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Sharing security intelligence: How to build a strong network

The Security for Business Innovation Council (SBIC) recently released a report detailing how to battle advanced persistent threats (APTs), including the necessity of sharing security intelligence, including attack indicators, with one another. How should enterprises go about building security relationships with other enterprises and creating security networks? What limits should be placed on the information to be shared?

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It is widely believed that attackers share information faster than defenders share information, and if defenders could only share information faster, more security incidents could be prevented.

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A number of different organizations have worked to improve the sharing of security intelligence data like attack or compromise indicators, including Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), which are focused on industry verticals, Infragard and the like. There are information-sharing frameworks like the Verizon VERIS, Mandiant OpenIOC and others. With the increased scrutiny on effectiveness in information security, using hard data for making decisions is critical. These information security sharing organizations could gather incident data and then produce reports like the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Enterprises can build security intelligence sharing networks with other enterprises through traditional methods such as joining information security organizations (local, regional and national) and an ISAC. Just joining an organization is not sufficient, though. To create a strong security network and most effectively build security relationships, an enterprise must engage other enterprises and become a trusted member of the community.

There are, of course, limits to the information that should be shared, and these limits must be strictly followed to support the trusted relationships. Sharing appropriate information should be done liberally within trusted communities, but sharing others' information should be done conservatively and only with the intent with which the information was shared. Maintaining trust in the community is critical. Many organizations are apprehensive about sharing sensitive incident information because of concerns about negative repercussions, but there is scant public information available about an organization being harmed due to sharing incident information within a trusted community (or even publicly). Enterprises should evaluate how an attacker could use information before it is shared or aggregated, though.

This was first published in August 2012

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