Threat data sharing key to public-private security collaboration: strategist

Government agencies need to improve their collaboration with private-sector security firms to boost the effectiveness of a unified security response, the head of Fortinet's security strategy has warned.

“We have security experts and initiatives from governments to enhance security and basically manage the security framework, but I think governments still need to step up,” Fortinet global security strategist Derek Manky told CSO Australia.

“That public-private relationship, I think, is not where it needs to be today. Governments need to step up and work more closely with their security sectors.”

Manky pointed to the example of the government of South Korea, which had done “a pretty good job” proactively engaging with private-sector security firms to address the 'wiper' malware attack that paralysed banks and broadcasters across that country in March 2013.

“They sent us information on this attack, and we were able to put experts on it, analyse it, and build protection for customers,” Manky recalled. “It was a very good reactive story that really helped in an attack like that. And, in going through exercises and planning for similar events, the Australian government needs to take this [engagement] more seriously.”

Private-sector organisations weren't faultless, however; they also needed to improve their investment in ongoing security operations, he said, with many simply failing to make anywhere near the required investments in security infrastructure.

“A lot of the attacks that are successful are being successful on a very basic level,” Manky said. “Most cases of fraud are from these general attacks where, for example, a user goes to the wrong Web site and they get attacked because they're running an outdated version of Windows or the Web browser. The attacks aren't entirely sophisticated.”

Analysts recently warned businesses from using Microsoft's ubiquitous Internet Explorer browser after a 0-day vulnerability threatened users of the browser on all flavours of Windows.

Despite their proven and ongoing vulnerability to attack, however, many companies were still failing to take appropriate security measures – so much so that many companies “don't even have a CISO,” he said.

Read more: Network perimeter security still key despite virtualization shift: Watchguard

“Unless you're in the really, really large enterprise or carrier space, and you're someone who has a lot of the resources intact, a lot of these enterprises don't have a proper security operations centre in place,” Manky continued.

“As we get more SOCs and CISOs and security focus in place in these enterprises, then we can grow that whole picture and the bridges between organisations can start being connected more. But that work still needs to be done.”

Industry efforts such as Structured Threat Information eXpression (STIX) and Trusted Automated eXchange of Indicator Information (TAXII) offer strong promise in improving the exchange of threat information between public and private-sector organisations.

Adoption of a common format by Fortinet, Microsoft, the US Computer Emergency Response Team and others was a significant step in the right direction by providing “a way to normalise the information and actually transport it to the proper people,” Manky said.

Read more: Certified security pros highly valued but under-prioritised: ISACA

“As a security industry we're becoming better at mitigating these sorts of threats; a really key thing moving ahead is that incident response element. It's the right way forward, so people aren't trying to reinvent things.”

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