Threat Intelligence Lifecycle: Phases and Key Obstacles

Threat Intelligence Lifecycle: Phases and Key Obstacles

Companies often struggle to understand threat intelligence. They need to work on insights to integrate them into a company’s security infrastructure.

Most firms struggle to integrate tools and stay on top of emerging threats. Meanwhile, threats to enterprise organizations continue to proliferate. These threats can range from geopolitical risk to sophisticated ransomware attacks.

Investing in cyber-threat intelligence can help companies better prepare for threats. It can even reduce damage. Companies can predict attacks and take anticipatory action against them using data insights.

This data comes from multiple sources; automated tools can draw insights from it. However, it still does not give complete knowledge of the threats.

Companies need more tools to reduce the burden of security threats. A methodical approach can help the overburdened cybersecurity teams become more effective and efficient.

They need a clear framework that helps to identify threats from certain parameters, help assess their damage, and maybe even fix the damage.

They need a Threat Intelligence lifecycle framework.

What is the Threat Intelligence Lifecycle?

The threat intelligence lifecycle is a continuous process of developing intelligence from raw data that supports organizations in developing defensive mechanisms to prevent emerging risks and threats.

It is simply a framework for identifying threat intelligence. Cyber-threat intelligence (CTI) teams use it when conducting specific investigations to prepare reports on threats.

Phases of a Threat Intelligence Lifecycle

Threat intelligence works on refined analytical methods. The six phases of the intelligence cycle include:

  • Direction
  • Collection
  • Processing
  • Analysis
  • Dissemination
  • Feedback

These are the focus of traditional intelligence.

Six stages of the intelligence lifecycle and threat intelligence

1. Direction

During this phase, a plan and objectives are set for the threat intelligence program.

The direction set in this phase defines the entire program length – from data collection to delivery of the final intelligence product.

It acts as a basis for the complete intelligence process. The plan also covers the identification of data requirements and the methods to be used to collect data. This established a clear roadmap. This makes it easier to comprehend and express:

  • The business processes and information assets that need safeguarding
  • The possible repercussions of losing those resources or stopping those processes
  • Threat intelligence types to protect assets and address threats
  • Priorities for what to safeguard

Once the firm identifies its high-level intelligence needs, it can create questions. Then, they can translate them into specific requirements.

2. Compilation

Information is gathered to meet the most crucial intelligence needs. This process can happen naturally through several methods, such as:

  • Taking information and logs from internal networks and security systems
  • Obtaining threat data feeds from commercial entities and cybersecurity providers
  • Conversing with experts and conducting targeted interviews with them
  • Scanning blogs and open-source news
  • Website and forum harvesting and scraping
  • Gaining access to private sources like dark web forums

The information gathered will typically include final data. It has intelligence reports from cybersecurity vendors and experts. It also consists of raw data, such as malware signatures or credentials leaked on a paste site.

3. Processing

This phase is about processing data and converting it into a form the organization can use.

Processing such huge amounts of data is not an easy task. In most cases, AI plays a big role in processing this data to draw insights.

Different collection techniques frequently call for various processing techniques. It might be necessary to correlate, rank, de-conflict, and check human reports. Processing in a more technical context might entail removing indicators from an email.

It compiles additional data and then interacts with endpoint security tools. This enables automated blocking.

4. Review

Humans use analysis to transform processed data into knowledge that can guide decisions. Depending on the situation, the choices might be to look into a potential threat and assess:

  • The immediate action to stop an attack
  • How to improve security controls
  • additional investments in extra security resources?

The manner of information presentation is crucial here. Gather and process information only to deliver it in a format the decision-maker can comprehend.

For instance, to be able to reach non-technical leaders, the report needs to comply with the following:

  • Be brief (one-page memo or a few slides)
  • Avoid using jargon and terms that are too technical or confusing.
  • Explain the problems in terms of business (such as the direct and indirect costs and the effect on reputation).
  • Add a suggested course of action.

Some intelligence may need different presentation formats for different audiences. Not all intelligence requires formal reporting for digestion.

The job of the Threat intelligence teams is to report all information about threat trends to other teams. This way, they can stay forewarned.

5. Dissemination

Dissemination involves sending pertinent threat intelligence to business units that could act on it.

Even though this phase appears simple, many organizations fail here. They often can’t ensure that actionable threat data reaches the appropriate stakeholders.

Here are some best practices for enhancing the dissemination of threat intelligence:

Consider developing distinct versions of “complete” threat intelligence with differing levels of technicality. This provides value to all stakeholders and executives.

  • Take the time as your team advances through the threat intelligence lifecycle. Identify extra business units that may benefit from completed intelligence.

6. Feedback 

Understanding the overall intelligence priorities is crucial. Firms must use threat intelligence to meet the needs of the security teams and other teams.

The need for correct data guides all stages of the intelligence lifecycle. Feedback on its quality is necessary to ensure its efficacy. This feedback should include the following:

  • What information to gather
  • How to transform the data into useful information by processing and enriching it?
  • How to interpret the data so that it can be presented as useful intelligence?
  • How each type of intelligence should be communicated, to whom, and who can quickly answer the questions?

Regular feedback helps to ensure each group’s needs are met, and in case they aren’t, how to adjust till they are.

Tackling Challenges in Cyber Threat Intelligence

Organizations today recognize Cyber Threat Intelligence as a crucial component of threat management.

It helps in strengthening overall security postures as they navigate the cybersecurity landscape.

However, there are significant difficulties in operationalizing CTI feeds. It takes work to integrate them into a company’s security infrastructure.

The main difficulties encountered while operationalizing cyber-threat intelligence are listed below.

The solutions that help mitigate these challenges are also explained below:

1. Dealing with Noise and Data Overload

Security teams may feel overburdened as they struggle to process and analyze the data in real-time.

Millions of threat indicators are presented daily by a typical threat intelligence feed. The flood of data generated by CTI inputs could be the reason.

Organizations should invest in threat prioritization based on potential impact. It should be relevant to their specific threat profile. It can help overcome this problem and develop more effective security strategies.

This process entails adapting intelligence to the particular threat environment of an organization. Effective customization, however, can be time- and resource-consuming to implement.

Enterprises can increase the actionability of this intelligence by adopting solutions for adjusting CTI data.

2. Simplifying the Integration

Most CTI users make use of several threat intelligence products. However, integrating different CTI feeds from various vendors and sources can take time and effort.

Security teams must work to integrate CTI data into current security toolkits seamlessly. It helps with better decision-making and quick incident response.

Firms must invest in platforms that support compatibility with various security tools. This will improve integration capabilities.

Automation can speed up the integration of CTI data into already-in-use security toolkits. This frees up security teams to work on more important projects. Automation also reduces the possibility of human error. It guarantees that CTI data is properly incorporated into the security stack.

3. Upholding accuracy and high standards

The quality and accuracy of CTI feeds can vary a lot. Some sources may even provide out-of-date or inaccurate information.

Relying on poor-quality feeds leads businesses to base security decisions on false intelligence. This increases risk exposure and breach vulnerability.

Elements of a high-quality CTI feed are:

They must be applicable

  • accurate,
  • timely,
  • machine-readable,
  • consumable, and
  • actionable.

Organizations must invest in reputable and trustworthy feeds. They must routinely assess intelligence sources to guarantee access to high-quality CTI.

These evaluations assist in locating gaps in data quality. They enable knowledgeable decisions to maintain efficient CTI programs.

4. Taking Care of Resource Constraints

Efficient CTI programs need the right tools and a solid infrastructure.

Insufficient resources prevent organizations from managing comprehensive CTI programs well, especially if they maintain CTI feed subscriptions.

Organizations should focus on CTI investments based on their threat landscape. They need to allocate funds to support their strategic security objectives. Leveraging technology allows for the optimization of scarce resources.

5. Closing the Knowledge Gap

Many businesses lack the internal knowledge necessary to understand and analyze CTI data. Few teams are potentially unable to prioritize and respond to pertinent threat indicators. This skills gap could lead to missed threats or delayed responses.

Organizations should fund ongoing training and development programs for their security teams. They can outsource this aspect for specialized knowledge and insight into CTI if needed. Include SOC and incident response team members when creating an internal CTI.

6. Avoiding CTI Feed Overuse

CTI feeds offer useful information. Yet, organizations shouldn’t rely solely on them to identify threats. Over-reliance on CTI could result in neglecting other essential intelligence sources. These include network traffic analysis and behavioral threat detection.

Firms must develop a threat detection strategy that uses various intelligence sources. This decreases the chances of threat actors exploiting vulnerabilities.

7. Developing Metrics and Evaluation Techniques

Developing useful metrics to assess the efficacy of CTI programs can be difficult. Firms face obstacles in finding programs that support reasoned decision-making.

Organizations should improve their key performance indicators (KPIs). They must ensure alignment with their security goals with continuous evaluation. To address this issue, these KPIs must ensure the advancement of their CTI programs.

Also Read: Key Attributes for an Effective Threat Intelligence Program

8. Adjusting to the Changing Threat Environment

The main goal of all CTIs is to alert their organization to impending threats in advance. They need to identify the new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that threat actors use. CTI analysts must overcome challenges posed by the cyber-security landscape’s dynamic nature.

Organizations must invest in:

  • Continuous monitoring
  • Threat assessment,
  • Security validation capabilities.


In the rapidly changing cybersecurity landscape, organizations face significant challenges. It has become difficult to operationalize cyber-threat intelligence.

For effective CTI and to improve their defense, security teams must address the following:

  • Data overload
  • Integration
  • Prioritization

Organizations can overcome these obstacles by investing appropriately in tools. These strategies can help in strengthening their overall security posture.

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