What is pivoting in threat intelligence? Discover efficient techniques.


one of the most critical aspects of my job is staying ahead of rapidly evolving threats to protect my clients. Threat intelligence has become an essential weapon in this fight, but even this powerful tool needs to be continually honed to stay effective. One technique that has emerged as particularly efficient in this regard is pivoting in threat intelligence. In this article, I’ll explore what pivoting in threat intelligence is, why it matters, and how you can use it to better protect yourself and your business. Let’s dive in.

What is pivoting in threat intelligence?

Pivoting is a crucial aspect of threat intelligence that allows cybersecurity professionals to dive deeper into a compromised network. Generally, threat actors gain access to a network or system by exploiting existing vulnerabilities. Once they infiltrate a system, they may proceed to move laterally within the network by pivoting into systems that would otherwise be inaccessible. By utilizing this method, the attackers can easily escalate their malicious intentions and cause severe damage. However, in the hands of a trained cybersecurity expert, pivoting can be a powerful tool in mitigating threats. Here are a few key points to keep in mind when pivoting in threat intelligence:

  • Identifying footholds: Pivoting allows analysts to identify footholds or plants that could provide access to other systems in the network. Once these footholds are identified, they can be used to pivot the analysis towards previously unknown attack vectors.
  • Network analysis: Pivoting helps to get a better understanding of the network being analyzed. It allows analysts to map out the network, including identifying systems and services in use, discovering system vulnerabilities, and providing additional insights that would otherwise remain hidden.
  • Threat hunting: Pivoting can be incredibly useful in tracking down indicators of compromise (IOCs) and identifying the extent of an active threat. By leveraging pivoting techniques, detection teams can hunt for existing active threats across the network.
  • Incident Response: Pivoting is a valuable technique used in incident response. It allows analysts to isolate the affected systems from the rest of the network and contain the threat. They can then work on the compromised systems, gather intelligence, and develop a response plan.

    Pivoting is an important concept in the world of threat intelligence. It can provide valuable insights into the network being analyzed, help track down active threats, and assist in incident response. Nonetheless, it’s essential to ensure that only trained cybersecurity experts conduct any pivoting activities. As such, security teams must keep their skills sharp and remain up-to-date with the latest, most advanced techniques and technologies in pivoting and threat intelligence.

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    1. Always gather as much information as possible before pivoting to a new source or indicator in threat intelligence. This will ensure that you have a solid understanding of the potential threats and can make informed decisions.

    2. When pivoting in threat intelligence, be sure to follow a systematic and strategic approach. This will help you to identify the most relevant and valuable data, and avoid getting bogged down in irrelevant information.

    3. Use a variety of tools and techniques to pivot effectively in threat intelligence, including data mining, social media analysis, and network analysis. This will ensure that you have a well-rounded understanding of the threat landscape.

    4. Stay up-to-date with the latest threats and trends in your industry, and use this information to inform your pivot decisions. This will help you to stay ahead of the curve and respond more effectively to emerging threats.

    5. Collaborate and share information with other stakeholders in your organization, such as IT teams, security analysts, and executives. This will help you to create a more comprehensive view of the threat landscape and make more informed decisions.

    Understanding the Foothold Concept in Threat Intelligence

    For cyber attackers, getting a foothold or plant in a victim’s computer system is a crucial phase in their mission. Foothold or plant refers to the initial entry point or vulnerability exploited by cybercriminals to penetrate a target system. By getting a foothold, attackers can establish control over the victim’s system and move laterally throughout the network.

    During a cyber-attack, pivoting becomes necessary when an attacker needs to expand their reach beyond the initial breached system. Pivoting is the technique used by threat intelligence experts to utilize footholds established by the attackers to hop and access other systems within the compromised network. It enables security professionals to uncover critical information about the network infrastructure as well as the various vulnerabilities and security flaws within the system.

    The Role of Pivoting in Improving Network Security

    Pivoting is an essential tool in threat intelligence, enabling security analysts to trace the attack path and uncover possible data exfiltration paths. By following the attack path, security professionals can identify and remediate the weak links in the system.

    Pivoting also allows security analysts to gain visibility and insight into the attacker’s modus operandi. Using this strategy, analysts can collate data about the attacker’s methods, tools, and techniques, which is essential for designing effective countermeasures.

    In summary, pivoting helps to enhance an organization’s level of threat intelligence by enabling security teams to gather information that would have otherwise remain hidden from view.

    Steps Involved in Pivoting for Threat Intelligence

    Pivoting requires a structured approach to be effective. Here are the key phases involved in pivoting for threat intelligence:

    1. Enumeration

  • The first step is to conduct an enumeration of the initially compromised system and other systems within the network.

    2. Identifying attack paths

  • Once you have identified the systems within the network, you need to determine the various attack paths available to the attackers. This involves reviewing system logs and network traffic to identify the attacker’s entry points.

    3. Exploiting vulnerabilities

  • After identifying the attack paths, the next step is to exploit the vulnerabilities in the various systems to gain access.

    4. Privilege escalation

  • Once access has been gained, the next step is to escalate privileges to gain administrative access to the system.

    5. Data exfiltration

  • Finally, the attackers may attempt to exfiltrate data from the network. Security professionals can use the data exfiltration path to help disrupt and contain attacks.

    Important Tools for Successful Pivoting in Threat Intelligence

    Pivoting requires the use of various tools to be successful. Here are some of the essential tools used in pivoting for threat intelligence:

    • Nmap
    • Nmap is used for network reconnaissance and mapping
    • Metasploit
    • Metasploit is a penetration testing tool used for exploiting vulnerabilities in the system
    • John the Ripper
    • John the ripper is a password cracking tool
    • Wireshark
    • Wireshark is a network traffic analysis tool
    • Netcat
    • Netcat is a networking utility used in pivoting exploits

    Advantages of Using Pivoting Technique in Cybersecurity

    Here are some of the benefits of using the pivoting technique in cybersecurity:

    • Expanded visibility
    • Pivoting strategy provides security professionals with a wider view of the system infrastructure through which an attack is been executed
    • Better threat intelligence
    • Pivoting interconnects the exploited systems, making it easier to track down and respond to each stage
    • Improved incident response
    • Pivoting provides security analysts with the necessary information and tools to respond promptly to an ongoing security breach
    • Helps to contain attacks
    • By identifying the attack path, security professionals can contain the attack effectively, minimizing the damage caused
    • Effective countermeasures
    • Information gathered through pivoting can be used to design custom countermeasures that can prevent future attacks

    Mistakes to Avoid when Pivoting in Threat Intelligence

    Pivoting can be a complex and challenging exercise, especially for novice threat intelligence analysts. Here are the common mistakes to avoid when pivoting in threat intelligence:

    • Not prioritizing goals
    • Pivoting can be time-consuming, so it’s essential to prioritize your goals to maximize effectiveness, in terms of data collection and system remediation.
    • Over-reliance on automated tools
    • Automated pivot tools can have limitations, so it’s essential to avoid relying solely on them
    • Proper documentation
    • Proper documentation of the processes and actions taken during pivoting is essential for tracing the actions taken and identifying lessons learned for future reference.
    • Failure to secure tools
    • Pivoting involves the use of a range of tools. It’s important to ensure that the tools are themselves secure to prevent attackers from gaining access and control over the systems
    • Incomplete data and poor interpretation
    • Collecting incomplete data and inadequate interpretation can lead to erroneous conclusions while investigating and can lead to costly mistakes; instead, it is necessary to collect all the data possible and interpret it correctly.

    Strategies for Creating a Pivoting Plan in Threat Intelligence

    Creating a successful pivoting plan requires adherence to a set of strategies. Here are the key strategies to employ:

    • Define your objectives
    • The first step is to define the key objectives of the pivoting program and prioritize them based on the network’s most critical components.
    • Create a pivoting roadmap
    • The next step is to create a roadmap that outlines the pivoting process and the tools that will be used at each phase of the operation.
    • Establish a team with diverse skills
    • Building a team with diverse skills ensures that all aspects of the network compromise are adequately covered.
    • Deploy tools with permissions
    • Before deploying the tools, it is crucial to ensure that they have the necessary permission and authority to conduct their activities.
    • Stay updated with the latest trends
    • Lastly, it’s essential to keep abreast of the latest trends and tools in cybersecurity to ensure that your pivoting strategy is always efficient and effective.

    In conclusion, pivoting is a critical technique in network cybersecurity. It enhances an organization’s threat intelligence capabilities, providing security teams with valuable information about the attacker’s modus operandi while enabling them to trace and contain the attack effectively.