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Some of us find it hard to accept how small companies are usually the most vulnerable to cybercrime. For one thing, startups and mom-and-pop businesses often lack the expertise and budget that large enterprises have to protect themselves from online threats. Of course, hackers and scammers aim to leverage that constraint in every way they can.

Fortunately, it’s possible to invest scarce resources wisely and raise cybersecurity defenses with threat intelligence. How exactly? Let’s take a closer look at this question and some others that you’re probably asking yourself right now.

What is threat intelligence?

In a nutshell, threat intelligence is the process of monitoring IT infrastructure and evaluating whether its proneness to threats like phishing, malware, and hacking. It begins with the collection of verifiable data — e.g., IP addresses and the configuration of security protocols — about websites and servers.

These facts are then compiled and presented in the form of actionable recommendations such as:

  • Upscaling encryption
  • Blacklisting suspicious domains
  • Adding security measures
  • Switching technology vendors

Why is threat intelligence good for small businesses?

Threat intelligence can benefit organizations of all sizes but is particularly relevant to small business owners who cannot afford to deploy every cybersecurity tool and solution out there. In fact, as the practice casts light on a company’s virtual assets, it allows to spot and fix the weak links that perpetrators are the most likely to exploit, and thus, should be tackled in priority.

How does threat intelligence work in practice?

The applications of threat intelligence are relatively straightforward. For instance:

  • Website review, checking for poor HTML code that may contain links to malicious pages or harmful extensions.
  • Strength of encryption, telling whether a site is protected or not and the likelihood of it being exploited.
  • Malware detection, connecting to major malware databases and checking for emerging threats around the world.
  • WHOIS records, verifying who is behind a website and registration details. New domains are suspicious since they may have just been set up for fraudulent purposes.

Is threat intelligence one size fits all?

On the contrary, threat intelligence is about context — providing targeted insights based on the realities of a specific sector or business. If visitors frequently leave personal data online through forms or online profiles, threat intelligence tools indicate how to boost website encryption. On the other hand, the focus on the detection of spoofed senders is surely more adequate when all sensitive business communications take place via email.

Can threat intelligence be used to monitor third parties?

Just like threat intelligence is useful to monitor one’s infrastructure, its underlying techniques can be applied to assess whether third-parties take cybersecurity seriously. This is valuable for businesses outsourcing a significant share of their data-intensive processes to external suppliers and vendors.

Bottom line: Small businesses may not possess the resources of large companies to tackle online attacks, but can use threat intelligence as a means to focus their efforts and fight back cybercriminals.