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Companies not utilising threat hunters correctly – study

17 Dec 2019

ThreatQuotient, a pioneer in the security operations platform market, announced the results of the SANS Threat Hunting 2019 study.

The most interesting result is the worldwide confusion about the role and tasks of a threat hunter.

The study, sponsored by ThreatQuotient and conducted by SANS, is based on data collected from 575 participating companies that either work with or operate their own threat hunting teams.

Unlike the Security Operations Centre (SOC) and Incident Response (IR) teams, threat hunters not only respond to network threats, they proactively search for them.

This involves making hypotheses on the existence of potential threats, which are then either confirmed or disproven on the basis of collected data.

“However, the reality within corporate IT is often different,” says ThreatQuotient CE regional sales manager Markus Auer.

“In many teams, the distinction between SOC, IR and threat hunting are too blurred, and threat hunters are used for reactive processes contrary to their actual role.”

The SANS study data confirms that most threat hunters react to alerts (40%) or data such as indicators of compromise from the SIEM (57%).

Only 35% of participants say that they work with hypotheses during threat hunting a process that should be part of the arsenal of every threat hunter.

“Responding to threats is important for security, but it is not the main task of the threat hunter.

“They should be looking for threats that bypass defences and never trigger an alert, Auer emphasises.”

The fact that threat hunting is still in its infancy is evident based on suboptimal prioritisation of resources.

“Many companies are still in the implementation phase and are more willing to spend money on tools than on qualified experts or training existing employees to be threat hunters,” says SANS certified instructor and study co-author Mathias Fuchs.

“When threat hunting is carried out, it is more of an ad hoc approach than a planned program with budget and resources.”

In fact, 71% of participating companies consider technology to be first or second in terms of resource allocation for threat hunting.

Only 47% of respondents focus on hiring new personnel and 41% on training employees.

Due to the proactive nature of threat hunting, companies often find it difficult to accurately measure the economic benefits of these security measures.

Ideally, experts prevent threats from becoming a critical problem in the first place. However, 61% of respondents said their overall IT security status has improved by at least 11% due to threat hunting.

These figures show that targeted threat discovery is important and that investing in dedicated threat hunting teams delivers measurable improvement in IT security for organisations.

Threat hunting teams benefit from a single security architecture that integrates seamlessly with existing processes and technologies.