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Threat Intelligence Sharing Among Veterinary Practices

By March 4, 2024No Comments

Threat intelligence sharing has become a critical component of cybersecurity across various industries, including the veterinary sector. As veterinary practices increasingly rely on digital systems to manage patient records, schedule appointments, and process payments, they have become prime targets for cybercriminals.

The need to protect sensitive information and maintain clients’ trust is paramount. Sharing threat intelligence is a proactive step that can significantly enhance a practice’s security posture.

What is Threat Intelligence Sharing?

Threat intelligence sharing involves sharing information about potential or current threats to cybersecurity. It includes details such as indicators of compromise, tactics, techniques, and procedures used by cyber adversaries.

By sharing this information, veterinary practices can collectively improve their understanding of the threat landscape and better prepare for or respond to cyber-attacks. Threat intelligence sharing also enables veterinary practices to take a collaborative approach to cybersecurity. When practices share information about the latest phishing campaigns, malware variants, or other threats targeting the veterinary sector, it raises collective awareness. Every practice benefits from the insights.

Why Share Threat Intelligence?

There are many reasons why, as a veterinary practice, you should share threat intelligence with other veterinary practices or use intelligence shared by other practices. For instance, if one veterinary practice experiences a ransomware attack and shares information about the infection vector, tactics used, ransom demand details, and which systems were impacted, other nearby practices can strengthen their defenses.

They can implement specific protections against that threat before also falling victim. Threat intelligence gives veterinary teams the information needed to fine-tune security controls, update antivirus tools, scrutinize suspicious emails, and take other preventative actions.

Participating in threat intelligence sharing requires establishing trusted relationships and communication channels between IT teams and security leaders at various veterinary practices. It encourages an open flow of cyber risk insights that ultimately protect these animal healthcare businesses and the sensitive client and patient data they manage. A collaborative approach is critical, given the interconnected nature of cyber threats. Other reasons why threat intelligence sharing is important among veterinary practices include:

Enhanced Situational Awareness: Situational awareness in cybersecurity refers to the ability to collect, analyze, and comprehend information about the current cyber threat landscape to make informed decisions. This means having a comprehensive view of potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities for veterinary practices. By sharing threat intelligence, practices gain insights into the types of cyber-attacks occurring, which systems are being targeted, and the methods attackers use. This collective knowledge allows practices to anticipate potential security incidents and prepare appropriate defenses rather than reacting to breaches after they occur. Enhanced situational awareness leads to better decision-making and a proactive cybersecurity posture.

Strengthened Cyber Resilience: Cyber resilience is the ability to prepare for, withstand, and recover from cyber-attacks. Shared intelligence is a cornerstone of cyber resilience, as it allows veterinary practices to learn from the experiences and responses of others. When practices share information about threats and their countermeasures, they collectively develop a more robust defense system. This shared learning environment helps practices not only respond to current threats but also build adaptive strategies that can withstand future challenges. It’s a continuous process of improvement, where each practice’s experience contributes to the collective strength of all.

Accelerated Incident Response: When a new threat surfaces, practices participating in intelligence sharing can swiftly implement countermeasures to prevent or mitigate attacks, reducing the potential impact on their operations.

Supportive Network: The veterinary community benefits from a network of practices that support each other during and after cyber incidents. This sense of community is vital for overcoming the challenges posed by cyber threats.

Challenges and Considerations in Threat Intelligence Sharing

As we have seen above, sharing intelligence is pivotal for enhancing cybersecurity. Unfortunately, threat sharing also comes with challenges, and veterinary practices need to know them to protect themselves adequately. Some of these challenges that need to be addressed are:

Confidentiality and Privacy: One primary concern is maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive information. Practices must ensure that while sharing threat data, they do not inadvertently disclose private client or patient details. This requires a careful balance between transparency in sharing and safeguarding privacy.

Standardization of Data: The effectiveness of threat intelligence sharing is contingent upon using standardized data formats. Practices often use disparate systems, making it challenging to share information in a universally understandable way. Establishing common protocols for data sharing is essential for the utility and actionability of shared intelligence.

Cultural Shift: A significant barrier to effective threat intelligence sharing is the need for a cultural shift within practices. There is often a reluctance to share information about security incidents due to fear of reputational damage or revealing vulnerabilities. Overcoming this requires building a culture of trust and collaboration, where sharing is seen as a collective step towards improved security rather than admitting weakness.

Resource Allocation: Veterinary practices may lack the necessary resources, such as time, personnel, or technical capabilities, to engage in effective threat intelligence sharing. Allocating resources to establish and maintain sharing protocols can be challenging, especially for smaller practices.

Legal and Ethical Considerations: When sharing threat intelligence, practices must navigate the complex legal and ethical landscape. They need to consider the potential legal implications of sharing certain types of information and ensure that their sharing practices are ethically sound, particularly concerning the use of shared data.

Effective Threat Intelligence-Sharing Strategies

To overcome the above challenges and leverage the benefits of threat intelligence sharing, veterinary practices need to adopt effective strategies and practices. These include:

Information Exchange Platforms: Practices need to collaborate through secure platforms that allow them to share threat indicators, attack patterns, and vulnerabilities. These platforms should facilitate the collection, analysis, and dissemination of threat intelligence and enable the integration of various sources and formats of data. Examples of such platforms include Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), which are sector-specific organizations that provide threat intelligence and best practices to their members; vet-specific forums and mailing lists, which are informal and voluntary networks of veterinary professionals who exchange information and advice; and commercial or open-source platforms, which are third-party services or tools that offer threat intelligence capabilities.

Automated Threat Feeds: Practices need to subscribe to automated threat feeds that provide real-time updates on emerging threats. These feeds can help veterinary practices stay informed and alert and take preventive or corrective actions as needed. Practices can leverage tools like Structured Threat Information Expression (STIX) and Trusted Automated Exchange of Intelligence Information (TAXII) for structured threat data exchange. These tools enable the standardization, automation, and interoperability of threat intelligence and facilitate the sharing and consumption of threat data across different platforms and systems.

Incident Reporting and Analysis: Practices need to establish a reporting mechanism for incidents, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, or denial-of-service attacks. Reporting incidents can help veterinary practices alert and assist other veterinary practices, as well as solicit help and support from relevant authorities or experts. Reporting incidents can also help veterinary practices analyze shared data to identify common attack vectors and trends and improve their security posture and resilience. Practices can use frameworks like the Cybersecurity Incident Response Framework (CIRF) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework to guide their incident reporting and analysis processes.

Joint Threat Hunting: Practices need to collaborate on threat-hunting exercises, which are proactive and iterative searches for threats that evade detection by traditional security measures. Threat hunting can help veterinary practices discover and eliminate hidden threats and enhance their detection capabilities and response speed. Practices can share findings and insights from their threat-hunting activities and learn from each other’s techniques and experiences.

Education and Training: Practices need to conduct workshops and webinars on threat intelligence sharing and train their staff to recognize and report threats. Education and training can help veterinary practices raise awareness and understanding of the importance and benefits of threat intelligence sharing and foster a culture of collaboration and information sharing. Education and training can also help veterinary practices develop the skills and competencies needed to effectively share and use threat intelligence and improve their cybersecurity practices and performance.

Closing remarks

As we have seen throughout the article, threat intelligence sharing has many benefits and challenges for veterinary practices. To reap those benefits, practices must build a culture of trust, collaboration, and transparency. They need to allocate resources toward implementing structured sharing platforms, threat-hunting exercises, and comprehensive incident reporting. Though the path has obstacles, the destination is where practices collectively uplift each other’s security postures. By sharing insights and threats openly, the veterinary community can stay steps ahead of cybercriminals.

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