How national CSIRTs leverage public data, OSINT and free tools in operational practices: An empirical study
Computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs) have been established at national and organisational levels to coordinate responses to computer security incidents. It is known that many CSIRTs, including national CSIRTs, routinely use public data, open-source intelligence (OSINT) and free tools in their work. The current literature, however, lacks research on how such data and tools are used and perceived by the staff of national CSIRTs in their operational practices. To fill such a research gap, an online survey and 12 follow-up semi-structured interviews with staff of 13 national CSIRTs from Asia, Europe, Caribbean and North America were carried out. The aim was to gain detailed insights on how such data and tools are used and perceived by staff in national CSIRTs. The study was conducted in two stages: first with MyCERT (Malaysia’s national CSIRT) to gain some initial results, and then with 12 other national CSIRTs to expand the results from the first stage. Thirteen participants from MyCERT completed the survey and seven of them took part in a semi-structured interview; 12 participants from 11 other national CSIRTs took the survey and five participants from five national CSIRTs were interviewed. Results from the survey and the interviews led to three main findings. First, the active use of public data, OSINT and free tools by national CSIRT staff was confirmed, eg all 25 participants had used public data for incident investigation. Second, all except two (ie 23 out of 25, 92 per cent) participants perceived public data, OSINT and free tools to be useful in their operational practices. Third, there are a number of operational challenges regarding the use of public data, OSINT and free tools. In particular, there is a lack of standard and systematic approaches on how such data and tools are used across different national CSIRTs. There is also a lack of standard and systematic processes for validating such data and tools. These findings call for further research and development of guidelines to help CSIRTs to use such data and tools more effectively and more efficiently.
Keywords: CERT; CSIRT; OSINT; computer emergency response team; computer security incident response team; cyber incident; free tool; national CSIRT; open-source intelligence; perception; public data; staff
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Institute of Cyber Security for Society (iCSS) and School of Computing, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NP 2: Institute of Cyber Security for Society (iCSS) & School of Computing, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NP
Publication date: January 1, 2022
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