CTI and Its Frameworks: Unpacking the Diamond Model

Josue Ledesma

August 22, 2023

CTI and Its Frameworks: Unpacking the Diamond Model

Businesses are facing an uphill battle when it comes to the evolving threat landscape. Successful ransomware and malware attacks are on the rise and zero-day vulnerabilities place an urgent need on proactive measures for threat detection and response. As a result, Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) has become essential, serving as an early warning system that enables organizations to prepare, defend, and respond effectively to cyber threats.

CTI provides your organization with the essential signals for potential threats that get past traditional identification and detection solutions such as firewalls, email filters, and EDR/XDR. Leveraging a framework like the Diamond Model can help provide a structured approach to understanding, categorizing, and responding to cyber threats.

In this article, we dive into the usefulness of CTI and how the Diamond Model can serve as an integral part of your CTI strategy for effective threat detection and response.

How CTI Benefits Organizations

CTI is a vital component of any modern cybersecurity strategy and involves data collection and analysis about potential and active attacks threatening an organization. This allows security teams to understand the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of various cyber threats, from malware to network-based attacks, allowing them to improve detection and response capabilities.

This shifts an organization’s cybersecurity approach from a reactive one to a proactive one, via the following:

Faster Response: With a well-structured CTI process, organization’s can significantly reduce their reaction time to threats. A clearer understanding of attacks allows for faster and more comprehensive responses to a broader range of potential threats.

Better Remediation: CTI identifies and analyzes threats, allowing them to formulate more effective remediation strategies that directly address the attack vectors and vulnerabilities threat actors exploit.

Mitigate Damage: Because of a more effective response and remediation, there’s a smaller window of opportunity for attackers to compromise an organization, resulting in less overall risk and a lower cost of incident response.

Reduced Risk of Recurring Incidents: Effective CTI analyzes previous incidents to understand historical patterns of threat actors and previous compromises to prevent repeat breaches.

Instead of waiting to act when an incident occurs, CTI ultimately enhances an organization’s capabilities to protect itself via a much more insightful and proactive approach, improving its overall cyber resiliency.

What is the Diamond Model?

The Diamond Model is a framework that enables comprehensive understanding and analysis of cyber threats by providing a multidimensional perspective of those threats, helping organizations make more informed security decisions.

The Diamond Model breaks down a cyber attack scenario into four main elements: adversary, capability, infrastructure, and victim.

Adversary: Here’s where you understand the adversary behind an attack, their motivations, resources, sophistication, and attack history. It’s crucial for determining the kinds of threats an organization may face and their overall risk level.

Capability: This refers to the tools, techniques, and procedures an attacker can use to execute an attack. Capabilities include malware types, infiltration and evasion techniques, and exploits.

Infrastructure: This represents what resources an adversary leverages to compromise an organization. This could include servers, domains, exploit kits, stolen credentials or botnets. By knowing what’s used in an attack, an organization can better detect, track, and protect against a threat.

Victim: This is who a threat is targeting, whether an employee, device, network, database, or an organization. By knowing what or who is most at risk, why and how they’re targeted, organizations can better identify their potential vulnerabilities and implement more effective security measures.

The Diamond Model also incorporates Activity Threads and Activity Groups which provide an over-time perspective via the following:

Activity Thread: This traces the sequence of events or actions associated with a single intrusion or a group of related intrusions, linking the four elements mentioned above over time.

Activity Group: It aggregates multiple Activity Threads and represents the activities of a single adversary or group of adversaries.

The Diamond Model is a comprehensive framework that provides a holistic view of a cyber threat, over time, designed to identify patterns that allows a company to develop effective countermeasures in a proactive way. It’s a more effective application of CTI that helps organizations anticipate and respond to threats.

Why It’s Important for Security Vendors to Follow CTI Frameworks 

Not every organization can completely incorporate CTI as part of their cybersecurity strategy, but they can use it to vet vendors, especially those that will be deeply embedded within an organization. The same benefits that CTI frameworks provide to an organization can be passed down from vendors.

Solution providers who follow CTI frameworks are more reliably proactive and can provide more comprehensive threat detection and response capabilities, providing resiliency against more sophisticated threats and newly discovered vulnerabilities.

To evaluate a vendor's CTI capabilities, organizations should engage in detailed discussions around several key areas such as:

Updating Information Sources and Approaches: The most effective cybersecurity vendors perform their own research and proactively engage in threat hunting to be prepared for newly discovered threats to best protect their customers. This makes for much more effective tools and solutions. Talk to vendors how they’re staying up to date on new threats and how often they update their information sources.

Research Team Composition: The strength of a vendor's CTI lies in their research team. Look for a vendor with a team that has comprehensive, long-term experience, and is on the cutting edge of the latest threats, solutions, and vulnerabilities.

Threat Response Procedures: Efficient CTI should incorporate effective response procedures in addition to threat intelligence which include robust and timely measures that adapt to the type of threats.

A vendor that engages in CTI and adheres to CTI frameworks will be a more valuable long-term partner for a stronger security posture and cyber resiliency.

CTI complements internal and external cybersecurity strategy

CTI provides organizations with the strategic edge needed to shift from a reactive to a proactive strategy, that fosters anticipation, better threat detection, and risk mitigation. Internally, organizations can leverage CTI and its frameworks such as the Diamond Model, to understand the threat landscape, implement effective defenses, create robust response strategies, and fortify their security posture in a more structured and detailed way.

Externally, vetting vendors through the lens of CTI can help organizations select key cybersecurity partners for stronger, long-term partnerships. Vendors that leverage CTI are much more likely to be able to protect their clients from newly discovered threats and adapt to new threats and vulnerabilities that can emerge from a shift in tactics or new environmental risks.

Bitdefender is well-regarded in their approach to CTI, with an international and robust threat intelligence team that has found numerous high-profile vulnerabilities and threats. They also continue to develop new solutions and tools that address the kinds of attacks that threat actors aim to orchestrate. By keeping up with an evolving threat landscape, they can apply their insights to protecting their clients.

To learn more about the threat landscape and how essential CTI is, check out the SANS report on CTI here.


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Josue Ledesma

Josue Ledesma is a writer, filmmaker, and content marketer living in New York City. He covers cyber security, tech and finance, consumer privacy, and B2B digital marketing.

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