Cybersecurity firms step up intel sharing despite issues of trust

The collaboration has been protecting companies from the latest cyber attacks

The war against cybercriminals won’t be won alone. To keep hackers at bay, security vendors are establishing more ways for their customers to cooperate and share data about the latest threats -- even as it sparks concerns about trust and competition.

“We have to win this war together,” said Ben Johnson, chief security strategist of Carbon Black.

The company is the latest to help pool together security expertise with a new platform called the Detection eXchange.

Carbon Black protects the networks of thousands of companies, and it's now opening a line of communication between them. More than a virus signature or an IP address, the exchange aims to foster the sharing of "patterns of attack," which identify behaviors and tactics employed by malicious hackers.

That can be valuable knowledge, Carbon Black says, because those patterns are harder for hackers to quickly change than something like an IP address.

Although CISA has raised concerns about privacy, because the government will be the clearing house for data that gets shared, security vendors say collaborating on intelligence can help their clients prevent the next cyberattacks.

Palo Alto Networks is another vendor trying to build a culture of cooperation. The industry has been focused on protecting data, but it needs to share it too, said the company’s chief security officer, Rick Howard.

In 2014, Palo Alto Networks joined with rivals including Fortinet, Intel Security and Symantec to form the Cyber Threat Alliance. The vendors are each sharing around 1,000 malware samples each day and using that data to bolster their security products.

The alliance is still small, with only about eight members, but Howard believes it will be a “game changer” if the group can expand to 50.

Eventually, the alliance aims to have have enough intelligence to keep pace with the latest strategies hackers are using, which will let them move faster in protecting clients.

The collaboration clearly has it benefits, but an alliance in which competing vendors share information that's central to their businesses isn't easy to pull off. 

“When I first started, I gave it a year," Howard said. "I thought, 'There's no way this is going to hold together.'"

But customers like it and regularly encourage the company to expand the cooperation. He's optimistic that it could last. “We had to learn to trust each other, because we don’t like each other,” he jokes.

The intelligence sharing fills gaps in what each security vendor knows. For instance, Palo Alto Networks and Symantec overlap in only about 70 percent of the malware intelligence they share, according to Howard.

The reluctance to share may also be a challenge for Carbon Black. Companies prefer to keep data private and fear revealing too much, Johnson said, which is why contributors can chose to share on its platform anonymously. But he maintains it's useful at a time when IT security talent is scarce.

“Small companies can understand what big companies are seeing and vice-versa,” Johnson said.  “It’s a tremendous benefit.”

Jane Wright, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said Carbon Black’s exchange can act as a “water cooler” where security professionals talk about best practices and incident response. Even so, "sometimes the most valuable sharing just isn’t happening,” she said.

A major fear is that information shared about vulnerabilities or a company's infrastructure may be leaked accidentally to other hackers. But the pros can outweigh the cons. Companies Wright has talked to see the benefits of wider collaboration and even expect it from their vendor. They realize they’re walking a fine line between the risk of sharing too much and potentially stopping the next cyber attack.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?