Know Your Enemy: The Art and Science of Cyberthreat Hunting

Home » Blog » Know Your Enemy: The Art and Science of Cyberthreat Hunting

Know Your Enemy: The Art and Science of Cyberthreat Hunting

We live in cyberspace. Yes, that is true in every form. Irrespective of your age, or the generation, you belong to, you are connected to the internet in ways you could not even think of. The benefit of cyberspace is that you have a lot of things to experiment with. For example, remote working was something frowned upon before and during the initial phase of the pandemic. However, as both employers and employees witnessed the benefits of remote workforce culture, it became ubiquitous. But with the benefit of remote accessibility comes the threat of leaked data.

Yes, when we talk about cybersecurity and cyberspace, we also need to consider the possibility of a data leak or how your corporate data and IT infrastructure could be infiltrated without you even knowing. Following up on these threats, the field of cybersecurity came into existence. The entire agenda here was to ensure that the danger of data leaks and other infiltration could be evaded. The first step of evading a threat is by ensuring that we detect a threat beforehand. That is when the term threat hunting came into place. In this blog, we attempt to educate you on how threat hunting works and the different phases of threat hunting.

What is Threat Hunting?

Threat hunting is basically a practice of checking the possible ways an intruder can enter a system. This is because even if you have the best defenders in place, you will always see that someone else has successfully infiltrated the system. To avoid this, one needs to set up a system fully aware of the system’s flaws. This could be anything existing or potential flaw in your IT infrastructure, such as:

  • Malfunctioning API
  • Poorly configured security solutions
  • Vulnerable applications
  • Unpatched systems
  • Suspicious or malicious activities

If any such flaws exist, the enterprise should know about them. Why? Because knowing helps in prevention.

If you are aware that an intruder can enter your house through the window, you will most definitely get it fixed, and if you can’t, you will reach out to someone who can. So, that way, one secures the IT infrastructure, including workstations, servers, network, cloud, etc. So, if you would have noticed, many people are employed as threat hunters. Yes, that job post does exist. In fact, it is one of the most in-demand skilled jobs. But sadly, there’s a sheer skill gap globally. These threat hunters work in live and retrospective environments to identify any pre-breach indicators that enable you to take a proactive approach to prevent cyberattacks.

How Does Threat Hunting Help?

Imagine having a situation where you work towards finding the attacker before they find you? Wouldn’t that be convenient to protect the precious data you have at your disposal? There are often attackers that target your business’s networks, servers, applications, cloud platforms, etc. and get away with it. Threat hunting can help identify these adversaries and common indications of an attack, such as suspicious acts, unauthorized access, unexpected outbound traffic, increased database reads, etc., to get you all the information you need for prevention. With proper scanning techniques and the right kind of information availability, your team can go ahead and find the attacker based on their patterns and their information-stealing systems. This goes on to assist every organization in ways they never imagined.

The next time you intend to go ahead and deploy a team of threat hunters, ensure that they have Open-architecture solutions (Their solutions can integrate with any existing security tools so that the clients don’t have to make additional investments). Yes, Open-Architecture systems help a lot, and you will know once you deploy them in real time. They can easily integrate with your existing cybersecurity solutions to bring together all the data to enhance visibility by offering a single pane of glass.

How has Threat Hunting Evolved?

The evolution of threat hunting can be broadly classified into three primary steps: IOC DetectionIOA Detection, and IOR Detection.

IOC Detection

IOC stands for Indicators of Compromise. As the name gives out, IOC points out that some sort of attack has occurred on your systems. These indications can include:

  • Malware deployment
  • Sign-in attempts with wrong passwords at unexpected times
  • Unexpected and overly excessive outbound traffic
  • A large amount of data transfers
  • Vulnerability exploitation
  • IP addresses
  • Cyber threat signatures
  • Increased database reads, etc

Detecting IOC eventually helps you understand where your code stands weak, or your system’s configuration needs to be fixed. However, the problem with IOCs is that they are identified several days after the compromise is made.

IOA Detection

To overcome the shortcomings of IOC detection to identify only after several days of a breach, security warriors tried to take a different approach. Instead of waiting for the compromise and detecting the indicators, they focused on any ongoing attack. This is called IOA (Indicators of Attack) Detection.

Occurrence on the attack timeline is the primary difference between IOC and IOA. IOAs are dynamic as no one can predict the movement of cyber attackers. Based on the MITRE ATT&CK cycle, an adversary must progress through 14 different stages before finally deploying an attack. Hence, unlike IOCs, IOAs are dynamic.

As the data for IOAs can change with each adversary movement, it needs to be monitored in real-time. Real-time data can help identify how an attack was made and how it’s progressing, helping to intercept an attack while it’s developing. Hence, a threat hunting team needs machine-accelerated tools to enable real-time data monitoring. Some examples of IOA data to monitor are:

  • Credential theft
  • Code execution
  • Lateral movements
  • Data exfiltration
  • Stealth
  • Command and control communications

Hence, threat hunters now started identifying threats sooner in the process. However, the problem remained. Even for identifying any indication of an attack, there has to be an attack made. Although this can be done when an attack is progressing and can be prevented before any significant harm, threat hunters wanted to prevent a breach before it occurs. This has led to a focus on IOR Detection.

IOR Detection

Short for Indicators of Risks, IOR is the process of becoming genuinely proactive to search for potential vulnerabilities before an attack occurs. This data move goes even ahead of the IOA data on the attack timeline. IOCs help identify post-breach data, IOAs help identify ongoing breach data, but IORs help identify pre-breach data.

The IOR detection process tells the threat hunters where the systems have loopholes. This helps predict the route an adversary can take to deploy an attack. With the pre-breach data available, cybersecurity experts can implement measures to prevent it and also create decoys to deceive attackers.

Thus, threat hunters don’t have to wait for the attack to implement defensive measures. This will help close all the security gaps and enhance cybersecurity posture. Some of the IOR data to identify and monitor is:

  • Number of assets with known vulnerabilities
  • Internal and external vulnerabilities
  • Number of instances where capacity requirements were exceeded
  • System availability
  • Meantime to detect and respond
  • Network availability
  • Dwell time

How SharkStriker’s Managed Security Services Can Help With Threat Hunting

SharkStriker is a comprehensive cybersecurity provider based in the USA. We have an experienced team of threat hunters who leverage our ORCA-philosophy-based machine-accelerated MDR platform for all three types of hunting detections. Our MDR platform has built-in EDR (XDR) and SIEM capabilities to help threat hunters bring together all the triage data for centralized visibility.

With a single pane of glass view of your IT infrastructure and AI capabilities, our threat hunters can quickly identify IOCs, IOAs, and IORs to detect any loopholes before, during, and after an attack to mitigate them before they pose a severe threat.


While cybersecurity is a significant game-changer, it still has its own flaws and drawbacks. To counter these drawbacks and be preventive of risks, you need assistance from threat hunters. If you can manage the costs and resources required for having your in-house threat hunting team, that’s well and good. But if you can’t afford the resources, hire a Managed Security Service Provider who can help you with that. SharkStriker can be your one-stop solution for all cybersecurity requirements. Contact our experts today to understand how our threat hunting team can help you take a proactive approach toward security risks.


Complete Visibility, Continuous Monitoring
& Advanced Threat Protection with
AI-backed Incident Remediation.

Read More >

Latest Post