What is Cybersecurity threat intelligence sharing

December 12, 2023  |  Keith Thomas

Knowledge is power and collaboration is key for organizations to continuously adapt and improve their security measures in order to stay ahead of cybercriminals. An effective way to stay ahead is by enhancing an organization's security posture through cybersecurity threat intelligence sharing. By exchanging information about potential and existing cyber threats with other organizations, individuals, or entities, organizations can better understand the threat landscape and make informed decisions about their security strategies. In this article, we will explore what threat intelligence sharing is and provide guidance on starting your own program.

How threat intelligence sharing works

Threat intelligence sharing can be compared to a neighborhood watch program, where community members collaborate and share information about suspicious activities, potential threats, and crime incidents to improve the overall safety and security of the neighborhood.

security zone

Similarly, threat intelligence sharing is a collaborative process that enables organizations to exchange information such as indicators of compromise (IoCs), tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and vulnerabilities between each other. It involves gathering threat intelligence from various sources, such as internal network logs, security tools, open-source intelligence (OSINT), commercial threat intelligence feeds, and industry-specific sharing communities like Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).

The collected data is then analyzed to identify patterns, trends, and actionable insights, which help organizations understand the threat landscape and make informed decisions about their security strategies.

Addressing threat intelligence sharing legal, regulatory, and privacy concerns

To maintain privacy and foster collaboration, organizations should establish clear guidelines and use standardized protocols like Structured Threat Information Expression (STIX) or Trusted Automated eXchange of Indicator Information (TAXII) when sharing threat intelligence outside the company. This collaborative approach will ultimately improve the security posture of all participating organizations.

Also, participating organizations should work closely with legal and compliance teams to understand the requirements and establish guidelines for sharing threat intelligence while adhering to data privacy regulations and industry-specific compliance standards. Guidelines should include sanitization, anonymization, and encryption techniques to protect sensitive information from being publicly disclosed.

How threat intelligence data is structured

Standardized formats and languages, such as STIX or TAXII, are used to structure the data, ensuring consistency, readability, and easy processing by different tools and systems. Organizations share this threat intelligence through various channels, including email, file transfers, web platforms, or automated protocols like STIX and TAXII. Shared intelligence is then consumed, and appropriate countermeasures are implemented based on the insights gained.

Organizations collaboratively and continuously monitor the effectiveness of their threat intelligence sharing efforts, providing feedback to each other and refining their processes to improve the quality and relevance of the shared data.

Benefits of participating in threat intelligence sharing

Just as neighborhood watch programs promote involvement through community building, shared responsibility, and mutual benefit, threat intelligence sharing programs encourage participation by doing the following:

  • Raising awareness of the importance of collaboration and information sharing in improving an organization's security posture.
  • Establishing communication channels and platforms for sharing threat intelligence, such as emails, web platforms, or automated protocols.
  • Provide guidance and support to participants through designated teams or individuals responsible for managing the threat intelligence sharing program.
  • Offering training and educational materials on threat intelligence sharing best practices, tools, and frameworks.
  • Building relationships with industry partners like ISAC, or other threat intelligence sharing communities to exchange information and learn from each other's experiences.
  • Encourages collaboration by pooling resources, knowledge, and expertise, together.

By enhancing organization’s threat detection and response capabilities, their overall security posture and resilience against cyberattacks increases.

What the threat intelligence sharing process looks like

threat intelligence sharing process

Collection

The process begins with the collection of threat intelligence from a wide range of sources, including internal network logs, security tools, open-source intelligence (OSINT), commercial threat intelligence feeds, and industry-specific sharing communities or Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).

Analysis

The collected data is then analyzed to identify patterns, trends, and actionable insights, helping organizations better understand the threat landscape and make informed decisions about their security strategies.

Standardize data structure

To ensure consistency, readability, and easy processing by different tools and systems, the threat intelligence data is structured using standardized formats and languages, such as STIX or TAXII.

Share threat intelligence

Organizations enhance their cybersecurity efforts through sharing threat intelligence. They can exchange information through various channels, such as email, file transfers, web platforms, or automated protocols.

Review shared intelligence

The shared intelligence is integrated into the receiving organization's security infrastructure, such as Security Incident and Event Management “SIEM” systems, Intrusion Detection System/Intrusion Prevention System “IDS/IPS”, or Threat Intelligence Platforms “TIP”, and is used to inform security strategies, prioritize resources, and implement countermeasures.

Monitor and feedback

Finally, organizations continuously monitor the effectiveness of their threat intelligence sharing efforts, provide feedback to their partners, and refine their processes to improve the quality and relevance of the shared data.

Starting your own threat intelligence sharing program

Implementing a threat intelligence sharing program strategically bolsters the organization's security posture and resilience against evolving cyber threats. The following steps can be used as a framework create a threat intelligence sharing program:

  • Understand the fundamentals of threat intelligence sharing, including common frameworks and standards like STIX and TAXII.
  • Define roles and responsibilities, workflows, and communication channels to better implement and manage the threat intelligence sharing program.
  • Assess your organization's specific threat intelligence sharing requirements, such as the type of threat data you want to share, the sources of this data, and the desired level of automation for sharing and consuming threat intelligence.
  • Identify potential partners for sharing threat intelligence, such as industry peers, ISACs, or commercial threat intelligence providers.
  • Integrate threat intelligence sharing capabilities into your existing security infrastructure, such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS), or threat intelligence platforms (TIPs).
  • Develop internal processes and guidelines for creating, sharing, and consuming threat intelligence within your organization, including roles and responsibilities, workflows, and communication channels.
  • Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your threat intelligence sharing efforts, gather feedback from participants, and refine your processes to improve the quality and relevance of the shared data.

Overcoming the challenges of starting a threat intelligence program

Several industry standards and compliance frameworks have published or built into their programs the ability to safely establish a threat intelligence sharing program for an organization. NIST, ISO, FIRST, ENISA, and CIS all have insights, guidelines, and best practices related to cybersecurity collaboration and information sharing that can complement and support an organization establishing a threat intelligence sharing program.

One of the key challenges is raising awareness and understanding of the benefits of threat intelligence sharing, along with the best practices, tools, and frameworks available. Organizations can address this through comprehensive training and educational materials for their security teams and stakeholders.

Organizations can foster a culture of trust and collaboration by creating partnerships with industry peers, ISACs, or other threat intelligence sharing communities, emphasizing the mutual benefits of sharing and collaboration. Allocating necessary resources, such as personnel, technology, and funding, is crucial for establishing a robust threat intelligence sharing program. This may require obtaining executive sponsorship and support to ensure organizational commitment and adequate resource allocation.

Organizations address integration issues by selecting tools and platforms that are compatible with their current systems and support standardized formats like STIX or TAXII. Also, organizations should invest in adopting and implementing standardized frameworks, ensuring consistent and readable data across different tools and systems.

Ensuring the quality and relevance of shared data can be addressed by implementing processes to filter out noise, validate the accuracy of shared data, and prioritize the most relevant threats. In addition, organizations that establish a continuous feedback loop to improve the threat intelligence sharing program is critical. This is achieved by monitoring the effectiveness of the program, gathering feedback from participants, and refining processes to improve the quality and relevance of the shared data.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity threat intelligence sharing is a powerful tool for organizations to collaboratively address the challenges posed by an ever-evolving threat landscape. Like the neighborhood watch, fostering a sense of community, shared responsibility, and mutual benefit, creates a strong and effective threat intelligence sharing program that enhances everyone’s overall security posture and resilience against cyber threats.

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