What is Real-Time Threat Analysis?

 Across industries, the rapidly evolving IT landscape presents opportunities for threat actor activity. Attack sophistication and innovation call for robust cybersecurity defenses; rapid detection and analysis are critical to identifying and responding to evolving threats. An optimized suite of real-time threat analysis tools can help organizations proactively prevent potential threats from materializing and accessing their IT infrastructure.


Industry-Specific Applications of Real-Time Threat Analysis

Real-time threat analysis simply refers to cybersecurity solutions and tools that provide live monitoring and potential threat identification. However, gaining an understanding of pragmatic real-time threat analysis is made simpler when leveraging your familiarity with the threat landscape specific to your industry, as it relates to the vulnerabilities commonly exploited to breach networks and systems.

While real-time threat analysis is widely applicable across all industries, the common industry-specific uses include:

  • How to apply live threat detection in healthcare 
  • How to apply real-time threat analysis in the payment card industry
  • How to apply real-time threat analysis in government defense contracting

A real-time threat analysis infrastructure can help identify potential threats and mitigate future threat risks, especially when working with a managed security services provider (MSSP).


Real-Time Threat Detection and Analysis

One security team responsibility is monitoring IT environments for potential threats and investigating and analyzing any discoveries. This activity is often time-intensive, consuming significant personnel bandwidth (and when overly excessive, contributes to personnel burn-out).

A real-time threat detection and analysis solution automates much of this process, employing tools such as machine learning and signature detection. Generally, this utilization of machine learning is based upon compiling “normal activity” profiles based on standard user access and actions. Incidents are flagged for further investigation when a given user’s activity falls outside their normal behavior, often determined according to assigned account roles or attributes.

Similarly, though arguably less robust than machine learning capabilities, signature detection relies on identifying known, recognizable attack methods and indicators (e.g., malicious code). For this reason, any cyberdefense measure that employs signature detection must install all released updates to operate with the latest threat intelligence and for maximum efficacy.

Real-time threat detection and analysis may also be known as “live threat detection.”


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Beware of Overreliance and “False Positives”

Note that real-time threat detection and analysis complements an expert team of IT security personnel; it’s not a replacement. Therefore, organizations implementing this solution must still retain a security operations center team or outsource the responsibilities to a trusted MSSP partner.

Once incidents are flagged and analyzed, they must still be investigated, as “false positives”—or legitimate activity misidentified as suspicious or a potential threat—sometimes occur.


The Importance of Conducting Risk Assessments

While live threat detection may be used to monitor your entire IT environment, there may be specific segmentations, systems, and other resources that require elevated protections due to their value or vulnerability.

Risk assessments evaluate an organization’s most valuable assets and the potential threats to them. Once assessed, risks are prioritized by incident likelihood and their resulting impacts. Live threat detection can be configured for increased monitoring of high-risk assets and environments.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published extensive risk assessments guidance, including Special Publication 800-30 Rev. 1: Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments.


Live Threat Detection in and Adjacent to the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare is one of the industries at the highest risk of cyber attacks, with massive data breaches compromising protected health information (PHI), including but not limited to names, addresses, contact information, and health insurance information. The industry has seen an average of 55.5 breaches compromising 500 or more records (each) per month in 2021.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) contains several compliance safeguards to protect business uses and disclosures of PHI across (e.g., certain health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses) and their business associates. The HIPAA Privacy Rule covers most of these circumstances and processes.

When PHI exists as electronic information, it is considered ePHI—the security, confidentiality, and integrity of which is predominantly covered by the Security Rule. Therefore, minimizing the risks and impacts of data breaches is critical to overall HIPAA compliance. Thus, so are optimized real-time threat analysis tools.


Live Threat Detection and HIPAA Compliance

Covered entities can apply live threat detection measures to:

  • Notify security teams – Suspicious activity doesn’t always prove to be the result of a malicious actor, but it does warrant investigation. Supplementing your security information and event management (SIEM) system with real-time threat analysis will help ensure your security team knows what to immediately investigate before escalated response becomes necessary.
    • Implementing a SIEM solution may provide your organization with some degree of real-time threat analysis as included functionality.
  • Critical risk monitoring – One aspect of HIPAA compliance, specifically under the Security Rule, is the periodic conducting of risk assessments. Similar to above, conducting a risk assessment for PHI will help identify the most critical environments and assets, which can be further protected via live threat monitoring.
  • Monitor privileged account usage – Poor implementation of access controls presents one of the most critical vulnerabilities to data breaches. Weak or default passwords combined with minimal security controls governing user authentication puts PHI at risk. Compromised privileged accounts with administrative permissions increase this danger. Live threat detection establishes privileged user access monitoring, specifically in instances of unusual access or activity.
  • Inform incident response plans – Real-time notifications will likely result in a faster average initiation time for response plans. Simulations help provide security teams with training, but on-the-job investigations of suspicious activity will inform ongoing incident response plans. As team members gain more experience, they’ll learn how to investigate and conduct response measures faster.


Real-Time Threat Analysis for Other HIPAA Rules

HIPAA compliance is not limited to the Privacy and Security Rules but extends to:

  • HIPAA Transaction Standards – Healthcare’s heightened need for live threat detection includes transactions. The HIPAA Transactions Rule stipulations outline those applicable, regardless of direct or indirect transmission (i.e., via a third-party service provider), some of which include:
  • Health insurance claims
  • Prior authorization and referral
  • Verification of eligibility and benefits
  • Payment of claims
  • Submission of retail pharmacy drug claims
  • Enrollment of patients into a health plan  
  • Breach Notification Rule – Covered entities are required to report a breach, should one occur. This rule requires covered entities to report a breach to the affected parties, the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, and a local media station in instances where 500+ individuals are affected.
  • Enforcement Rule – Relates to consequences of noncompliance, including but not limited to fines and penalties.

Real-time threat analysis can help your organization address any unforeseen gaps in HIPAA compliance, ensuring necessary protections for valuable PHI. 

 NIST and DFARS Compliance

Real-Time Threat Analysis and Payment Processing Security

Besides healthcare, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) has historically been a top target for hackers due to the vast amount of valuable cardholder data (CHD) processed. Applying real-time threat analysis to monitor IT systems processing and environments storing CHD can help mitigate costly data breaches and preserve a company’s reputation.


The PCI DSS Framework

The PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) established PCI frameworks to ensure CHD security. The most important PCI framework is the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which mandates 12 Requirements (and associated sub-requirements) for protecting CHD. Any organization that collects, processes, stores, or transmits CHD is subject to PCI DSS compliance.

In addition to the PCI DSS, the SSC has also established a compliance framework for organizations that develop applications and services that facilitate credit card transactions, named the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS).

For some organizations, real-time threat analysis may factor into their mandatory PCI compliance efforts and will generally improve cybersecurity by identifying threats as they begin materializing.

Real-time threat analysis tools may be implemented and configured according to the specifications of PCI DSS Requirement 10, which stipulates regular monitoring and testing of networks for vulnerabilities—the latter often achieved via the mandated quarterly security scans of CHD environments.


Additional Benefits with PCI DSS Compliance and Live Threat Detection

While PCI DSS compliance is obligatory for protecting CHD, the framework also establishes an informative guide for general security program development and implementation. An organization that adopts the framework as foundational to its cybersecurity strategy will likely achieve a robust program—regardless of PCI compliance applicability and including or substituting sensitive data and high-value digital assets with or for CHD.

Further, since real-time threat analysis will flag suspicious activity and network connection attempts, the security measure will likely illuminate process, access, and configuration vulnerabilities that should be patched or remediated.


A Note on PCI DSS Compliance and the Upcoming Release of v4.0

Note that the current version of the PCI DSS framework, v3.2.1, will soon be superseded by the v4.0 release currently scheduled for March 2022.

Once the final release of the framework and all associated guidance and assessment materials has concluded, organizations subject to the PCI DSS will be allowed an 18-month transition period to remediate any gaps between their existing security implementations and the updated Requirements as stipulated in v4.0.

To help ensure compliance with v4.0, organizations should partner with an SSC-approved advisory partner. RSI Security is an SSC-approved Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), authorized to conduct the annual assessments that some organizations must undergo to demonstrate compliance. In addition, RSI Security will provide partners with gap assessments and remediation advisory to help your organization ensure PCI compliance.


Real-Time Threat Analysis for Department of Defense Contractors

Government contractors, specifically those awarded Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, are required to protect any sensitive information they might work with—specifically, federal contract information (FCI) and controlled unclassified information (CUI).


CUI Category Examples

Real-time threat analysis can help DoD contractors mitigate any risks to the various categories of CUI they may interact with, including:

  • Controlled Technical Information (CTI) – Information pertaining to military or space applications, including:
    • Data from research and engineering projects
    • Technical documentation such as specifications, standards, manuals, and reports
    • Information relating to studies, analyses, and other such related information
    • Code, both from source files and computer software

The full scope of the safeguards and protections covering CTI is provided in reference 48 CFR 252.204-7012.

  • DoD Critical Infrastructure Security Information (DCRIT) – Information pertaining to the vulnerabilities in DoD critical infrastructure, which, if exploited, would significantly disrupt, destroy and damage DoD operations. Most of the protections covered under 10 USC 130e relate to sensitive information such as explosives safety, safeguards for hazardous chemicals and explosives, and critical DoD protected systems.
  • Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information (NNPI) – Information pertaining to the safety and control of radiation as it relates to naval nuclear propulsion activities and plants. In particular, NNPI contains information regarding standards governing the effect of radiation on the environment, workers, operators, and the general public. The full scope of guidelines is covered under reference USC 2013 and 50 USC 2511
  • Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (DCNI) – Information pertaining to DoD nuclear material and related equipment and facilities. The full scope of safeguards for this information is covered under 10 USC 128(a) and 32 CFR 223.


The CMMC Framework

Given the sensitivity of CUI categories, DoD contractors must comply with the  Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework, which was made live in 2021. Organizations have until 2026 to comply, with future contract awards pending certification by a CMMC Third-Party Assessor Organization (C3PAO).

RSI Security is currently undergoing the approval process to become an official C3PAO, recognized by the CMMC Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB). Until this approval is finalized, RSI Security may still provide CMMC implementation advisory as an official Registered Provider Organization (RPO), recognized by the CMMC-AB.

Additionally, the CMMC incorporates the entirety of NIST SP 800-171: Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations. RSI Security is also an expert on SP 800-171 compliance.


Implement Live Threat Detection to Mitigate Cyberthreats

Developing real-time threat analysis can help your organization prevent unforeseen threats amidst a rapidly changing IT landscape. There are several ways to achieve a suite of efficient threat detection tools, optimized to your organization’s specific IT needs and cybersecurity goals.

If you are interested in learning more, contact RSI Security today.



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