In today’s digital world, cybersecurity defenses continually lag behind attacks. As technology evolves, so do the threats and vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit. In the battle to protect our digital assets and privacy, communal knowledge sharing has become an increasingly important element of a well-rounded cybersecurity plan. This blog explores the critical role of sharing communal knowledge in improving cybersecurity, how it works, and the benefits it brings.
The Cybersecurity Landscape
The digital age has brought about incredible advancements in communication, commerce, and information sharing. However, it has also given rise to new forms of crime and security threats. Cyberattacks, ranging from data breaches to ransomware attacks, have become more sophisticated and frequent, targeting individuals, businesses, and even governments. The sheer scale and complexity of these threats have made it challenging for any single entity to defend against them effectively. Much like the early tribal peoples found increased security in banding together, organizations are now realizing the same benefits in the cyber world.
Communal Knowledge Sharing Defined
Communal knowledge sharing in the context of cybersecurity refers to the practice of sharing information, insights, and best practices among individuals, organizations, and communities to enhance their collective cybersecurity posture. This sharing can take various forms, including collaboration among security professionals, threat intelligence sharing, and coordination with local law enforcement agencies.
Security User Groups: Active security-focused user groups are at the heart of communal knowledge sharing. These communities bring together cybersecurity professionals, researchers, and enthusiasts who openly share their expertise and develop tools and solutions to counter threats. There are many different types of cybersecurity communities, but the most common are arranged around either a project, a common role, an industry or risk profile, or a locale. All these present opportunities for useful knowledge sharing.
- Projects like the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and the MITRE ATT&CK framework are prime examples of project-focused groups. Interaction is almost always done via the Web, with all participants contributing to accomplish some definable goal.
- Many groups are formed to unite people sharing the same role or job responsibilities. CISO communities are formed to share the tools and strategies that are working (or not) within their organizations, to help their peers improve their own security posture and/or avoid the same pitfalls.
- Industry-focused user groups are commonly created around organizations facing specific challenges that may be unique to their line of business. Manufacturing firms have far different security needs in protecting OT/ICS devices than does a biotech firm protecting its proprietary intellectual property.
- Lastly, all mid-large size cities have local security user groups (often chapters of larger groups like ISSA), that meet in person to discuss common security concerns and often have guest speakers to educate them on a specific topic.
- Threat Intelligence Sharing: One of the fundamental aspects of communal knowledge sharing is the exchange of threat intelligence. This involves sharing information about the latest cybersecurity threats, attack techniques, and vulnerabilities. Organizations and cybersecurity experts often collaborate to pool their knowledge and resources to identify and mitigate potential risks.
- Partnership with Law Enforcement: The most often overlooked part of a communal approach to cybersecurity is the mutual benefit of working with local law enforcement agencies. Individual organizations that repel and remediate attacks may stave off a catastrophic event, but they do nothing to deter future attacks. Cooperation with law enforcement not only enables those agencies to prosecute cybercriminals more successfully, but also allows these agencies to share emerging threat data, with private organizations.
Benefits of Communal Knowledge Sharing in Cybersecurity
There are many reasons that organizations (and their users) should embrace communal knowledge sharing, but I’ll note only a few the biggest ones below.
- Rapid Threat Detection and Mitigation: Sharing information about emerging threats enables organizations to detect and respond to attacks more quickly. This proactive approach can minimize the impact of a cyberattack, or event prevent it completely, with advanced warning as to the tactics, vulnerabilities, and IOCs to look for.
- Increased Deterrence: When organizations are empowered to collect and share digital forensic data with law enforcement agencies, cybercriminals’ rates of prosecution increase. This trend can cascade upwards as individual jurisdictions can collaborate with each other, as well as with federal efforts to bring down high profile threat actors.
- Improved Infrastructure: Knowledge sharing, within the security community, can help not only with best practices for the configuration of network and security controls, but also with the selection of tools that are working well for peers with similar needs.
- Minimized Mistakes: The old sports adage “The team that is likely to win is the one that makes the fewest mistakes” is equally applicable to cybersecurity. Unless they are targeting an organization for a very specific reason, most attackers are simply looking for easy targets. Sharing lessons learned with peers helps all members of the community limit the mistakes they might make in tackling their security challenges alone.
- Innovation: Communal knowledge sharing fosters innovation in cybersecurity. The collective brainpower of experts from diverse backgrounds can lead to the development of cutting-edge tools and solutions, as well as novel strategies for implementing them.
- Improved Resilience: When the entire cybersecurity community shares knowledge and collaborates, it creates a more resilient digital ecosystem. A shared defense is harder for cybercriminals to penetrate.
Challenges and Considerations
While communal knowledge sharing is a powerful tool in the fight against cyber threats, it is not without challenges:
- Trust and Privacy: Organizations may be reluctant to share sensitive information due to concerns about trust and data privacy. Establishing secure channels, as well as appropriate levels of anonymization, for sharing is crucial, and must align with the corporate security policy on organization data and PII.
- Legal and Regulatory Hurdles: Compliance with data protection laws and regulations can complicate information sharing, especially across international borders. Sharing must be transparent to all parties, require manual opt-in, and provide full oversight into the content and destination of any shared information.
- Data Validity: As many organizations learned during the development and use of IOC databases, having bad information can be worse than having no information. Organizations can spend excessive amounts of time and effort searching for and combating phantom threats, based on inaccurate IOC data. Any communal approach to sharing threat intelligence needs to have protocols in place that validate the quality of the threat intelligence before it is distributed.
The ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity requires a collective effort to combat the growing threats. Communal knowledge sharing is an indispensable part of this effort, enabling organizations and individuals to collaborate, innovate, and protect themselves effectively. In a world where information is power, sharing knowledge in the realm of cybersecurity is the key to a safer digital future. By working together, we can build a robust defense against even the most formidable cyber adversaries.