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Security Firms join hands to form Cyber Threat Alliance, driving collaborative protection

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Rick Howard, CSO for Palo Alto Networks and Sean Duca, VP and Regional Head of Security for Palo Alto Networks. They had a lot of stories to tell and were excited to talk about how they have seen the cyber threat landscape evolve over time, since the creation of the internet.

To top it all off, Mr. Howard has founded a cyber security book club named “The Cybersecurity Canon.”  This is an exclusive set of books which are nominated to join the canon. These books must ‘accurately depict the history of the cybercrime community, characterize key places or significant milestones in the community, or precisely describe technical details that do not exaggerate the craft’.  Mr. Howard told us that the idea of this book club was to encourage young people, without any experience, to come into the field.

When it comes to technology in the public sector, security seems to be the most common obstacle to integration. This is why security providers are more important than ever before.

Since witnessing the Office of Personnel Management breach, Ashley Madison hack, and other notable cyber-attacks, government agencies are treading very lightly and cautiously accepting technology into their operations.

This year, Mr. Howard was guided by the Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Palo Alto Networks, to help launch the Cyber Threat Alliance. This alliance was founded in 2014, along with 3 other cyber security vendors: Symantec, Intel Security, and Fortinet. Since it has been established, Barracuda, ReversingLabs, Telefónica, and Zscaler have joined in as contributing members.

Their mission is to drive a coordinated industry effort against cyber adversaries through deep collaboration on threat intelligence and sharing indicators of compromise.

Mr. Howard told me that although it was difficult to bring these companies together and work out the trust issues, the end goal of containing cyber terrorism was a great motivation for them to band together.

How will this work? The companies that join the Cyber Threat Alliance have agreed share campaign information in real-time, on the threats they have identified for each type of attack. As described on their website, “each member must share at least 1,000 samples of new Portable Executable (PE) malware per day that are not observed on VirusTotal over the preceding forty-eight (48) hours at the time of sharing, and meet at least one (1) of the following three (3) criteria:

  • Mobile Malware: At least fifty (50) samples of new mobile malware per day in the APK, DEX, or other popular mobile malware file formats that are not observed on VirusTotal over the last forty-eight (48) hours at time of sharing.
  • Botnets C2 Servers: At least one hundred (100) botnet command and control servers (C2), and/or peer to peer nodes, per week beyond those listed on public forums such as ZeusTracker, must be different than the previous week’s dump from the contributing member; and must be active upon sharing.
  • Vulnerabilities & Exploits Sites: At least one hundred (100) attack sites per week beyond those listed on public forums, must be different than the previous week’s dump from the contributing member, and must be active upon sharing.”

When all of the threats are pulled together, it creates a compiled list which helps the companies target threats that have already been detected by others in the Cyber Threat Alliance.

So far, they have been sharing threat intelligence for a year and a half.  In the summer, Mr. Howard and his team were prompted to take on a ransomware campaign. They must work to prove that working together would be more efficient than working apart. The Cyber Threat Alliance will be publishing a paper on these results at the end of the month.

All in all, the Cyber Threat Alliance is ambitious, but this private sector collaboration might be the answer to the growing cyber threat landscape.

Through these different avenues, Mr. Howard is helping bring the cybersecurity community together. In our current state of security, collaboration is key to making headway towards safer and more secure online activity.

To read more on the Cyber Threat Alliance, visit: http://www.cyberthreatalliance.org/

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