Critical Read

NIST spells out information-sharing best practices

Shutterstock image: a global system of information relays.

What: A draft document released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help federal agencies more effectively share cyber threat information.

Why: Information-sharing is touted by security professionals and agency officials as a tool for mitigating cyber threats. But what does effective information-sharing between and within organizations look like? This NIST draft document attempts to answer that question. It is aimed at federal agencies, but private organizations are welcome to adopt it.

The document is in the same spirit as the framework NIST issued in February to help implement President Barack Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity. That is, the new document encourages agencies to shift from ad hoc and reactive approaches to cybersecurity to “formal, repeatable, adaptive, proactive, risk-informed practices.”

Among the dozens of recommendations made in the guide are that organizations:

  • Use "open, standard data formats and transport protocols" to facilitate information-sharing.
  • Use a cyberattack life cycle to devise a plan for an active defense that makes use of external and internal information.
  • Do an "information inventory" that catalogues various types of information on the organization's network, by sensitivity, owner and other labels.
  • Share information on all intrusion attempts, even if they were unsuccessful. Information on unsuccessful intrusions is often less sensitive and therefore can be shared more quickly. 

Verbatim: "To enhance incident response actions and bolster cyber defenses, organizations must harness the collective wisdom of peer organizations through information-sharing and coordinated incident response."

Read the full draft document.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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