Do Threat Intelligence Exchanges Really Work?

Threat intelligence sharing services have been around almost since the earliest days of malware, but lately they seem to be gaining traction among IT professionals. In mid 2015, we noted that Facebook had set up its own exchange to share threat information. Since then, nearly 500 organizations have joined the effort, and the social networking company has added enhancements such as a tagging schema and real-time notifications.

The Threat Intelligence Explosion

Facebook is a great example of how threat sharing programs have quickly expanded. IBM continues to enhance its own X-Force Exchange with new notification features and additional information. A “curated list of awesome threat intelligence resources” hosted on GitHub includes several dozen different exchanges, along with numerous standards for sharing specific details about malware and a variety of tools that leverage these exchanges, such as CollabNet, SpiceWorks, OpenPhish, Metadefender and Spamhaus, just to name a few.

This explosion can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of traditional pattern-matching solutions. Cybercriminals leverage tools to produce unique patterns for malware infections, and new strains are becoming adept at hiding in memory, making detection more difficult. This means that defenders have to become better organized.

Community Outreach

IT teams can become more effective with these exchange-based tools, but it will require some effort. First, management must buy into sharing efforts and understand their value. Without top-level support, the whole notion of sharing might become a political issue rather than a technical one.

The main lesson passed from Ken Weston, senior security analyst at Tripwire, to eSecurity Planet was that “before threat exchanges can be useful, you need a solid infrastructure that provides visibility into your network and log activity picked up by intrusion detection systems.” Without this level of visibility, exchanges are worthless since you won’t know whether a threat has already appeared across your network.

Next, you must decide which community you want to participate in. Not all communities support all log formats, and some are designed to work with a particular vendor’s intrusion detection systems. A few communities are also more open than others. Programs from IBM, Imperva, Microsoft and McAfee, for example, all require customers to register, while open source tools are more inclusive. You should pick the community that uses the same tools you already have in place to simplify information transfer.

Finally, you need to understand the standards employed by the particular reporting formats of your chosen community. Make sure your logs can be converted into the appropriate format without a lot of effort, otherwise you will have less incentive to share threat intelligence information.

Visit the IBM X-Force Exchange

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David Strom

Security Evangelist

David is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, video blogger, and online communications professional who also advises numerous startup and well-established technology ventures. He began his career as an in-house IT analyst and has founded numerous technology print and online publications, such as editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and as part of the launch team of PC Week's Connectivity section. David has written two books and spoken around the world at various conferences and been on national radio and television talking about network technologies. He continues to build websites and publish articles on a wide variety of technology topics geared towards networking, security, channel, PC enthusiasts, OEMs, and consumers. In addition to these activities, he consults to vendors and evaluates emerging technologies, products, strategies, and trends to help position and improve their technology products.