NIST and CTI: The Perfect Match for Building a Cyber Resilient Organization

To establish and maintain robust standards for cybersecurity and protecting sensitive data — the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NSF) has become ubiquitous. The NSF outlines five key functions to support organizations in understanding, managing and reducing cybersecurity risk — Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. 

In this article, we will take a closer look under the hood at each of the five functions, and how, aligned with the NIST framework — Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) can support meeting and exceeding regulatory compliance. 

Why is CTI Important in Meeting NIST Requirements?

Cyber threat intelligence has established itself as a key element of organizational resilience, supporting organizations in establishing proactive cyber defenses ahead of a threat, improving risk management, planning and incident response, and increasing employee awareness of the risk landscape. 

When it comes to ensuring regulatory compliance, CTI is a powerful tool. Threat intelligence platforms gather data from diverse sources, enhancing an organization’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to incidents. This capability supports comprehensive preparedness, ensuring that organizations can rapidly assemble and update their incident response strategies as needed. CTI helps maintain a state of readiness, which is crucial for smoothly navigating audits and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.

Considering each NIST function individually, here is how CTI can make all the difference: 

Identify (ID)

What is the cybersecurity risk to systems, people, assets, data and capabilities? 

In this foundational step of the NIST framework, organizations identify all the physical and software assets in their environment, perhaps establishing an asset management program, or creating cybersecurity policies to govern their usage. They will likely use this visibility to build a risk management strategy for the whole organization. 

The simple truth is — you can’t secure what you can’t see, and ignorance is not an excuse if you’re not meeting regulatory compliance. All organizations have a responsibility to visualize their entire infrastructure, and to know what’s inside their house. 

CTI’s Role in Boosting Threat Identification Capabilities

In its modern form, a CTI platform is a sophisticated tool that enhances visibility into a wide array of business risk. Intelligent CTI can allow organizations to act ahead of time to uncover potential threats before they cause business harm. It supports businesses with:

  • Attack Surface Discovery: CTI provides detailed mapping of an organization’s attack surface from the perspective of potential attackers. This includes identifying unsecured and unmanaged entry points and vulnerabilities — offering a clear view of what attackers see when they look at the organization. 
  • Vulnerability Intelligence: CTI provides ongoing monitoring and analysis of emerging threats and vulnerabilities from diverse sources including the surface, deep, private, and dark web. This intelligence is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities before they are exploited.
  • Third-Party Risk Monitoring: Through continuous intelligence gathering, CTI assesses the security posture of third-party vendors and supply chains, identifying indirect threats that could impact the organization.
  • Targeted Threat Intelligence: CTI delivers detailed insights into specific threat actors and campaigns targeting the organization or industry. This includes analysis of their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), helping predict and mitigate targeted attacks.
  • Geopolitical Intelligence: CTI provides context on global and regional geopolitical events that may influence cyber threat landscapes, helping organizations anticipate and prepare for region-specific threats.

Protect (PR)

To what extent can you limit or contain the impact of cybersecurity events, and implement safeguards for critical services?

The next stage of the framework focuses on access control and the resilience of your infrastructure,  to protect what you’ve uncovered in stage one. Organizations need to manage their critical assets and crown jewels to lower the likelihood of an attack making it through defenses, and to ensure that systems and assets can stay online or safeguarded even if an attack occurs. Security teams will often put data security protections in place to protect privacy, integrity and availability. 

A growing number of privacy regulations, from CCPA to GDPR and more are mandating the protection of personally identifiable information (PII), and the regulatory pressure is only increasing. 

CTI’s Role in Enhancing Protective Measures

CTI elevates the effectiveness of protective measures by providing predictive insights into potential cyber threats and evolving tactics in the cybercrime ecosystem, including techniques such as:

  • Proactive Vulnerability Management: CTI identifies near-term exploitable vulnerabilities by monitoring discussions in underground forums and dark web marketplaces. This intelligence allows organizations to patch or mitigate vulnerabilities before they are exploited by attackers, staying one step ahead of potential breaches.
  • Cybercrime-as-a-Service Monitoring: The rise of cybercrime-as-a-service platforms has made sophisticated cyberattacks accessible to a broader range of actors. CTI tracks these platforms, providing early warnings about new services and tools that could be used against the organization. This knowledge enables security teams to prepare specific defenses against these emerging threats.
  • Advanced Threat Detection: CTI enhances threat detection capabilities by integrating intelligence on new attack vectors and TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) employed by threat actors. This integration ensures that protective technologies such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and security information and event management (SIEM) systems are finely tuned to current threat landscapes.
  • Strategic Security Policy Development: By leveraging CTI, organizations can develop more effective and informed security policies and protocols. This strategic approach to policy development helps ensure that security measures are both comprehensive, and targeted to the threats most likely to impact the organization.

Detect (DE)

Can you identify a cybersecurity threat quickly? 

Once an attack occurs, dwell time is an important metric that correlates to business impact. The quicker you can uncover a threat, the better as dwell time directly impacts how severe the consequences are for the business. This stage of the framework means implementing continuous monitoring systems, so that you can detect anomalies and security events as soon as they occur, assess their impact in real-time, and verify how effective protective measures will be.

Compliance regulators recognize that not every attack can be stopped before it occurs — and will look at how you react when the worst happens. Think about how you’re going to identify an attack at the earliest stages, and obtain the information to act appropriately.

CTI’s Role in Enhancing Detection Capabilities

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) greatly enhances an organization’s ability to detect breaches swiftly and accurately, often before significant damage is inflicted. Here’s how CTI contributes to strengthening detection capabilities:

  • Early Identification of Data Leaks: CTI monitors various channels, including the dark web, where stolen data such as personally identifiable information (PII) and intellectual property (IP) are often traded. By detecting these leaks early, organizations can initiate swift containment measures to mitigate the impact and begin the process of breach management.
  • Detection of Unauthorized Asset Access: CTI tracks the sale and use of info stealers and other tools that facilitate unauthorized access to organizational assets. This monitoring helps detect breaches involving critical assets and systems, allowing for immediate response to prevent extensive damage.
  • Targeted Campaign Detection: CTI provides insights into targeted campaigns against organization’s executives, such as Business Email Compromise (BEC) and other phishing attacks specifically designed to manipulate or deceive top-level management. Early detection of these campaigns can prevent substantial financial losses and protect the integrity of executive communications.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Breach Notification: With stringent regulations like GDPR requiring notification of certain types of data breaches within 72 hours, CTI’s role in detecting breaches promptly is critical. CTI enables organizations not only to identify breaches early, but also to gather necessary details to comply with breach notification laws effectively and within the required timelines.

Respond (RS)

How will you minimize the impact of a security threat? 

During a cyberattack, rapid and informed response is critical. This includes sharpening processes for incident management, analysis, communication, reporting, and mitigation. One of the best ways to prepare for an incident ahead of time is to have robust response planning sessions where playbooks and guidelines are codified that can be put into action if an attack occurs. According to NIST, the Respond stage focuses on the development and implementation of appropriate activities that need to be taken when an incident has been detected. It is where these response plans are executed, and also covers how communications are managed, both during and after an event happens, all in service of mitigating active risk to the organization, and containing the impact of a cybersecurity attack. After the attack, by analyzing how effective incident response was, security teams can shore up defenses and close any gaps, as well as supporting their reporting requirements and helping meet compliance mandates.

A thorough understanding of the circumstances that led to a breach can’t help but minimize its impact. CTI supports the organization in quickly identifying the nature of an attack and where and how it originated, even offering added value such as removing discovered database drops before a leak can occur, or identifying compromised credentials to prevent identity theft. 

CTI’s Role in Enhancing Incident Response and Remediation

CTI is integral to the Respond phase, where its real-time intelligence capabilities transform how organizations handle and recover from security incidents:

  • Remediation Planning: Modern CTI platforms provide structured remediation plans that outline mandatory steps for addressing identified threats. These plans help organizations understand the severity and implications of the threat, ensuring that response efforts are both swift and effective.
  • Informed Decision-Making: CTI aids the Incident Response (IR) team and other security professionals by providing detailed intelligence about the nature of the attack. This information allows teams to make informed decisions, reducing time to remediation and helping prioritize efforts based on intelligence about the specific tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the attackers.
  • Threat Actor Profiling: By analyzing and profiling threat actors, CTI provides insights into their modus operandi, helping anticipate future risks and adjust security measures accordingly. Understanding the behavior of attackers allows organizations to tighten their security posture against similar future attacks and adjust their strategic defense mechanisms to better protect against the evolving threat landscape.

Recover (RC)

Can you restore impaired services, and maintain resilience moving forward? 

During an attack, it’s always a race against time. That’s why recovery planning is such a critical element of cybersecurity resilience. When this stage of the NIST framework has been effectively implemented, an organization will have specific recovery planning and procedures in place to recover quickly before an attack causes damage, and a strategy for iterating their security processes based on lessons learned. 

Believe it or not, repeated attacks are actually not unusual — they happen in the majority of cases. 67% of companies who suffered a breach, experienced another within 12 months. Updating your posture via compliance with guidelines like NIST are one route to ensuring that you’re in the 33%. 

CTI’s Role in Enhancing Recovery Processes

CTI plays a vital role in the recovery process by providing insights that support effective restoration, and future-proofing organizational processes.. 

  • Root-cause Analysis: CTI contributes detailed information about the attackers’ methods and tools, which aids in identifying the root cause of the breach. Understanding the root cause is essential for effective remediation and helps prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
  • Future Attack Prevention: Post-incident intelligence gathered by CTI is crucial for forecasting potential future attack vectors and identifying residual threats. This includes the integration of new Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) into security systems, which enhances detection capabilities and helps secure systems against similar or evolving threats.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Verification: After an initial breach is managed, CTI tools continue to monitor the organization’s systems to verify that the breach has been fully contained. This monitoring helps ensure that no residual risks remain and that future leaks are prevented, maintaining the integrity of organizational assets post-incident.


A NIST Opportunity: Cyber Threat Intelligence is Your Key to Adopting the NIST Framework

Implementing best practices through the NIST cybersecurity framework is a standardized approach to protecting critical infrastructure from attacks, safeguarding confidential information, and reducing the risk of business disruption in the case of an active threat. 

By utilizing Cyber Threat Intelligence in your environment, you can cover every stage of the framework, uncovering risk ahead of time with full visibility and deep intelligence, preventing material impact on your critical data and services, and remediating a breach in your environment in the quickest possible time frame — and with the least impact to business continuity. 

When implemented intelligently, Cyber Threat Intelligence is a powerful tool that can be strategically used to meet NIST-related regulatory requirements. Start your free trial now and see how it works for yourself.