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Threat Modeling Guide

Cyberattacks can take many types, and the process of defending against cyber attacks can be a challenge. We are concerned about cyberspace national cybersecurity, security for networks the security of applications, information security and everything else in between. The problem for security professionals is that an attacker could be able to enter the network in thousands of different ways. And every possibility of entry point has to be protected. Attackers are able to strike wherever and defenses must be prepared to defend anywhere. Before every entry point can be identified and attack vectors analyzed the attack vector must be identified. This is where thread modeling comes in play.

Threat modeling is the process by which potential threats are identified as well as classified, enumerated and remediated. It’s a proactive strategy that helps to comprehend how various threats and attacks can be fought. The goal in threat modelling is providing security personnel with a comprehensive analysis of the security measures that have to be taken, in light of how the item is used, its most likely attack routes, and the that are most sought-after by attackers. Threat modeling addresses questions like “Where do I stand the greatest risk for attack?”, “What threats are likely to cause more damage?”, and “What measures are necessary to protect against these risks?”.

What is the reason Threat Modeling Essential?

The constant nature of cyberattacks is what makes threat modeling a crucial aspect of security. The defense and attack sides of security are always changing. To be able to respond appropriately to these changes, businesses have to review and develop their security strategies regularly. Furthermore, the systems or applications must be built to be resilient to attack. But, establishing the right security measures required to attain resilience has financial consequences.

The principle that underlies model of threat is the fact that there are always a limited amount of resources to secure, making it challenging to manage any threat that is present within an entire system. It is essential to decide the best ways to use these limited resources efficiently. Risks should be prioritized and organizations must take them into consideration. The most important factor to consider when assessing risk is a threat. Threat modeling assists organizations to discover threat scenarios that can be relevant to their system, in order to put in place efficient countermeasures to safeguard them. This is the reason threat modeling is so important. It aids security teams to recognize when systems are vulnerable and what security fixes are needed to prioritize repairs in accordance with the impact and severity of threats that are anticipated.

What is Threat Modelling fits into Risk Assessment

Risk assessment helps identify security risks through analyzing assets, threats and vulnerabilities, along with their severity as well as the probability of their occurrence. However threat modeling permits an increased focus on assets and can help identify attacks and threats that may exploit weaknesses that are discovered on assets as well as their components during risk analysis. Furthermore, it takes a look at who is most likely to be most likely to attempt to take on the asset, and how they might be able to do it successfully.

Threat modeling is actually a type of risk assessment that outlines aspects of the defense and attack aspects of a system as well as its parts. It adds to an assessment of risk by creating context-specific threat events that include an organized sequence of activities, actions and scenarios that an attacker might take to attack the system or asset. This allows security personnel to develop more specific security measures and countermeasures.

The components of a threat Modeling Process

Different methods or approaches can be used to model threats and we’ll look at this in the following section. But, all of these approaches have some common processes or logical flow they all share. Let’s take a look at these essential flows of logic:

Set up a team and scope for the project The team that is responsible for modeling the threat is required to be as diverse as it is possible to create an all-encompassing threat model. It should comprise important stakeholders like C-level executives as well as developers, network engineers and security executives. The next step is to define and explain the scope of work including the technical details, system architecture, parts, security perimeters and data flows, prior to conducting threat modeling for the targeted system. This includes gathering data and delineating boundaries for perimeters.

The System or the application must be decomposed Decomposition of the System or application is dismantling a system into various components. It involves identifying the components of the system and drawing out how data flows and delineating trust boundaries. One method for dissolving a system is to create the DFD. (DFD). DFDs assist users to gain greater understanding of the system by showing a visual representation of the system of the flow of data within the system as well as the actions that users are able to perform within the system’s state. Certain models use Process flow charts (PFDs) in lieu of DFDs. Once the model is complete the visual representation is used to detect and list possible threats.

Find out the most likely threats Threat Identification is the process of the identification and documentation of the threat vectors and incidents. For all possible targets, find out where dangers exist , and utilize attacks and threats to determine the vulnerabilities that might be exploited. Threat modeling tools may also be employed to automate this process.

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Attack Modeling Attack modeling explains an attacker’s approach to intrusion so that users can determine mitigation options to protect systems and prioritize their implementation. After putting threat events in relation for the security system link them to the possible sequence of attacks. This is done by mapping the attack sequence by describing techniques, tactics methods, and techniques, as well as making threats scenarios. Frameworks for attack like MITRE AT&CK and Lockheed Martin Kill Chain can be used to describe the attack.

Implement mitigations. If you know the vectors of attack and security threats at different stages, you can employ appropriate measures and controls to reduce threats, or attacks or limit the impact of attacks. Find strategies to limit the threat. This usually means taking care to avoid the threat or negative impact, reducing the effects or the probability that the risk poses, shifting some or all of the threat onto a different person, and possibly accepting certain or all the possible or actual effects of a specific threat. These strategies is to respond to opportunities.

Security Modeling Methodologies, Frameworks and Strategies

There are many different methods and frameworks that you could apply to threat modeling. Threat modeling methods are classified according to the primary focus of the methods. These include methods which focus upon the systems assets that are modelled as threats (asset-centric) as well as ones that concentrate on threat actors (attack-centric threat modeling) as well as those which focus specifically on software, or computer system (software-centric and system-centric threat modeling). Deciding on which approach to employ depends on the system and the kinds of threats that are modelled and their intended use. Here are a few techniques used for threat modeling that are commonly employed currently:

STRIDE: Microsoft engineers developed the STRIDE method in 1999 to aid in the identification of threats in an environment. It works with an understanding of the system being targeted that is constructed in parallel. This includes a comprehensive description of the processes and data stores, as well as data flows, as well as trust boundaries. The acronym STRIDE refers to the kinds of threats it takes care of.

OCTAVE the Operationally Critical Threat Asset, Vulnerability, and Assessment (OCTAVE) is an asset- and operations-based threat modeling method created in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon University to help companies evaluate the non-technical risks which could arise from data breaches. OCTAVE is comprised of these phases

Building asset-based threat profiles–organizational evaluation.
Identifying infrastructure vulnerabilities–information infrastructure evaluation
Designing and planning an effective security strategy that evaluates the security risks to the company’s key assets and making decisions.

With OCTAVE the company’s information assets are identified and the data sets have attributes that correspond to the kind of data they store. OCTAVE is particularly useful in creating a culture of risk-awareness in the workplace. It isn’t scalable, however.

Trike: Trike is an open-source asset-centric framework that can be used for risk modeling and risk assessment.

The project was initiated in 2006 in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing threat modeling methods. Trike concentrates on completing any security auditing requirements from the perspective of risk management for cyber. The basis for the Trike threat modeling method is an “requirements model”–which assures that the degree of risk for every item is “acceptable” to all parties.

Threats are identified through iteration through the data flow chart (DFD). The threats that are identified are classified into two categories such as denial of service or an elevation of privilege. The implementation model is analysed to create the Trike threat analysis model.

PASTA PASTA: Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis (PASTA) is a seven-step attack-centric approach that was developed in 2015 to help companies to align their technical requirements with business objectives , while taking into consideration business impact analysis and the requirements for compliance. The purpose of this method is to provide a fluid threat detection, enumeration and scoring procedure. PASTA concentrates on helping teams to detect the threat, count it, and prioritize threats in a dynamic manner. The basic sequence of events is as the following:

Define the business goals
Define the technical scope
Application decomposition
Analysis of threats
Analysis of vulnerability and weaknesses
Modeling and attack enumeration
Countermeasures and risk analysis

When the threat model is complete, an in-depth review of the identified threats and the appropriate security measures can be created. PASTA threat model is an ideal choice for companies that want to align their goals with strategic objectives since it includes an analysis on the impact of their business as an integral component in the overall process.

NIST guidance on threat modelling NIST threat modeling guide: U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2016 released its own threat modeling based on data method that is focused on the protection of high-value data within systems. It outlines the various aspects of defense and attack in the case of certain data. In this model risk analysis, it is performed by following the four key steps:

Determine and characterize the system and the data that are of significance
Select and identify the attack vectors that should incorporate into the models
Establish the security measures for protecting against attack sources
Examine the threat model

The guide is targeted at security managers, security engineers/architects, system administrators, auditors, and others responsible for the security of systems and data. As per the guide’s authors “the goal is not to substitute existing methods however, rather to establish fundamental principles that should form integral to any model of threat modeling based on data.

VAST The Visual, agile, and Simple Threat (VAST) is a scalable model that addresses both infrastructure and developer issues. Integration, automation and collaboration are key to VAST’s threat modeling. VAST is built on ThreatModeler, an automated tool for threat modeling that is designed to integrate into the entire life cycle of software development (SDLC). The methodology employs two threat models application threat models for development teams , and operational threat models for infrastructure teams.

Application threat models used by teams of developers are developed using Process flow diagrams (PFD)–a diagram that can be used to define the overall flow of a process in a business and the ways that the user will engage with the software. VAST employs PFDs instead of DFDs to provide more understanding of the context and provide a perspective like the perspective of an attacker. On the other hand operational threat models use traditional DFDs as well, but from the standpoint from an attack.

Selecting the Best Methodology for Threat Modeling

With the many threat modeling approaches available, picking the most appropriate one for your company and the environment is a daunting task. Different threat modeling methods have the same methodology. Some are focused on the assets of the system being modelled as threats, others are focused on attackers and others are based on the software or the system that is being threat-modeled.

Although all threat modeling approaches could identify potential threats, the quantity and nature of the threats that are identified will differ significantly as will the quality as well as the consistency and worth of those models. What works perfectly from a feature and model perspective for one company might not be the best fit for the other. To ensure that threat information is useful security teams must figure out the method that is most compatible with their particular business goals and goals.

You must consider various factors like the system you are using or the type of threat modelled and the purpose for which it is and what kind of modeling strategy (asset-centric or attack-centric software-centric) which best fits your requirements, the desired result, the capacity to scale, capability to create reports, and capability to assess the efficacy of the threat modeling, to name a few.