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  • Donald E. Hester

The Power of Collaboration in Cyber Defense: Building a Resilient Community

"Our people have suffered time and again from division and squabbling factions. Mandalore has always been too powerful for any enemy to defeat. It is always our own Division that destroys us." - Bo Katan Kryze

While watching Chapter 23: The Spies from season 3 of The Mandalorian, I came across a quote by Bo Katan Kryze that deeply resonated with me. She stated, "Our people have suffered time and again from division and squabbling factions. Mandalore has always been too powerful for any enemy to defeat. It is always our own division that destroys us." This quote strongly reinforces my passion for collaboration, particularly in the field of cybersecurity. I firmly believe in the power of collaboration to strengthen our defenses. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the flip side of collaboration, which is division. Division poses a significant risk to both cybersecurity and national security. I will explore these concepts in this blog post.

In today's interconnected world, where cyber threats loom large, the importance of collaboration in cybersecurity cannot be overstated. As a cybersecurity ambassador and advocate, I have always believed in the strength that lies in working together towards a common goal: making the world cyber safe. This belief is not just a personal motto but a fundamental principle that drives our efforts in defending against evolving cyber risks. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of collaboration in the realm of cybersecurity, with a particular focus on the local government and critical infrastructure partners who face unique challenges in safeguarding their communities.

Unity in Purpose: "Working together to make the world cyber safe"

My primary motto encapsulates the essence of collaboration in cybersecurity. By acknowledging that we are all working towards a shared vision, we recognize the need to unite our efforts, knowledge, and resources. Cyber threats do not discriminate based on organizational size or sector. Therefore, fostering a culture of collaboration allows us to pool our strengths and confront challenges as a collective force.

Strength in Numbers: "We are stronger together"

This second motto highlights the inherent power that emerges when multiple entities join forces. The interconnected nature of our digital landscape demands a collaborative mindset, especially in the face of sophisticated adversaries. By sharing insights, best practices, and threat intelligence, we fortify our defenses and build a more resilient cyber ecosystem. This synergy not only benefits individual organizations but also extends to the broader community, creating a multiplier effect of security.

"United We Stand, Divided We Fall"

The motto "United we stand, divided we fall" carries profound historical significance, emphasizing the critical role of unity in defense. While most people are familiar with the first part of the phrase, "United we stand," it is essential to delve deeper into its complete meaning: "Divided we fall." This motto serves as a powerful reminder that our collective strength and collaboration are imperative to safeguarding our nation against adversaries who do not discriminate between different sectors or levels of government.

In the realm of cybersecurity, it is crucial to understand that our enemies view the United States as a whole. Cyber threats do not selectively target federal government agencies or specific critical infrastructure stakeholders. Instead, they seek vulnerabilities and exploit them across the entire spectrum of our entire nation. By recognizing this reality, we realize that our defense against cyber threats must transcend organizational boundaries and focus on unified protection for all of us.

Collective Defense: Strengthening Cybersecurity through Collaboration

Drawing inspiration from the concept of collective security, which has been successfully employed by organizations like NATO, we can adapt the principles of collective defense to address the evolving challenges in cybersecurity. NATO uses the concept of collective security as a security arrangement where each state recognizes that the security of one is the concern of all, requiring a collective response to threats and breaches of peace. By leveraging this concept within the United States, we can build a robust and comprehensive cybersecurity framework that encompasses all levels of government and private sector partners.

In the context of cybersecurity, collective defense goes beyond individual organizations or sectors. It involves forging strong alliances and partnerships among local governments, state and federal agencies, and private sector entities. By recognizing that the security of our digital ecosystem is interconnected, we can establish a collaborative and coordinated approach to address a wide range of potential threats.

Collaboration is the cornerstone of collective defense. Through the pooling of resources, expertise, and intelligence, we can amplify our collective capabilities and enhance our overall security posture. By fostering a culture of information sharing, coordination, and mutual support, we create a resilient ecosystem that is better equipped to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber incidents swiftly and effectively.

"Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all." - Alexander the Great

To achieve collective defense, it is crucial to establish mechanisms that facilitate communication, cooperation, and the sharing of threat intelligence. This can include the establishment of information-sharing platforms, joint exercises and training programs, and the development of standardized best practices and guidelines. By working together, we can harness the strengths and unique perspectives of each entity involved, ensuring a comprehensive and unified defense against cyber threats.

Collective defense in cybersecurity also extends beyond the boundaries of government entities. The private sector plays a vital role in critical infrastructure and possesses valuable expertise and resources. Establishing partnerships and collaboration channels with private sector partners is essential for a holistic defense strategy. By including private sector organizations, we leverage their specialized knowledge, technological advancements, and industry-specific insights, bolstering our collective resilience against cyber threats.

The ultimate goal of collective defense is to protect the security and well-being of our nation. By rising above our differences and aligning our efforts, we demonstrate a shared commitment to safeguarding our digital landscape. By embracing the concept of unity and collaboration, we foster stronger relationships between federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private sector partners. Together, we can create a formidable cyber defense ecosystem that can effectively repel even the most sophisticated cyber threats.

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

While Rowling's words were not specifically addressing cybersecurity, the sentiment resonates deeply in the realm of defending against cyber threats. In the context of cybersecurity, unity and collaboration are essential for building strength and resilience.

In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, the characters must unite to confront the challenges they face. Similarly, in the realm of cybersecurity, we must recognize that our collective strength lies in our ability to work together. Cyber threats know no boundaries and can impact anyone, regardless of their organizational size, sector, or jurisdiction. By understanding this shared vulnerability, we can overcome differences and work towards a common goal: protecting our digital landscapes.

“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” - Lyndon Johnson

A divided approach to cybersecurity leaves us exposed and vulnerable to adversaries. It is only through unity that we can pool our resources, knowledge, and expertise to build robust defenses. By sharing threat intelligence, best practices, and collaborating on security measures, we enhance our collective ability to detect and respond to cyber threats effectively. Ultimately, J.K. Rowling's quote serves as a reminder that our strength lies in our unity and our weakness in division.

Divide and Conquer: Disinformation

It is an unfortunate reality that our adversaries seek to exploit our vulnerabilities by dividing us or keeping us divided. Understanding their tactics and the impact they can have on our society is crucial for building a robust defense against cyber threats. One of the ways our enemies attempt to achieve this is through the use of disinformation campaigns.

Foreign influence operations, as highlighted by the FBI, have increasingly employed false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions. By sowing seeds of discord and spreading disinformation, these adversaries aim to undermine trust, create division, and weaken our collective resolve. Recognizing this strategy is a vital step towards countering their efforts and promoting unity.

Sun Tzu, in his timeless treatise "The Art of War," acknowledged the power of division in defeating opponents. His words, "If his forces are united, separate them," speak to the significance of breaking down unity to gain an advantage. This principle has been echoed throughout history by strategists and leaders such as Julius Caesar, Napolean, and Niccolò Machiavelli, who all recognized the potency of the "divide and conquer" strategy.

To defend against such tactics, we must be prepared and resilient. By understanding the techniques employed by our adversaries, we can actively counter disinformation campaigns and cultivate a society that is more resistant to manipulation. Education and awareness play a critical role in building this resilience. By promoting media literacy, critical thinking, and fact-checking, we empower individuals to recognize and reject false narratives, reducing the impact of disinformation on our communities. As individuals, it is our responsibility to guard against disinformation and cultivate a mindset that emphasizes collective thinking over individualism. This transcends the realm of cybersecurity and delves into the very fabric of our society, becoming an issue of national security.

The deep political divisions that exist within our nation present a significant risk to our collective security. When we allow these divisions to deepen and become sources of animosity, we undermine our ability to address critical challenges effectively. Bridging these divides and finding commonalities become imperative for the well-being and stability of our nation. It is crucial to steer clear of sectarian debates that polarize our society and instead foster civil discourse. Open dialogue, respectful exchange of ideas, and active listening are essential components of a healthy democratic society. Engaging in constructive conversations, even with those who hold differing opinions, helps us find common ground and move towards solutions that benefit everyone.

While these concepts may stray beyond the traditional scope of cybersecurity, it is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness between national security and societal unity. Disinformation and deep divisions weaken our ability to respond collectively to emerging threats, leaving us vulnerable. As cybersecurity, or as it was known not too long ago, information security professionals, we can help lead the effort in dispelling mis/dis/mal/information with education and awareness.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

Embracing Collaboration for Effective Cyber Defense

Collaboration lies at the heart of an effective cyber defense strategy. To successfully combat growing cyber threats, it is essential to incorporate collaboration into your incident response framework. Here are several key considerations to ensure a collaborative approach:

Mutual Aid Agreements: Establish mutual aid agreements with other organizations, both within your sector and across industries. These agreements outline the support and resources that can be shared during a cyber incident. By fostering these partnerships, you can tap into a wider pool of expertise and leverage collective resources to enhance your incident response capabilities.

Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs): Engage with the relevant ISACs in your industry. These centers serve as information hubs where organizations can share cybersecurity threat intelligence, best practices, and emerging trends. Actively participating in ISACs enables you to stay abreast of the latest threats and collaborate with peers in developing effective defense strategies.

Cybersecurity Strategy: Ensure that collaboration is officially integrated into your organization's cybersecurity strategy. Emphasize the importance of collaboration in your policies and procedures, and allocate resources specifically for collaborative efforts. This demonstrates a proactive commitment to working collectively with partners to enhance cybersecurity resilience.

Government and Private Sector Collaboration: Foster strong relationships with nearby agencies at the county, district, state, and federal levels. Collaboration with government entities allows for coordinated response efforts and information sharing during cyber incidents. Additionally, don't overlook the value of private-sector partnerships. Engaging with industry partners enhances your collective ability to detect, prevent, and respond to ransomware attacks.

Threat Intelligence Sharing: Establish channels for sharing threat intelligence with other agencies, such as your region's fusion center. Collaborative sharing of threat intelligence enables timely identification of emerging threats and enhances situational awareness, benefiting all involved parties.

Industry-Specific Professional Organizations: Engage with industry-specific professional organizations to collaborate on the creation of new policies, procedures, and practices. By participating in these organizations, you can contribute to shaping industry-wide standards and leverage the collective wisdom of experts in your field.

Raising Awareness: Actively raise awareness about the risks of misinformation, disinformation, and malicious information within your organization and among your stakeholders. Educate employees and stakeholders on how to recognize and address these threats effectively. Promote media literacy, critical thinking, and responsible information-sharing practices to mitigate the impact of false narratives.

By prioritizing collaboration in your cyber defense strategy and actively engaging with partners, you can collectively strengthen your defenses, leverage shared intelligence, and enhance your organization's resilience against cyber threats. Remember, collaboration is key to effectively combating ransomware and safeguarding our digital ecosystems.


This is the way

Resources and Notes

"Foreign influence operations have taken many forms and used many tactics over the years. Most widely reported these days are attempts by adversaries—hoping to reach a wide swath of Americans covertly from outside the United States—to use false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions." FBI

Russian Facebook Trolls Got Two Groups of People to Protest Each Other In Texas


"If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected."

Note: "If his forces are united, separate them" is also interpreted: "If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them."

A LION used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. - Aesop


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