SAMA Cyber Threat Intelligence Principles: Unveiling the Financial Sector Cyber Security in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken a pioneering stance with the introduction of the Financial Sector SAMA Cyber Threat Intelligence Principles. Recognizing the intricate web of challenges posed by cyber threats, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has been at the forefront of establishing robust cyber risk control mechanisms. The SAMA Cyber Security Framework, introduced earlier, laid the foundational groundwork for managing cyber risks across the nation’s financial institutions. However, with the evolving nature of cyber threats, there emerged a need for a more specialized approach, leading to the formulation of the Threat Intelligence Principles.

These Threat Intelligence Principles, which are now mandatory regulations for all financial entities operating within the Kingdom, signify a paradigm shift in how cyber threats are perceived and managed. They are not merely guidelines but a comprehensive strategy designed to equip financial institutions with the knowledge and tools to proactively identify and counteract potential cyber threats. Divided into distinct categories, these principles provide a roadmap for institutions to navigate the complex landscape of cyber threats, from understanding the core threats specific to their operations to implementing tactical measures for threat management.

The integration of the Financial Sector Cyber Threat Intelligence Principles into the broader Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) Cyber Security Framework underscores the Kingdom’s commitment to elevating its cyber risk control strategies. By making these principles mandatory regulations, SAMA has emphasized the non-negotiable importance of threat intelligence in safeguarding the financial sector’s threat management strategies.

Introduction to SAMA Cyber Threat Intelligence in KSA’s Financial Landscape

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) plays a pivotal role in ensuring the economic and financial stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Recognizing the increasing importance of cybersecurity in the financial sector, SAMA has established comprehensive guidelines and frameworks to safeguard the nation’s financial institutions.

Key Principles of SAMA Cyber Threat Intelligence 2023

The SAMA Cyber Threat Principles are categorized into four domains:

  1. Core Cyber Threat Intelligence
  2. Strategic Cyber Threat Intelligence
  3. Operational Cyber Threat Intelligence
  4. Technical & Tactical Cyber Threat Intelligence

SAMA CTI Principles

SAMA CTI PrinciplesPrinciple NumberDescription
Core Cyber Threat Intelligence PrinciplesPrinciple 1Define roles and responsibilities
Principle 2Define threat intelligence planning and collection requirements
Principle 3Select and validate relevant sources
Principle 4Collect data through intelligence sources
Principle 5Define specific standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Principle 6Process and classify information
Principle 7Analyze information
Principle 8Share intelligence
Principle 9Deliver actionable threat intelligence
Principle 10Continuously improve methods of intelligence
Principle 11Integrate CTI
Strategic Cyber Threat IntelligencePrinciple 12Identify a cyber threat landscape
Principle 13Identify strategic cyber-attack scenarios
Principle 14Elaborate Requests for Information (RFIs) and Tailored Threat Assessments
Operational Cyber Threat IntelligencePrinciple 15Define the attack chain
Principle 16Identify Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)
Principle 17Identify malware and tools
Technical And Tactical Cyber Threat IntelligencePrinciple 18Collect Indicators of Compromise (IoCs)
Principle 19Monitor and report vulnerabilities

SAMA 4 Core CTI Principles

The foundational principles that set the stage for a robust CTI program, ensuring that the basic mechanisms are in place for effective threat intelligence.

Roles and Responsibilities

The “Roles and Responsibilities” principle is foundational to any Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) program. It ensures that every member of the CTI team understands their specific duties, ensuring a streamlined and effective operation. Clearly delineated roles within the CTI team ensure streamlined operations. This encompasses intelligence collectors, analysts, and those disseminating the intelligence.

1. CTI Program Manager:

  • Responsibilities: Oversee the entire CTI program, ensure alignment with organizational goals, manage resources, and liaise with other departments.
  • Example: A CTI Program Manager might coordinate with the IT department to ensure that the latest threat intelligence is integrated into the organization’s security infrastructure.

2. Intelligence Gatherer/Collector:

  • Responsibilities: Source and gather raw intelligence data from various sources, including open-source intelligence (OSINT), commercial threat feeds, and internal logs.
  • Example: An Intelligence Gatherer might monitor dark web forums to gather information on potential threats targeting the financial sector.

3. CTI Analyst:

  • Responsibilities: Process and analyze the raw intelligence data, identify patterns, and produce actionable insights for the organization.
  • Example: A CTI Analyst might identify a recurring IP address in internal logs that matches a known malicious actor, leading to the discovery of a potential breach.

4. Threat Hunter:

  • Responsibilities: Proactively search through networks and datasets to identify threats that may not be detected by traditional security tools.
  • Example: A Threat Hunter might use the latest threat intelligence to search for signs of a zero-day exploit within the organization’s network.

5. Dissemination Officer:

  • Responsibilities: Ensure that the analyzed threat intelligence is communicated effectively to relevant stakeholders, both internally and externally.
  • Example: A Dissemination Officer might create a report detailing a new threat and share it with both the organization’s IT department and partner companies.

6. Feedback Coordinator:

  • Responsibilities: Gather feedback on the provided intelligence from various departments, ensuring that the CTI program remains relevant and effective.
  • Example: A Feedback Coordinator might organize regular meetings with the IT department to understand how the provided threat intelligence is being used and any challenges they face.

Threat Intelligence Planning and Collection

Establishing mechanisms for gathering threat intelligence, determining the type of data, its sources, and the frequency of collection.

Source Validation

Ensuring the credibility of intelligence by validating the sources of information.

Data Collection

Actively gathering intelligence from validated sources.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Guidelines that the CTI team adheres to, ensuring consistency in the intelligence process.

SAMA Strategic CTI Principles

Focusing on the broader cybersecurity landscape, these principles provide insights into the motivations and tactics of potential threat actors.

Cyber Threat Landscape Identification

Understanding the overall cyber environment, pinpointing potential threat actors, and discerning their motivations.

Strategic Cyber-Attack Scenarios

Based on the threat landscape, developing potential cyber-attack scenarios to prepare for and counteract threats.

Tailored Threat Assessments

Detailed analyses of specific threats, providing insights into their tactics, techniques, and procedures.

SAMA Operational CTI Principles

Centered on the daily activities and real-time threats, these principles guide the immediate actions and responses of the CTI team.

Attack Chain Definition

Understanding the sequence of steps a threat actor undertakes, from initial reconnaissance to the actual breach.

TTP Identification

Recognizing the specific methods and strategies employed by threat actors, aiding in the development of countermeasures.

Malware and Tool Identification

Detecting the specific software and tools used by threat actors, facilitating better threat mitigation.

Technical & Tactical CTI Principles

These principles delve into the intricate technical details of potential threats and the tactical strategies to address them.

Indicator of Compromise (IoC) Collection

Gathering specific signs of potential breaches, such as suspicious IP addresses or malware signatures, for early threat detection.

Vulnerability Monitoring and Reporting

Continuously tracking potential system vulnerabilities, ensuring timely patching to prevent exploitation.

SAMA Threat Intelligence FAQs

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