[ISN] DOE's Federated Model aims to identify security threats

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Jul 6 01:23:08 EDT 2006


By Cara Garretson

Argonne National Laboratory, a division of the Department of Energy
(DOE) operated out of the University of Chicago, is spearheading an
effort to collect information about cyber security events that is
beginning to gain steam.

Called The Federated Model, this information-sharing initiative among
government, universities, and research labs began last fall and
currently has about half a dozen active members, says Scott Pinkerton,
manager of network services for the lab in DuPage County, Ill.

The initiative is open to any organization wanting to share details,
or even just view information, regarding attempts by different IP
addresses to access networks and how organizations have responded to
these attempts, in an effort to spot patterns of malicious behavior
and proactively block security threats, says Pinkerton.

For example, if one member of the Federated Model suffers an attack
from a certain IP address, another member may be able to block that IP
address from accessing its network and thwart a second attack, he

"We're reinforcing the idea that we could be smarter, and more
prepared," Pinkerton says. While the number of members is growing,
Pinkerton says The Federated Model hasn't yet hit critical mass.

Pinkerton discussed The Federated Model's progress at Network World’s
IT Roadmap conference held in Chicago late last month during a session
on security. He stressed the importance of monitoring NetFlow data to
search for zero-day attack traffic patterns, a practice his department
engages in. NetFlow is a Cisco technology for storing traffic flow
histories on routers and switches.

Argonne has taken on the development of The Federated Model's
repository and laid out specifications to be used for submitting and
accessing information. Following IETF standards, data is submitted in
XML format that is encrypted. The lab is working on adding features,
such as an RSS feed that would tell members when new information has
been added to the repository, Pinkerton says.

What's valuable about this data is not only learning what IP addresses
are doing, but what organizations are doing in response to potential
threats, says Tami Martin, intrusion detection systems engineer with
Argonne. "You're learning the reactive measures other sites are
taking," she says. "Also of intrinsic value is [learning] the severity
of the action taken."

Eventually, members could get to the point where they can completely
thwart an attack by following the actions of a trusted member, says

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