What is Threat Intelligence Sharing?

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The world is rife with cybercrime. Enterprises constantly battle an evolving array of threat actors to protect massive digital vaults of sensitive information and high-value data. 


Threat information sharing


The average data breach cost in 2022 (globally) was $4.35 million. Data breaches can demoralize and devastate companies. Most organizations in today's intensely competitive business landscape struggle to bounce back after a significant data breach.  


A dramatic increase in cloud infrastructures, the adoption of agile methodologies and pipelines, and highly sophisticated cyber criminals add to the cybersecurity complexities that organizations worldwide face. 


Businesses today are highly protective of their intellectual property, business intelligence, and unique industry- and region-specific insights. However, the modern cyber threat landscape necessitates a change in attitude towards certain types of intelligence. 


Sharing threat intelligence among organizations is important. Threat intelligence sharing can boost the cybersecurity posture of enterprises, governments, vendors, clients, entire industries, and even regions. 


Sharing threat intel is essential to fight off sophisticated cyber attackers. Enterprises can't afford to isolate themselves from their broader communities. Threat intelligence sharing is a powerful way to ensure robust cyber fortification. 

Threat intelligence sharing is a meticulous process. Threat information and data are collected, analyzed, and highly contextualized to be shared as high-value cybersecurity resources.


Both governments and enterprises have acknowledged that high-quality threat intelligence is gold dust. This is evidenced by a flourishing global threat intelligence market that's forecasted to reach a value of $15.8 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% since 2021. 


Many nonprofits, including Information Sharing and Analysis Centers or ISACs, and Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations or ISAOs, augment this thriving market by promoting and facilitating threat intelligence sharing. International open-source threat intelligence platforms like MISP Threat Sharing provide organizations with free threat data and taxonomies. 

Primary threat intelligence sharing involves firsthand information sharing between entities. This includes cybersecurity threats directly collected, analyzed, and then shared by organizations that are part of a threat intelligence sharing network. Primary threat intelligence sharing allows organizations to respond to security threats in near real-time.


Secondary threat intelligence sharing involves sharing threat data that has been gathered, analyzed, and disseminated by a third party. For example, it may include intelligence feeds, reports, and briefs from commercial threat intelligence providers, industry groups, or governmental organizations. This threat intelligence is usually more generalized, but it can provide valuable insights into larger threat trends and strategies used by adversaries. To formulate a robust cybersecurity strategy, organizations use a combination of both.

Unidirectional Threat Intelligence Sharing 


Unidirectional threat intelligence sharing features a single organization that generates and distributes threat intelligence to other organizations but receives nothing in return. Examples of unidirectional threat intelligence sharing include Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and closed-source research reports, surveys, and news feeds. 


Bidirectional Threat Intelligence Sharing


Bidirectional threat intelligence sharing, which enables the much-needed union of the private and public sectors, features two-way sharing. However, organizations that receive threat intelligence aren't obligated to reciprocate. Examples of bidirectional threat intelligence sharing include ISACs, ISAOs, and government-backed sharing initiatives.

Technical Threat Intelligence


Technical threat intelligence comprises information on threat actors' tactics, tools, and procedures (TTPs). TTPs are behaviors of threat actors categorized by various magnification levels. Tactics describe overarching behaviors and goals. Techniques include explanations of the multiple methods and attack vectors used by attackers. Procedures are detailed and highly contextualized breakdowns of attacking behaviors. Security leaders design their enterprise cybersecurity architecture and strategy based on technical threat intelligence. 


Strategic Threat Intelligence


Strategic threat intelligence is a non-technical macro look at the global cyber threat landscape. This type of intelligence converges cybersecurity with industry-specific vulnerabilities, geopolitical complexities, and high-level threat patterns that may help companies identify and protect their crown jewels, which are the high-value assets most likely to be targeted by attackers. Strategic threat intelligence allows enterprises to assign levels of cyber risk to business maneuvers and ensure that cybersecurity decisions are intentional, logical, and relevant.  


Tactical Threat Intelligence


Tactical threat intelligence focuses on identifying and defending against imminent and in-progress cyber-attacks. Identifying Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) is a significant part of tactical threat intelligence. Tactical threat intelligence is gathered from various sources, including OSINT sharing platforms and databases, incident response reports, public news, ransomware and malware forensics documentation, and cybersecurity professionals and teams. Tactical threat intelligence helps organizations solve active threats, weed out hidden dangers, and reduce false positives. 

Threat intelligence encompasses both preventive and diagnostic information that can help organizations defend themselves, industry peers, and local and regional governing bodies from threat actors. Different organizations might have different approaches to generating threat intelligence. However, a typical threat intelligence lifecycle is a six-step process.


Raw threat data needs to undergo this lifecycle to be rendered into actionable threat intelligence. The organizations that foster streamlined threat intelligence lifecycles will be better protected against threat actors. The threat intelligence lifecycle also indexes threat information into three distinct types: technical, strategic, and tactical threat intelligence. 


This categorization is vital because each of these three types of threat intelligence offers unique insights into different kinds of cyber threats. Some threats may necessitate the implementation of long-term cybersecurity strategies and others may require immediate action. 


These classifications will also help companies formulate protective measures and remediation playbooks that aren't generic and that will address the complexities and intricacies of different kinds of cyber threats.


Step 1: Frame Threat Intelligence Sharing Objectives and Requirements


Frame threat intelligence sharing objectives that align with the organization's business goals. A threat intelligence sharing strategy shouldn’t be disjointed from the organization’s overarching business strategy.


Step 2: Collect Raw Threat Data From Heterogeneous Sources


Invest time and resources to find the highest-quality internal and external threat intelligence repositories. The quality and integrity of raw threat data are integral. Poor quality threat data or threat data from questionable sources can severely compromise a threat intelligence sharing program.  


Step 3: Process and Standardize Disparate Threat Data 


Once the organization has collected relevant threat data from disparate sources, they have to process and normalize the data to a standard format for easier comparison and analysis. This process also includes the removal of redundant or irrelevant data. This standardized data can then be aggregated into a central system for analysis. This approach helps ensure consistency and comparability across different data types and sources, enabling efficient and accurate analysis in subsequent stages of the threat intelligence process.


Step 4: Identify and Analyze Commonalities and Anomalies in Threat Data


Once the data is clean and ready for analysis, organizations can quickly identify commonalities, spot anomalies within this data, and identify patterns to reveal recurring threats or vulnerabilities that highlight new or emerging threats. This information is then correlated to link-related data elements and better understand the connections between various indicators. The commonalities and anomalies can then be analyzed to understand the nature of potential cyber threats.


Step 5: Dispatch Actionable Threat Intelligence to Various Departments


Organizations can disseminate the actionable insights once threat intelligence is compiled and analyzed. However, it’s important to adopt stringent threat intelligence sharing rules and guidelines to ensure that cybersecurity initiatives don't backfire due to negligence or malpractice. The ultimate goal is to enable the organization to proactively respond and adapt to the identified threats.


For threat intelligence sharing to work in the long term, it’s also important to integrate automation via AI and ML-powered tools at every possible juncture for standardization and speed in threat detection and cybersecurity information sharing. It’s important to remember that threat actors are constantly innovating and evolving. Companies need to defend themselves from these evolving threats at previously unseen speeds. AI/ML mechanisms can provide businesses with those capabilities and also ensure that high-velocity business operations don’t come with security trade-offs. 


Security professionals must also regularly review threat intelligence sharing plans, practices, and outcomes to ensure proactive improvement. Lethargic cybersecurity initiatives are the weakest. Companies need to consistently challenge the performance and impact of their threat intelligence sharing programs and improve it regularly.

Robust Cybersecurity Posture


Data is currency today, and threat intelligence sharing can help enterprises prevent data breaches. Threat intelligence sharing will ensure that organizations can detect infected systems, implement best practices, integrate optimal cybersecurity tools and technologies, and design powerful remediation mechanisms to overcome even the most potent cyber-attacks, including ransomware attacks


Optimized IT Resources


The high (and sometimes hidden) costs of cybersecurity can often weigh companies down. Threat intelligence sharing helps companies accurately forecast threats and choose economical yet comprehensive ways to tackle them. This can significantly reduce overall cybersecurity expenses for organizations and free up their IT budgets for further investments and innovations. Cyber threat intelligence sharing can also help organizations utilize their existing security teams to their maximum potential.


Powerful Digital Engine


Most businesses in this world have pivoted to digital realms. The benefits are aplenty, and threat intelligence sharing can help organizations mitigate the inevitable threats of cloud infrastructures and applications. One thing is for sure: only organizations with the strongest and safest digital moorings and security posture can navigate what looks to be a promising but incredibly complex technological future. 

Legalities Around Sensitive Data


Threat intelligence often contains Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), and trade secrets. Accidentally disclosing or publishing sensitive data could result in heavy fines and penalties as well as legal fees from governing bodies. Therefore, it's vital to share threat intelligence with meticulous precision. 


Building Trust


Threat intelligence sharing is a powerful idea in theory and principle. Practice, however, requires immense mutual trust. Organizations must actively build and nourish strong partnerships based on trust and understanding. The strongest trust relationships ensure that threat intelligence sharing is viewed as a mutually beneficial community responsibility, not just a mere obligation. Trust is the key ingredient for a thriving threat information-sharing ecosystem.


Standardizing Shared Intelligence Pipelines


Threat actors have begun to leverage AI to enhance the power and velocity of their attacks, and organizations need to keep up. Automated mechanisms and pipelines are essential to share threat intelligence in real time. The main challenge is interoperability, for example, ensuring that a diverse range of organizations can produce, ingest, access, and read threat data from various sources, formats, and transfer protocols.


Enhanced Security Through Collaboration


Sharing cyber threat intelligence is a powerful way for organizations to protect themselves from malicious hackers. The three primary kinds of threat intelligence are technical threat intelligence, which focuses on TTPs used by attacks, strategic threat intelligence, which features a high-level and global perspective; and tactical threat intelligence, which is information about solving in-progress and imminent cyber incidents and security threats. 


The advantages of threat intelligence sharing include creating a more robust cybersecurity posture, optimizing IT budgets, and fueling a powerful digital engine to drive businesses forward. Threat intelligence sharing does have a few challenges, including navigating legal complexities involving private data, building trust with sharing communities, and standardizing shared intelligence pipelines for efficiency and inclusivity. 

The mitigation of the challenges mentioned above can be painless if organizations follow best practices, partner with a managed security solutions provider, and have the conviction that knowledge sharing, particularly threat intelligence sharing, is the ultimate protector against threat actors.


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Categories: Security, Strategy, IT Management, Network Security, Proactive Network Security, Managed Security Services, IT Security, Digital Transformation, Cyber Attack, Cybersecurity, Threat Intelligence

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