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NIST Releases Guide for Threat Intelligence Sharing Efforts

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking public comment on a draft paper outlining ways to help organizations improve threat intelligence sharing.  

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking public comment on a draft paper outlining ways to help organizations improve threat intelligence sharing.  

The paper, titled ‘Guide to Threat Information Sharing’, is aimed at providing guidance for improving the effectiveness of cyber-security efforts through strong information sharing practices.

“Cyber attacks have increased in both frequency and sophistication resulting in significant changes to organizations that must defend their infrastructure form attacks by capable adversaries,” according to the paper. “These adversaries range from individual attackers to well-resources groups operating as part of a criminal enterprise or on behalf of a nation-state.”

“These adversaries are persistent, motivated, and agile; and employ a variety of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to compromise systems, disrupt services, commit financial fraud, expose sensitive information, and steal intellectual property,” the report continues. “To enhance incident response actions and bolster cyber defenses, organizations must harness the collective wisdom of peer organizations through information sharing and coordinated incident response.”

According to the paper, getting to that point requires organizations employ open, standard data formats and transport protocols to facilitate the efficient and effective exchange of information. In addition, companies should perform an inventory that catalogues the information an organization currently has and the data it is processing and document the circumstances under which that information may be shared.

“When deciding what incident-related information to share with other organizations, the following factors should be considered: risk of disclosure; operational urgency and need for sharing; benefits gained by sharing; sensitivity of the information; trustworthiness of the recipients; [and the] methods and ability to safeguard the information,” the report notes.

Among its recommendations, NIST suggests organizations focus on the attack lifecycle when strategizing their cyber defense, and share information related to successful and attempted intrusions with the partners they have approved.

“We have seen over time in our research that industries that take a proactive approach to information sharing through organizations such as Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) are generally more prepared to deal with new and persistent threats,” said BitSight Chief Strategy Officer Ira Scharf.

Large-scale, fast, and seamless exchange of threat intelligence has the potential to degrade the effectiveness of cyber-attack and espionage groups like Axiom and APT1, said Eyal Firstenberg, vice president of cyber research at LightCyber.

“The reality is that these groups re-use tactics, techniques and procedures across many different campaigns, thus enjoying the benefits of economy of scale,” Firstenberg said. “The possible downside of this re-use, from the attacker’s point of view, is the risk that a technique or tool discovered in one campaign will lead to the discovery of many other ongoing, currently covert, campaigns.

“The latest Axiom research demonstrates such a ‘Domino Effect’,” he added. “An effective large-scale threat intelligence exchange amplify this domino effect, forcing groups to scale-down, limit tools re-use, and give up the benefits of economy of scale. Done right, large-scale, effective, seamless threat intelligence exchange can make a huge difference for all participants.”

NIST will be taking comments on the draft until Nov. 28.

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