Last Thursday we wrapped up the 4th annual SANS Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Summit. I have presented at all four of the summits and I’ve have been fortunate enough to be the co-chair of the event (alongside Mike Cloppert) for the previous two years. Neither Forrester Research nor Digital Shadows (now ReliaQuest) were affiliated with the summit at all; this is a very important side project for me.

As I was considering what to discuss in my recap, @CYINT_dude posted a very detailed synopsis from the event and I highly recommend that you check it out. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d share some brief perspectives on two observations from the summit.

It has been interesting to track the CTI space over the past four years. For this year’s summit, we designed the agenda based on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of CTI.  Check out the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s  “Operational Levels of Cyber Intelligence” for more details. As an industry we seem to be hyper focused on the tactical level of threat intelligence and seem to struggle as we transition to operational and strategic capabilities.  The focus on the tactical level of threat intelligence has resulted in two problems that we have been slow to address and resonated throughout the summit:

1) We have a culture of consumption when it comes to threat intelligence.

There is a disproportionate focus on consuming external threat intelligence instead of producing our own internal threat intelligence.  The desire to take a technical feed and simply dump it into our security infrastructure doesn’t equate to a threat intelligence win. “One doesn’t simply just buy all the feeds.” I have been using the term Indicators of Exhaustion (IOEs) to describe the result of this failed approach. IOEs overwhelm both our security stacks and our security staff. The analogy that I used during my presentation is that organizations need to be more like the Jakku scavenger Rey from The Force Awakens. Live off your own land, and prioritize scavenging your own intrusions by capturing artifacts and building dossiers on attackers. You cannot get more relevant threat intelligence than what you develop from within your own environment. This should then be enriched with external intelligence.

Indicators of Exhaustion

2) Aligning threat intelligence to the business is a major challenge.

Our insatiable quest for more IOEs has limited our ability to align threat intelligence in any strategic way. At one point I asked the summit attendees how many of them had intelligence requirements and less than 10% of the room responded. I then asked how many attendees were performing threat modeling and a similar minority of the room raised their hands. To wrap up the hand raising exercise, I asked how many attendees from publically traded companies read their 10K statements. Again, very few hands up came up and one person said he had done it because I suggested it at a previous summit. The 10K is a good place to begin to understand the risks against your company. If you want to truly align intelligence to the business, then understanding your threat model and the risks to your business model are essential.

I’m going to dig deeper into both the culture of consumption and business alignment challenge in subsequent blogs, so stay tuned for more.

We want you for the 2017 CTI Summit!

We don’t have a date set for the 2017 summit, but we (co-chairs for the event) want you to present. The call for papers will likely come out in the fall and I would like to see many more practitioner talks that help people successfully operationalize their threat intelligence programs. This will be the fifth year of the summit and I want us to have the strongest content to date. I am willing to work with potential speakers on their submissions in advance.  I’d like to see us have a more formal mentoring program to ensure that we continue to have great content.  We have established a great community and there are many people who want to help you be a successful presenter. Connect with me on twitter: @rickhholland for more.

We are also looking for feedback on how to improve the conference; we got some great info from the feedback forms, but we are always looking for more. We also want to build in more opportunities to socialize and improve our circles of trust. One idea I have is a field trip to the International Spy Museum. If that sounds interesting let me know.

Additional references you might find useful: