M2M cyberthreat protocol is ready for prime time


The second generation of STIX, the computer language for conveying cyberthreat information on a machine-to-machine basis, is nearing completion.

Developed under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, STIX (for Structured Threat Information eXchange), is designed to facilitate information sharing between industry, critical infrastructure operators and government in order to blunt cyberattacks.

Participants in the information sharing program connect to a common platform called TAXII (for Trusted Automated eXchange of Indicator Information) to exchange threat information.

The hope is that a more effective machine-to-machine threat information sharing language will speed its adoption across industry.

John Wunder, a principal cybersecurity engineer at MITRE and a leader on the team developing STIX, announced in an April 12 blog post that STIX 2.0 was approved and a public review period had ended.

Wunder called the approval "a big step forward," but noted that STIX development hasn't yet crossed a "finish line."

STIX 2.0 is designed to be lightweight and easy to use. It uses JSON, and is easy for humans to read and write, but also simple for machines to parse and generate. STIX 1.0 used XML, which "has fallen out of favor with much of the developer community," according to the documentation for STIX on Github.

Additionally, Wunder said STIX 2.0 focuses on simplicity and standardization, with fewer options and more requirements than the first iteration. Simplicity and standardization, he said, will also speed "broad industry adoption."

STIX 2.0 was developed by MITRE and DHS, but the governance of the protocol was shifted in 2015 to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, a nonprofit consortium.

Work on STIX 2.1 has already commenced, and will address some areas that were deferred in order to build out the basic framework, such as response features like an incident and event object, more in-depth modeling of malware and infrastructure, and feedback mechanisms.

Wunder also said the development community is putting the finishing touches on TAXII 2.0. "We expect that, within the coming months, TAXII will be achieving this same milestone and opening its own public review period," he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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