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CISA’s Threat Intelligence Capabilities “Fail Consistently” States DHS Report

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has failed to consistently provide adequate cyber threat indicators to members of an information sharing program, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General in the Dept. of Homeland Security. The report found that CISA updated guidance when necessary, properly classified cyber threat indicators, and accurately accounted for security clearance provisions in the private sector.

However, the recipients of CISA’a threat intelligence advice, which includes 52 federal agencies, was at times left without critical contextual information to take appropriate actions.

CISA’s central mission is providing situational awareness of emerging risks to the nation’s critical infrastructure. The agency launched the AIS service in 2016 in response to The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which established a voluntary threat information sharing process between the public and private sectors.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said CISA’s Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS) service, which provides over 300 partners with real-time unclassified cyber threat information and defensive measures, was not always providing participants with the information required to mitigate threats. “Most of the cyber threat indicators did not contain enough contextual information to help decision makers take action,” the IG Report said, attributing the issue to “limited AIS functionality, inadequate staffing and external factors.”

“The quality of information shared with AIS participants was not always adequate to identify and mitigate cyber threats. According to Federal and private sector entities we interviewed, most of the cyber threat indicators did not contain enough contextual information to help decision makers take action.” 

“Deficiencies in the quality of threat information shared among AIS participants may hinder the federal government’s ability to identify and mitigate potential cyber vulnerabilities and threats,” the report added.

Real-time contextual information like anomalies in network traffic, Internet Protocol addresses, domain names and hash files can help organisations better protect themselves from future cyber intrusions, the report noted, as in the case of the 2020 SolarWinds supply chain attack. “Although CISA generally increased the number of AIS participants and number of cyber threat indicators shared and received, the quality of the cyber threat indicators was not adequate for participants to take necessary actions… We recommend CISA complete system upgrades, hire needed staff, encourage compliance with information sharing agreements and develop a formal reporting process with quality controls.,” says the Report.

CISA agreed with the recommendations and said it had either fully resolved or was in the process of resolving each issue.  The agency said it was building up contractual resources to better support information sharing initiatives and was anticipating a completion date in January 2023.

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