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Treasury and PNNL threat data now available for Financial sector customers to secure applications


5 min read
Treasury and PNNL threat data now available for Financial sector customers to secure applications

Following the White House’s National Cybersecurity Strategy, which underscores the importance of fostering public-private partnerships to enhance the security of critical sectors, Cloudflare is happy to announce a strategic partnership with the United States Department of the Treasury and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to create Custom Indicator Feeds that enable customers to integrate approved threat intelligence feeds directly into Cloudflare's platform.

Our partnership with the Department of the Treasury and PNNL offers approved financial services institutions privileged access to threat data that was previously exclusive to the government. The feed, exposed as a Custom Indicator Feed, collects advanced insights from the Department of the Treasury and the federal government's exclusive sources. Starting today, financial institutions can create DNS filtering policies through Cloudflare’s Gateway product that leverage threat data directly from these government bodies. These policies are crucial for protecting organizations from malicious links and phishing attempts specifically targeting the financial sector.

This initiative not only supports the federal effort to strengthen cybersecurity within critical infrastructure including the financial sector, for which the Treasury is the designated lead agency, but also contributes directly to the ongoing improvement of our shared security capabilities.

Why we partnered with the Department of the Treasury and PNNL

Our collaboration with the Department of the Treasury and PNNL is not just a partnership, it's a solution to a critical problem where the financial industry requires timely access to actionable intelligence in order to address security threats. Our partnership is centered around the protection of critical financial institutions and their assets. By joining forces with partners like the Department of the Treasury and PNNL, we are empowering security teams to not just share information but to act swiftly and effectively against emerging threats.

Today, many security teams, both within the same industries and across sectors, exchange vital threat intelligence through out-of-band channels like email and Slack. However, the crucial step of integrating this information into an organization's security systems often remains a manual, time-consuming process. By introducing Custom Indicator Feeds, we're bridging this gap and enabling smaller security groups to automatically fortify their defenses.

The government possesses invaluable insights into emerging threats, and by joining forces, we will share this critical data with the private sector. Our combined efforts are aimed at fortifying the security of institutions in the financial sector, which is an enticing target for cybercriminals.

Introducing Custom Indicator Feeds

Custom Indicator Feeds enable customers to integrate approved threat intelligence feeds directly into Cloudflare's platform. Our partners, including the Department of the Treasury and PNNL, contribute to these feeds, which are regularly updated with the latest threat indicators. Custom Indicator Feeds allows for the exchange of critical data on emerging cyber threats, ensuring that all parties involved can proactively defend against ransomware, phishing attacks, and other malicious activities.

In our context, a Custom Indicator Feed primarily consists of Indicators of Compromise (IoCs), which are detailed pieces of information that identify potentially malicious activity on a system or network. Examples of data included in these feeds are IP addresses, URLs, domain names, and hash values of suspicious or malicious files. Each entry is enriched with context to help security professionals understand the nature of the threat it poses, such as the type of malware associated, attack patterns, and threat severity levels.

Here’s a closer look at how these feeds are created and maintained: feeds are populated with IoCs such as domain names, IP addresses, and URL paths identified across the network environments monitored by entities like PNNL for the US Treasury, and these IoCs are initially detected by IDS (Intrusion Detection System) networks that continuously monitor for suspicious activities. Once an IoC is detected, it undergoes a rigorous verification process. Analysts at PNNL and other entities review each potential threat to confirm its malicious nature. This ensures that only verified malicious indicators are added to the feeds, reducing the risk of false positives affecting a feed subscriber’s security systems. After validation, these IoCs are added to their respective Custom Indicator Feed. These feeds are then made available to authorized users via Cloudflare’s secure API, ensuring that the data is both current and actionable.

Financial institutions that are granted access to this feed can integrate these indicators into their Cloudflare DNS filtering policies, enhancing their defense against specific threats identified by federal cybersecurity efforts.

Leveraging Custom Indicator Feeds for enhanced security

Once authorized for an indicator feed, you can create DNS filtering policies using the data provided by simply choosing the relevant feed when creating the policy. These policies then act as a protective shield, blocking access to malicious websites, phishing attempts, and other online threats.

The technical mechanics of Custom Indicator Feeds

Custom Indicator Feeds are structured around two distinct groups:

  • Custom Feed Providers (like Treasury and PNNL): Cloudflare provides an API for data providers to publish indicator feeds and periodically update them with new indicators. This process allows data providers an automated way to ensure that newly identified threats are swiftly added to their feed. The API also allows providers strict control over who has access to their feeds, allowing them to authorize Gateway accounts to use specific feeds.
  • Customer organizations using the Cloudflare Gateway: Once authorized for an indicator feed, organizations such as financial institutions can create DNS filtering policies using the data provided in the feed. Custom Indicator Feeds are incorporated into Cloudflare Gateway in much the same way as Cloudflare threat intelligence, the main difference being that the provider themselves must grant an account use of a specific indicator feed.

What's next for Custom Indicator Feeds?

This is just the beginning of our work on Custom Indicator Feeds. We have ambitious plans for the future:

  • Expanding availability: We aim to make indicator feeds available for a broader range of our products, including WAF, Magic Firewall, and HTTP Gateway Policies.
  • Enhanced functionality: We plan to expand the Custom Indicator Feed functionality, allowing authorized accounts to access and download specific threat feed lists, giving organizations even more flexibility in their cybersecurity efforts.
  • Collaboration with other Feed Providers: We will facilitate multiple organizations to easily upload individual indicators to shared indicator feeds, creating a collaborative ecosystem for threat intelligence sharing.

How to get started

This offering is available at no cost to any financial institution recognized by the Department of Treasury and that currently uses Cloudflare Gateway. These institutions should reach out to Cloudflare for authorization to the Treasury-PNNL indicator feed.

For more information on how to consume or create your custom indicator feed, check out the developer documentation here.

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Threat IntelligenceThreat FeedsIoCsPartnersIndicators of Compromise

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Alexandra Moraru|@alexandramoraru

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