Many organizations today are sharing information about cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and solutions. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea – you learn more about potential threats and solutions while sharing your experiences with similar companies. But when you share this information, are you producing new threats to your business? Can you trust the other organizations that you’re sharing with?
What are the pros and cons of sharing cybersecurity information with peer companies? Read on to learn whether threat information sharing is for you.
What is Threat Information Sharing?
Cyber threat information is any intelligence that can be used to identify, understand, and react to any kind of cyberattack or data breach. This can include:
- Information about recent attacks
- Identification of cyberattackers or potential attackers
- Tactics and techniques used by malicious actors
- How attacks or breaches were identified
- Actions taken in response to attacks or breaches
Threat information sharing takes place between two or more organizations with a shared interest in preventing future cyberattacks. All organizations that take place in threat information sharing expand their collective knowledge based on their individual experiences, helping all involved develop stronger cybersecurity defenses.
What is the Critical Infrastructure Threat Information Sharing Framework?
Due to the growing popularity of cyber threat information sharing, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) developed the Critical Infrastructure Threat Information Sharing Framework. This is a guide for how threat information can be safely and effectively shared between key stakeholders.
The Framework starts by describing how cyber threat information is shared between the federal government, state and local governments, and private entities. It includes key contact information, as well as examples of how threat information works in the real world.
What Are the Benefits of Cyber Threat Information Sharing?
Organizations that participate in the exchange of cyber threat information realize numerous benefits. Here are some of the most significant.
Faster Awareness of Developing Cyber Threats
The AV-Test research institute discovered more than 137 million new malware samples in 2020. When you’re on your own, you have to learn about these new threats through the press and other traditional methods. When you’re working with other similar companies and organizations, however, you can learn about new threats as they develop. You’ll get more firsthand information faster, which gives you more time to upgrade your cyber defenses.
New Techniques for Preventing and Responding to Cyber Threats
By exchanging information with similar firms you’ll also learn new ways to guard against and respond to potential cyber threats. You’ll learn how other organizations have responded to ransomware attacks, DoD attacks, data breaches, and more – firsthand. You’ll also be able to get support from participating organizations that wasn’t available to you otherwise.
More Strategic Use of Staff
The early warnings you receive when sharing cyber intelligence provides you with the opportunity to shift your IT and security staff to where they’ll have the most impact. You get to be proactive with your team, not reactive – which is both more effective, and a more efficient use of resources.
Reduced Cybersecurity Costs
By sharing information about cyber threats, you’re also spreading out the cost of cyber intelligence and preparedness. This can help reduce your cybersecurity budget – or spend those funds in a more productive fashion.
What Are the Concerns About Cyber Threat Information Sharing?
It might seem that exchanging cyber threat intelligence would be a no-brainer for all involved. However, some organizations question what value they actually receive in such an arrangement and point out potential downsides to sharing their information with others. What are the concerns some organizations have – and are they justified?
Privacy and Liability
One thing you don’t want to do when sharing cyber threat information is to share sensitive customer and company data with other businesses. To guard against any real or perceived liability from sharing information with other firms, you want to share only top-level data, not individual customer records. You should also take care to scrub any information you provide others of any private information, or company or industry secrets.
Fear of Having Nothing to Contribute
Some companies or organizations may be hesitant to join an information exchange because they think they have little useful information to share. This is especially true of smaller companies that don’t have large IT departments or budgets. The reality is that your company has probably seen some unique threats that others haven’t – no matter their size. That information is likely to be valuable to some organization out there.
Fear of Admitting Past Attacks
If your organization has been the victim of a data breach or cyberattack in the past, you may be reluctant to reveal that information to others. You may even be embarrassed about how easily your defenses were breached. That isn’t a good reason not to engage in information with other organizations, however. You’ll quickly find that even the biggest companies are victims, and that others can learn from your experience.
Should Your Organization Share Threat Information?
For most organizations, the benefits of threat information sharing far outweigh any potential drawbacks. When it comes to cybersecurity and guarding against malicious actors, we are stronger together than we are separately.
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