RSA CONFERENCE – San Francisco - The Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) consortium founded by security vendors Fortinet, Intel Security, Palo Alto Networks, and Symantec, today announced that it is now officially a nonprofit trade association and that Michael Daniel, the former cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to President Barack Obama, will serve as the CTA's first president.
The CTA today here also announced that Check Point and Cisco Systems are now part of the founding members of the organization, whose members share threat information for locking down security among their organizations as well of their customers. As its first order of business as a nonprofit, the CTA is officially launching its automated threat intelligence-sharing platform for its use that's basically an integration of the founding members' own intel-sharing systems. It employs threat intel-sharing standards STIX and TAXII.
A handful of new affiliate members have now joined the organization, including IntSights, Rapid7, and RSA. Eleven Paths and ReversingLabs already are affiliate members of the CTA, which was first founded in 2014.
The security vendor-member CTA hopes to serve as a hub for intel-sharing quickly in order to thwart attacks and campaigns, Daniel explained. "The vision I would have for the CTA is to first serve as a hub for information-sharing in the ecosystem at a rate that actually matters," he said. "Our goal is to cover as much of the ecosystem as we possibly can which is inevitably going to affect how we share information with governments, plural."
CTA's threat intel-sharing platform automates the process of sharing information among members, who are required to contribute regularly to the platform. The more a vendor contributes intel, and the more valuable it is, the more access they get to the intel gathered on the platform.
"If we actually work together, we can cover a lot of ground," Mark McLaughlin, chairman CEO of Palo Alto Networks, said in a panel discussion here today announcing CTA's expansion. "No one company can take care of everything" for customers, he says. "We'd love to scale this [organization] pretty dramatically from here."
Greg Clark, CEO of Symantec, called the CTA's announcement "a landmark event" given the heavy-hitting security firms involved.
Among the CTA's previous efforts was its work in the fall of 2015 to crack and disript the CryptoWall version 3 ransomware's encryption: that ransomware variant was responsible for attacking victims worldwide in some $325 million in ransom fees. The CTA later also uncovered the CryptoWall gang's work on a fourth version of the ransomware. The four initial founding vendor members pooled their research resources to expose the associated malware and command-and-control infrastructure of the CryptoWall ransomware campaign.
Daniel, the former White House cybersecurity official, said the difference between the CTA and the traditional ISAC-ISAO model is they tend to be more industry-vertical oriented in their membership and focus. "And a lot of ISACs suffer from a free-rider program. They have a very large membership and a small percentage of them contribute useful intel on a regular basis," he said. The CTA, meanwhile, requires a miminum level of intel-sharing; details on the incentive program are in the works.
In an interview after the panel, Daniel explained how he sees the CTA drilling down into more than the typical indicators of compromise (think IP addresses and malware) and to sharing more in-depth analysis of an attack's tactics, techniques, and procedures. Those are the features of an attack or threat that can't easily be retooled by the typical attacker like a malware variant or IP address can be, according to Daniel.
As the CTA's membership expands along with its intel-sharing, it will ultimately clean up the "underbrush" of low-level attacks and then have the ability to focus on the more advanced and stealthy threats, he said.
"This enables our teams and governments to focus on the really sophisticated adversaries, and they will have fewer places to hide," he said.