The power of crowdsourcing against cyberattacks

April 14, 2022 Bob Riley 4 min
Ongoing global affairs have demonstrated how vulnerable organizations and customers are when faced with imminent cyberattacks. Security defensives can benefit from crowdsourced practices to better protect us against cyberthreats.

A recent poll by the Pearson Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed that 9 in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned about cyber-hacking that involves their personal information, financial institutions, government agencies or certain utilities.

Clearly, cybersecurity is top of mind for Americans, even more so now given current events. On March 21, the White House released a statement from the Biden–Harris administration, reinforcing their warnings of possible cyberattacks from Russia after developing intelligence found that Russia may potentially be exploring cyberattacks as a response to economic sanctions. Ongoing global affairs have highlighted the ominous risks of cyberattacks that can occur from all around the globe. Even organizations that don’t have foreign interests are at risk of attacks launched from financially motivated criminals or state-sponsored cyberterrorists located around the globe. 

It may seem an impossible task to protect private information from an army of intruders launching cyberattacks from anywhere in the world. Fortunately, there are ways to adequately defend against such an onslaught by incorporating cybersecurity tools that utilize machine learning technologies and force-multiplier techniques. One effective modern-day defense involves crowdsourcing practices to identify and neutralize known and zero-day threats.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a common practice in cybersecurity where an organization invites other parties to test a technology to help identify vulnerabilities, providing valuable insights on how to harden their assets.

Another crowdsourced practice that takes advantage of the “power of many” is cybersecurity alliances consisting of leading cybersecurity vendors, governments (including law enforcement), cloud providers and non-profit organizations. These entities share real-time threat intelligence and remediation information and in turn yield force-multiplying outcomes, where a single organization benefits from the collective intelligence of the brightest minds and technological assets in the industry.

The crowdsourcing advantage

Cybercrime, which includes everything from theft or embezzlement to hacking and destruction, is up 600% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s expected that cyberattacks will cost companies worldwide an estimated $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. Because of this, every industry has had to embrace new solutions to solve this growing problem, and companies have been forced to adapt quicker than they’ve ever had to before. 

To stay ahead of cybercriminals, organizations can benefit from solutions that cybersecurity vendors offer, especially vendors who share and correlate data from multiple sources and utilize the abstracted intelligence to proactively detect, prevent and mitigate malicious traffic from accessing networks.

Many leading vendors belong to security alliances that are typically nonprofit entities funded by their contributing members. These security vendors gather, correlate and examine the massive amount of data using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to find recognizable patterns and signatures within network traffic. These insights include threat signatures and defensive measures that are proactively disseminated to their security applications and devices, almost immediately after discovery. 

Components of a strong defense

Many modern cybersecurity defenses including anti-virus, application filtering, email security, endpoint detection and response (EDR), intrusion prevention system (IPS), and web filtering, depend on frequent threat intelligence updates that originate from these alliances.

A classic example of leveraging crowdsourced cyberthreat intelligence is when an IPS operates as a standalone solution or within Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW) to protect internal servers and applications that are exposed to inbound Internet traffic. IPS works to protect against sophisticated threats and is a very effective ransomware protection tool that spots and blocks malware infections in network traffic. Additionally, IPS can use vulnerability-facing signatures to detect exploits by bad actors. This method focuses on underlying vulnerability in the system, application or protocol being targeted and uses digital signatures—such as sequences of commands and behavior analysis—to identify malicious Internet traffic.

Protecting employees from inappropriate, objectionable and dangerous (e.g., malware) websites is another cybersecurity defense that leverages threat intelligence to recognize and screen unwanted content. This enables organizations to manage web content access through discrete policies, including controls that block harmful webpages. Filtering web access also enables organizations to enforce corporate policies by stopping employees from accessing improper content.

The more, the merrier (and safer)

While cyberattacks are a growing threat, the fact that awareness for them has grown as a top priority is actually a positive sign. Securing digital identities and data from cybercrime and breaches is everyone’s problem, and it is a global one. Crowdsourcing through collaborative security alliances helps achieve the common goal of protecting organizations and customers against global cyberthreats. 

One highly effective way Windstream Enterprise helps to build stronger cybersecurity defenses through crowdsourcing is through its partnerships. For example, the Windstream Enterprise Managed Network Security (MNS) solution uses FortiGate NGFW to provide customers with real-time intelligence on the threat landscape, delivering comprehensive security updates across the full range of Fortinet’s solutions.

Next time you look into security solutions, be open to partnering with organizations that are tapping into the power of real-time cyberthreat intelligence and cybersecurity alliance initiatives for the most advanced, up-to-date protection.

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Key Takeaway
Ensure your current cybersecurity solutions and future investments are using crowdsourced, near-real-time cyberthreat intelligence to better detect and block looming cyberattacks.

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