IoC Threat Hunting


Content in this page

  • What are IoCs, and what is IoC threat hunting?
  • How are IoCs different from IoAs and TTPs?
  • What are the common types of IoCs?
  • What are the challenges of hunting IoCs in cybersecurity?
  • How can Log360 help with IoC threat hunting?

With the ever-rising threat of cyberattacks, it is the responsibility of businesses worldwide to safeguard their digital infrastructures. Since threats are growing in sophistication and frequency, organizations need to be proactive when it comes to safeguarding their digital assets. This is where IoC threat hunting comes into play as a cybersecurity practice that helps organizations stay ahead of security attacks.

Read further to learn about IoCs, threat hunting, and how organizations can use an effective framework to proactively detect and neutralize threats before they cause significant damage.

What are IoCs, and what is IoC threat hunting?

Indicators of compromise (IoCs) are clues or digital footprints that are used by security incident response teams to spot a network intrusion or an ongoing data breach. Some examples of IoCs include unusual outbound traffic, unauthorized privilege escalation, and suspicious resource access attempts. These IoCs are often derived from threat intelligence sources or past incidents. Recognizing and analyzing them can provide valuable insights into the nature and scope of a cyberthreat, empowering organizations to take timely actions to neutralize it.

Hunting for indicators of compromise involves searching for specific patterns, behaviors, or artifacts that indicate any malicious activity or the use of known attack techniques.

How are IoCs different from IoAs and TTPs?

In cybersecurity, IoCs; indicators of attack (IoAs); and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) are used in the context of threat intelligence and security incident response. Though they are related, they serve different purposes and provide different types of information.

  • IoCs are any evidence or indications of an ongoing or past security breach or compromise. They commonly refer to tangible clues, like malicious IP addresses trying to intrude, unusual network traffic patterns, or behavioral patterns.
  • IoAs are behavioral patterns or activities that suggest an ongoing attack is taking place. They refer to suspicious sequences of events that might indicate an attack, even if the specific attack or malware is unknown or undetected through traditional IoCs.
  • TTPs refer to the methods, strategies, and procedures used by attackers during the different stages of an attack. They refer to the approach employed by the attacker and give a better understanding of the attacker's behaviors, motivations, and more.

IoCs are typically used in threat intelligence feeds, security information and event management (SIEM) systems, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs). They help organizations detect and respond to security incidents through comparing suspicious activities to known indicators.

IoAs are often derived from the analysis of attack campaigns, real-world incidents, and security research. Organizations can improve their threat hunting, incident response planning, and development of effective defensive measures by understanding these attack patterns.

TTPs are derived from the analysis of attack campaigns, threat intelligence reports, and other sources of security information. They help organizations identify the patterns and behaviors associated with different types of attackers, which aids in enhancing preparedness, response, and analysis in various domains, including cybersecurity.

In simpler terms, IoCs are useful for identifying known and ongoing threats, IoAs provide a more proactive approach to cybersecurity, and TTPs help organizations understand the methods and procedures used to carry out an attack. IoCs, IoAs, and TTPs complement each other and play a crucial role in threat intelligence and incident response.

What are the common types of IoCs?

Here are some of the common types of IoCs that can help in threat hunting:

  • 1 Unusual outbound traffic: Major changes in the network traffic patterns and the volumes of data transmitted can indicate a security breach, especially when they involve data extraction or communication with command-and-control servers.
  • 2 Activity originating from unusual geographic areas: Unexpected connections to your network from unfamiliar or high-risk geographic locations can be a sign of compromise or unauthorized access.
  • 3 Unusual activity by privileged user accounts: Suspicious behavior from privileged accounts may indicate internal or external attacks targeting critical systems and data.
  • 4 Increased authentication failures: A high rate of authentication failures in a short span of time could indicate the use of stolen credentials or an attacker attempting to gain unauthorized access to the network.
  • 5 Multiple requests to access critical files: Getting a lot of requests for specific files or pages may signify an attacker trying different permutations to exploit vulnerabilities.

Apart from these, you should also look out for any suspicious or unexpected configuration changes, IP addresses, URLs, domain names, and file hashes that have previously been associated with malicious activities. These can suggest attempts to infiltrate the network or extract sensitive data. Actively monitoring and investigating these IoCs can help organizations enhance their threat hunting capabilities and detect potential security incidents before they escalate into major breaches.

What are the challenges of hunting IoCs in cybersecurity?

IoC threat hunting is a valuable, proactive cybersecurity practice. The effectiveness of IoCs lies in their ability to help organizations detect and respond to known threats, enabling quicker incident response and the mitigation of potential damage. However, IoC threat hunting comes with its own set of challenges. Listed below are some of the challenges as well as some recommended best practices that help improve the efficiency of this process:

  • Contextual analysis: Depending solely on known IoCs for threat hunting can lead to limited coverage because new and emerging threats may not have known indicators. Conducting contextual analysis by correlating IoCs with other sources like MITRE ATT&CK®'s TTPs as well as practicing behavioral analysis and anomaly detection can help you identify threats.
  • False positives: Tools that rely on IoCs can generate false positives at times, leading to a waste of time and resources investigating legitimate activities. Heuristic analysis tools can help reduce false positives by dynamically adapting to real-time data, establishing baselines for normal behavior, and using machine learning to identify emerging threats and zero-day exploits.
  • Detection evasion: Threat actors are constantly evolving and employing advanced techniques to evade detection. So, it is important to stay updated on emerging threats and advanced detection techniques to overcome evasion tactics.
  • Data overload: The volume of data generated by networks can be overwhelming. Leveraging automation and machine learning techniques to analyze large data sets, identify patterns, and prioritize alerts helps streamline the hunting process and aids in detecting new or unknown IoCs.
  • Privacy and compliance considerations: IoC threat hunting involves collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data. This can raise privacy concerns and sometimes violate compliance regulations. Striking a balance between detecting threats and preserving privacy rights while complying with the relevant mandates can be a huge challenge.

However, a SIEM solution like ManageEngine Log360 can help you adhere to compliance regulations. It also assists with overcoming all of the other challenges.

How can Log360 help with IoC threat hunting?

The goal of IoC threat hunting is to search within an organization's environment for IoCs that might have gone undetected by traditional security measures, such as firewalls and IDSs. Implementing a comprehensive SIEM solution like Log360 helps organizations uncover sophisticated and targeted attacks effectively.

Here's how a SIEM solution like Log360 assists with IoC threat hunting:

  • Security monitoring: Log360 collects and centralizes logs from various sources, such as firewalls, servers, and applications, providing real-time visibility into the security posture of an organization. It offers prebuilt reports and dashboards, enabling security teams to monitor critical security events and potential IoCs easily. The real-time alerting feature allows for immediate notifications of suspicious activities, aiding in swift incident response and mitigation.
  • Threat intelligence: Log360 integrates with various threat intelligence feeds, enriching its data with up-to-date information on known threats, malicious IPs, domains, and URLs. These threat intelligence integrations help Log360 detect potential IoCs and associate them with specific threats, reducing the detection time for new and emerging threats.
  • Heuristic analysis: Log360 employs behavior-based analytics to detect anomalies and suspicious activities that might indicate the presence of unknown threats or zero-day exploits. It uses machine learning algorithms to establish baseline behavior for users and systems, allowing it to identify activities that could be indicative of malicious actions.
  • Correlation: Log360 enables the correlation of events from different sources, helping security teams identify patterns or chains of events that might indicate a coordinated attack or suspicious behavior. By correlating events across the network, endpoints, and applications, Log360 can uncover complex attack scenarios that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Forensic analysis: In the event of an attack, Log360 can help in conducting thorough, detailed forensic analysis. The log search capabilities of Log360 let you trace and identify the log associated with a compromised system or user and its activity. This helps you identify the source of the attack and understand the extent of the breach, thereby expediting incident response and remediation efforts.

Log360's capabilities as a SIEM solution can significantly enhance an organization's ability to conduct IoC threat hunting. Log360 streamlines security monitoring, leverages threat intelligence, employs heuristic analysis, facilitates event correlation, and supports detailed forensic analysis. By using Log360 as part of your security infrastructure, your organization can detect and respond to potential threats faster, thereby strengthening your overall security posture and reducing the impact of cyber incidents.

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