What is the importance of human intelligence HUMINT?

  • November 15, 2021
  • By Cyberarch Admin

In the last few decades, technology has transformed the world. Even amidst the pandemic, technology has been our saviour. It maximized workplace efficiency by aiding us to work remotely, facilitated business transactions with a few clicks, and helped us to connect with everyone around the globe. The use of mobile devices along with the penetration of the internet has increased as well. 

But on the downside, the use of advanced technology to conduct criminal activities is rising exponentially. According to an estimate, cybersecurity breaches cost close to 1.5 trillion dollars every year globally. Moreover, it is predicted that such breaches would cost approximately 6 trillion dollars in 2021. 

The rate at which cyber threats have increased in the past year is concerning. It has affected individuals, business entities and governments. Many have now realized the risk of cyber breaches and are taking essential measures. 

But it is important to stress that a reactive or defensive approach to cyber threat is not enough anymore. A pro-active, intelligence-based approach should be your choice. There are different types of intelligence, but the force behind them all is human-driven. Therefore, human intelligence has now become critical for cybersecurity success.

What is HUMINT?

Human Intelligence or HUMINT, in its traditional form, refers to the process of intelligence gathering by forming contacts and engaging with them. This methodology is an espionage strategy which has been used by intelligence agencies of different countries. The main aim of HUMINT is to create avatars and blend in with others to extract critical information. 

Human Intelligence in Cybersecurity

In the cybersecurity field, HUMINT is used in the digital space to gain access to critical information. 

In the outset, it is essential to know that both threat actors and threat hunters use HUMINT. While the former use it to breach individuals, corporates and governments for personal gain and conducting malicious activities, the latter use it to counter the threat actors and prevent such breaches. Either way, it requires skills and intelligence to achieve success in this field.

One of the buzzwords related to HUMINT in cybersecurity is Social Engineering. The social engineering involves activities such as forming relationships based on trust. Then, psychological manipulation helps in extracting valuable information. 

Cyber threat actors perform these activities to get sensitive information like bank details, passwords, telephone numbers etc. This valuable data is used to execute fraudulent activities. On the information security side, the intelligence experts use it to understand their activities. It also helps in countering the threat actors before an attack occurs. 

Importance of HUMINT

Corporates and different government organizations can leverage HUMINT based cybersecurity measures to protect critical infrastructure and data. Here are some of the benefits of the same. 

1) Human Intelligence approach helps experts to engage with threat actors. They learn about the latest tools, strategies and different attack approach that cybercriminals use against entities. Passing on this piece of intelligence to cyber hunter team can level up the preparation to counter them. 

2) It is useful when a new kind of cyber threat is discovered. You can easily rely on the cyber threat actor and the related sources to understand its impact. The subsequent analysis by the information security team helps in investigations as well.

3) Once a cyber breach happens, the security team tries to find the source of the leak or the loophole that helped threat actors to gain entrance. Furthermore, the extent of the breach is assessed, and who or what helped them achieve their objective. 

In the case of extortion attacks on individuals and organizations based on sensitive data, it is important to know if it is legitimate. HUMINT can help experts to find the source and its legitimacy.

HUMINT Strategies 

HUMINT strategies may include both traditional espionage as well as the technology side of work in cybersecurity. Generally, cybersecurity professionals and experts prefer using technology in digital space to conduct social engineering activities. At the same time, it is worth noting that espionage-like skills can be effective in connecting with high-potential actors, and help in targeting cybercriminals before they plan breaches. 

Social Engineering – Social engineering involves creating false identity in the online space. The avatars or real-life identities is the first step to interact via chats and other communication mediums. Compared to traditional HUMINT, it is much easier to change identities when needed and avoid complexities. Sometimes, cybersecurity professionals impersonate high profile hackers to gather data. 

However, experts must take personal security measures to protect their identity and that of the company. 

Engage – The second step is to engage by joining hacker communities, engaging in different dark web forums and doing the groundwork to become an integral part of the community. It takes advanced skills to analyse different people, their potential and the activities carried out by them. Using their language and communication style is necessary as well.

Before engaging, cyber experts need to create good backstory which is believable and can be verified. 

Action – Once the profile is established and trusted in the community, the cyber hunter starts taking concrete actions. He/she will extract critical information and help in taking preemptive actions by security teams. The HUMINT based operations have low risk as all the major activities are done online. It helps in taking thoughtful decisions which are more beneficial than risky. 

In short, it suffices to say that HUMINT in cybersecurity is a pro-active measure which can go a long way in countering rising cyber breaches across the world. If your business is concerned about the growing cybersecurity threats and risk, you can partner with information security professionals. They are experts in taking HUMINT based cybersecurity actions and protecting organizations and governments. 

To be continued :

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