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New McAfee report reveals secrets of successful threat hunters and SOCs

New McAfee report reveals secrets of successful threat hunters and SOCs

McAfee, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity companies, has announced the release of ‘Disrupting the Disruptors, Art or Science?’, a new report investigating the role of cyberthreat hunting and the evolution of the security operations centre (SOC). Looking at security teams through four levels of development – minimal, procedural, innovative and leading, the report finds that advanced SOCs devote 50% more time than their counterparts on actual threat hunting.

The threat hunter

Threat hunting is becoming a critical role in defeating bad actors. A threat hunter is a professional member of the security team tasked with examining cyberthreats using clues, hypotheses and experience from years of researching cybercriminals, and is incredibly valuable to the investigation process. Per the survey, companies are investing in and gaining different levels of results from both tools and structured processes as they integrate ‘threat hunting’ activities into the core security operations centre.

As the focus on professional threat hunters and automated technology increases, a more effective operations model for identifying, mitigating and preventing cyberthreats has emerged: human-machine teaming. In fact, leading threat hunting organisations are using this method in the threat investigation process at more than double the rate of organisations at the minimal level (75% compared to 31%).

“Organisations must design a plan, knowing they will be attacked by cybercriminals,” said Raja Patel, Vice President and General Manager, Corporate Security Products, McAfee. “Threat hunters are enormously valuable as part of that plan to regain the advantage from those trying to disrupt business, but only when they are efficient can they be successful. “It takes both the threat hunter and innovative technology to build a strong human-machine teaming strategy that keeps cyberthreats at bay.”

Key Findings:

• On average, 71% of the most advanced SOCs closed incident investigations in less than a week and 37% closed threat investigations in less than 24 hours
• Novice hunters only determine the cause of 20% of attacks, compared to leading hunters’ verifying 90%
• More advanced SOCs gain as much as 45% more value than minimal SOCs from their use of sandboxing, improving workflows, saving costs and time, and collecting information not available from other solutions


• 68% say better automation and threat hunting procedures are how they will reach leading capabilities
• More mature SOCs are two times more likely to automate parts of the attack investigation process
• Threat hunters in mature SOCs spend 70% more time on the customisation of tools and techniques


• Threat hunters in more mature SOCs spend 50% more time on actual threat hunting
• Sandbox is the number one tool for first and second line SOC analysts, where higher level roles relied first on advanced malware analytics and open-source. Other standard tools include SIEM, endpoint detection and response, and user behaviour analytics, and all of these were targets for automation.
• More mature SOCs use a sandbox in 50% more investigations than entry level SOCs, going beyond conviction to investigate and validate threats in files that enter the network

The threat hunter playbook: human-machine teaming

Aside from manual study in the threat investigation process, the threat hunter is key in deploying automation in security infrastructure. The successful threat hunter selects, curates and often builds the security tools needed to thwart threats, and then turns the knowledge gained through manual investigation into automated scripts and rules by customising the technology. This combination of threat hunting with automated tasks is human-machine teaming, a critical strategy for disrupting cybercriminals of today and tomorrow.