize the impending threat before it can cause harm to the organization. An assortment of diverse threat hunting toolkits is available to assist these teams in their pursuit of cyber adversaries. Each toolkit boasts unique features and capabilities, tailored to identify, and mitigate a variety of cyber threats, and fortify the organization’s defenses against the ever-looming specter of cyber-attacks. These toolkits serve as essential instruments in the hands of adept threat hunters, who wield them with dexterity and finesse to safeguard the organization’s digital landscape, and in so doing, contribute significantly to the preservation of the organization’s integrity and security in this rapidly evolving digital age. (Warner & Johnson, 2016)
Companies such as Gartner, a leading research and advisory firm, recognize the importance of threat hunting toolkits in today’s cybersecurity landscape. According to Gartner, threat hunting toolkits are essential for organizations seeking to proactively detect and respond to potential security threats. Research indicates that the best threat hunting toolkits offer a comprehensive suite of tools for threat detection, investigation, and response and can integrate with a variety of security technologies and data sources. As cybersecurity threats become increasingly complex and sophisticated, organizations must rely on advanced tools and technologies to detect and respond to potential breaches. One of the most promising developments in this field is the use of machine learning algorithms and other forms of automation in threat hunting. By automating the process of threat detection and analysis, organizations can improve the efficiency and accuracy of their cybersecurity efforts. This is particularly important in today’s fast-paced threat landscape, where malicious actors can strike quickly and with devastating consequences. Automation in threat hunting also allows security teams to focus their attention on the most critical threats, minimizing the risk of human error and ensuring that potential breaches are addressed in a timely manner. By using advanced analytics and risk assessment techniques, threat hunting toolkits can provide security teams with a clear understanding of the severity of a given threat and its potential impact on the organization. The importance of automation in threat hunting cannot be overstated. In today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape, cybersecurity teams need to stay ahead of malicious actors to protect their organizations from security breaches. To achieve this, organizations must harness the power of machine learning algorithms and other advanced technologies to proactively detect and mitigate potential threats. (Aldauiji, F., et al, 2021) Leveraging these technologies alone may not be enough. To truly stay ahead of the curve, organizations should also consider integrating cybersecurity SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation and Response) technologies into their threat hunting and incident response efforts. By integrating SOAR technologies with threat hunting toolkits, organizations can automate the threat hunting process. This reduces response times and minimizes the risk of human error, enabling cybersecurity teams to quickly and effectively respond to security incidents. Cybersecurity SOAR technologies can help organizations establish a standardized incident response framework, allowing for greater consistency and efficiency in incident response efforts. This is particularly important for organizations managing many cybersecurity incidents or having limited resources to dedicate to incident response. While leveraging machine learning algorithms and other advanced technologies is crucial for proactive threat detection, organizations should also consider the benefits of integrating cybersecurity SOAR technologies into their threat hunting toolkit strategies. By doing so, they can streamline their processes, reduce response times, and ensure the ongoing detection of bad actors in their infrastructure.
In the realm of organizational cybersecurity, a particularly intriguing and advantageous option presents itself in the form of the Portable Analysis and Network Threat Hunting and Evaluation Resource, more commonly referred to as the PANTHER. The PANTHER embodies a portable toolkit for threat hunting teams, honing its focus on three pivotal areas that serve as the crux of a threat hunter’s value to an organization’s security posture—areas which have, until now, frequently been the source of stumbling blocks within the security landscape. PANTHER offers a swiftly deployable package, reminiscent of a fly-away kit, that boasts versatility in deployment across a multitude of scenarios. These scenarios encompass not only incident response, but also heightened visibility and security in network segments that are non-compliant due to disparities in technology, an absence of controls, or even during the often-complex Merger and Acquisition (M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions)) process. Additionally, these toolkits can be uniquely tailored to suit non-traditional enterprise systems, such as Operational Technology (OT), Industrial Control Systems (ICS), or other non-IP based communication systems. In the past, enterprise responses have frequently been mired in bureaucratic red tape, processes, and approvals. However, the rapid deployment capability of these kits, which operate outside of the standard “gold image” tools, allows for a significantly reduced response time and a broader range of response locations, unhindered by pre-existing IT (Information Technology) infrastructure constraints. Moreover, the ever-evolving landscape of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and other highly sophisticated actors, who are relentlessly leveraging their resources, skills, and artificial intelligence to bypass security measures, poses an ongoing challenge. During the reconnaissance phase, an organization’s profile, as delineated by its security tools and programs, becomes exposed and subsequently targeted for evasion. The PANTHER toolkit counters this by being deliberately constructed with an alternative compilation of tools, designed to facilitate advanced visualizations, in-depth analysis, and adaptability in data representation. This allows for the detection of even the most intricate behavioral patterns. Mainly employing a passive implementation model, these toolkits are deployed with existing Incident Response (IR) processes or enterprise solutions to undertake actions as required. This approach affords threat hunters the dual advantage of remaining undetected during on-network reconnaissance, while simultaneously gaining a profound internal perspective of the network in question. Although it is unrealistic for any organization to supply every conceivable log and data point a threat hunter might desire, the PANTHER toolkit’s deployment model enables it to be situated in highly sensitive “crown jewel” locations, subsequently amassing a wealth of logs. This, in turn, facilitates a good economic solution that provides high-fidelity protection of an organization’s most precious assets, further cementing the toolkit’s invaluable contribution to the security posture. (Bohme & Schwartz,2016)
There are a lot of great vendor partners that play in the threat hunting space. Gartner’s “Market Guide for Threat Hunting” (Gartner, 2020) provides a detailed overview of the threat hunting toolkit landscape, highlighting key vendors and their respective capabilities. Some, just a small amount from the list, of the vendors mentioned in the report include Elastic, Exabeam, FireEye, Crowdstrike and Splunk. Overall, Gartner’s position on threat hunting toolkits aligns with the view that these tools are crucial for organizations seeking to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape. By leveraging the capabilities of threat hunting toolkits, security teams can gain greater visibility into potential threats and proactively respond to them, mitigating the impact of security breaches and reducing the risk of data loss. (V. S. Sree, et al 2021)
As the digital world continues to grow and presents new challenges, organizations must adapt and strengthen their cybersecurity measures to protect their assets and data. The integration of advanced technologies like AI, ML, and quantum computing has made cyber defense more complex, and specialized threat hunting teams have become vital to maintaining cybersecurity. (Bhardwaj & Goundar,2019) These teams rely on sophisticated threat hunting toolkits to identify and neutralize threats early in the cyber kill chain. A variety of toolkits are available to suit diverse needs and capabilities, allowing organizations to better defend against cyber-attacks. Automation and machine learning algorithms are critical developments in this field, improving the efficiency and accuracy of cybersecurity efforts. Industry leaders like Gartner emphasize the importance of threat hunting toolkits and the benefits of integrating cybersecurity SOAR technologies into threat hunting strategies. This integration allows organizations to automate their processes, reduce response times, and continuously detect threats within their infrastructure. Options such as PANTHER, a portable threat hunting toolkit, can provide valuable resources for threat hunting teams. Gartner’s “Market Guide for Threat Hunting” highlights key vendors in the space, such as Elastic, Exabeam, FireEye, Crowdstrike, and Splunk, demonstrating the critical role of these toolkits in staying ahead of the evolving threat landscape. Organizations must adopt a proactive approach by leveraging advanced tools, technologies, and strategies to protect their digital landscape and ensure ongoing cybersecurity in this rapidly changing digital age.
Bhardwaj, A., & Goundar, S. (2019). A framework for effective threat hunting. Network Security, 2019(6), 15-19.
Böhme, R., & Schwartz, G. (2016). Modeling Cybersecurity Investment in Attack and Defense. In 2016 15th IEEE International Conference on Trust, Security and Privacy in Computing and Communications (TrustCom) (pp. 372-379). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/TrustCom.2016.0083
Hermawan, D., Novianto, N. G., & Octavianto, D. (2021). Development of Open Source-based Threat Hunting Platform. Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Data Sciences (AiDAS), downloaded on April 19, 2023.
Gartner. (2020). Market Guide for Threat Hunting Toolkits. Gartner, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3993665/market-guide-for-threat-hunting-toolkits
N Aldauiji, F., Batarfi, O., & Bayousef, M. (2021). Utilizing Cyber Threat Hunting Techniques to Find Ransomware Attacks: A Survey of the State of the Art. IEEE Access. doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3064371
V. S. Sree, C. S. Koganti, S. K. Kalyana and P. Anudeep, “Artificial Intelligence Based Predictive Threat Hunting In The Field of Cyber Security,” 2021 2nd Global Conference for Advancement in Technology (GCAT), Bangalore, India, 2021, pp. 1-6, doi: 10.1109/GCAT52182.2021.9587507.
Warner, J., & Johnson, R. (2016). Leveraging Threat Hunting Techniques for Improved Cybersecurity. In 2016 IEEE 2nd International Conference on Cyber Security and Cloud Computing (CSCloud) (pp. 164-169). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/CSCloud.2016.32
Loved reading this
Great article on the importance of mobile threat hunting toolkits in today’s cybersecurity landscape. I would like to know more about how these toolkits can integrate with SOAR technologies and how they can be customized to suit non-traditional enterprise systems like OT and ICS. How can organizations make sure they are selecting the right toolkit that meets their specific security needs? Thank you for providing such valuable insights.