What Is Threat Modeling?

Threat modeling allows software and technology professionals to work more efficiently by embedding security into development, operations and release processes. Furthermore, business executives can make informed decisions regarding risks as well as prioritize mitigation strategies using this technique.

Through threat modeling, companies can detect possible security threats during development to avoid costly and time-consuming fixes later. See how Varonis can assist your data protection with threat modeling.

What Is Threat Modeling?

Threat modeling is an essential cybersecurity practice that helps businesses identify vulnerabilities and understand their effects on operations, prioritizing remediation efforts accordingly. Threat modeling also offers numerous other advantages including improved risk management and prioritization processes as well as greater visibility into your cyber kill chain and documenting mitigation tactics in advance.

There are various threat modeling frameworks available, all working similarly. Some use matrices to combine assets, actors, actions and rules, while other models such as Trike or VAST (visual agile simple threat) utilize visual representations of vulnerability to identify threats to applications or IT infrastructures.

No matter which tool is chosen, threat modeling should be carried out continually throughout your software development lifecycle to identify and mitigate new threats before hackers do. All stakeholders involved – developers, security experts and management should participate in threat modeling sessions involving them all and log and document the results so residual risks can be assessed and addressed – an ideal method for this is using an application security scorecard such as STRIDE or CVSS.

Why is threat modeling important?

Threat modeling is an invaluable way of detecting vulnerabilities during design phase, enabling developers to address any security concerns before being released into production and saving both time and money.

Threat modeling helps teams understand how attackers could leverage vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive information and attack the business, and allows organizations to prioritize fixes and add security controls based on risk. This understanding allows teams to more efficiently prioritize development efforts within a project team while justifying costs and demonstrating compliance more easily.

Threat modeling also allows organizations to shift some of the responsibility of managing security to others by identifying potential threats that could affect either their business or customers. By recognizing vulnerabilities that are likely to impact customers, organizations can take steps to mitigate those risks – for instance by adding privacy statements and terms of service agreements on websites or offering insurance to end-users – this shifts some of this burden of care onto those parties best capable of shouldering it.

1. Identifying Security Requirement &Vulnerability

As organizations become more digital, their systems become more vulnerable to breach. While hackers and distributed denial-of-service attacks may garner the headlines, threats can arise from any source – employees looking to steal data for personal gain or even simple human error that leads to malware infections or ransomware infections are all potential risks.

Threat modeling allows teams to detect security flaws early and prevent costly fixes down the road. By identifying security issues during design phase, organizations can avoid costly and disruptive fixes later.

Threat models are generally created by a team consisting of business stakeholders, application architects and developers, cybersecurity specialists and others with diverse expertise. A diverse team will produce more thorough and accurate models. To start off their task of creating threat models, this group must first sketch how data moves within a system: its source, destination, access rights etc. Additionally, they should identify its system architecture along with all software installed there and identify all other relevant applications or software within it.

2. Quantifying Criticality of Threats Vulnerability

Threat modeling is often associated with information technology; however, it can also be applied to physical systems. For instance, buildings prone to hurricanes might benefit from considering the costs associated with installing stronger windows and storm shutters to lessen this risk.

Step two of threat modeling requires determining how severe any threat could be, which requires going through various attack scenarios and quantifying damage and impact incurred – from tangible financial losses such as reduced productivity, to intangible costs that are harder to measure such as decreased morale.

There are various methods for taking this step, but one of the more prevalent approaches is through attack trees. At its base lies an attacker’s goal; its branches and leaves represent different routes they could take to achieve it (for instance spoof identity, alter data or disclose info). An attack tree evaluation uses both STRIDE and CVSS methods to evaluate each vulnerability’s severity.

3. Analyze threats

Threat modeling provides a way to assess threats to an application or infrastructure and identify ways to reduce them. This process should typically occur during design but can also be revisited after changes have been made to software or infrastructure.

Security professionals conducting threat modeling use a range of methodologies. Some are checklist-based, such as Microsoft’s STRIDE (Spoofing identity, Tampering with data, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial of service Elevation of Privilege) or OCTAVE method; other approaches use more creative techniques like brainstorming or building an attacker-centric model of applications and their infrastructures.

These models help identify threat entry points for an application by depicting relationships among different components in its infrastructure through network diagrams, creating data flow diagrams (DFDs) that show user paths across trust boundaries, and performing damage analyses based on damage potential calculations as well as ranking vulnerabilities by likelihood, exploitability and discoverability.

4. Perform risk management and prioritization

Rigorous threat modeling takes into account all threats to your systems and applications. This approach encompasses not only malicious attacks (like malware or data theft) but also accidental incidents like hardware failure of storage media containing backup copies.

It allows you to identify and analyze risks more broadly than just their impact on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of your assets. Furthermore, it assists with prioritizing threats and countermeasures by balancing cost against benefit of each risk addressed – for instance if your application is exposed to known vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers, this model can assist with deciding whether mitigating them yourself or shifting it off onto someone else.

Threat models can be organized using various methodologies, from checklist-based approaches like STRIDE and kill chains to non-checklist approaches like attack trees and process flow diagrams. These latter approaches help document information flows within an application while outlining trust boundaries that might provide points where attackers could gain unwarranted entry.

5. Identify fixes

Sun Tzu’s masterpiece The Art of War asserted that knowing your enemy and knowing yourself were both key components to victory. Threat modeling helps identify vulnerabilities hackers may exploit as well as ways to protect against them, helping businesses prepare themselves against attack.

This process begins by identifying assets, whether physical or abstract. An asset could include anything from balloon photos stored in a database to web servers that deliver content. Once identified, all these assets are connected through an attack tree to show how an infiltrator could successfully compromise a system.

There are various methodologies for threat modeling available today; two of the more prominent are OWASP and VAST. Both utilize techniques like data flow diagrams and use case analysis, prioritizing threats based on impact and likelihood using knowledge-based approaches.

Another popular framework is STRIDE, which utilizes attack scenarios to detect threats. Furthermore, this framework identifies defensive measures designed to combat potential risks. Furthermore, TRIKE provides an open source threat modeling framework which prioritizes threats by their exploitation criteria.

The Threat Modeling Process

At its best, threat modeling should take place during the design phase of software applications and systems, to identify vulnerabilities before going live. However, threat modeling is also useful for existing systems as threats emerge and evolve over time – it’s crucial that threat models remain current with changing landscapes and software updates.

When conducting threat modeling, it is essential that multiple stakeholders participate. This should include development, security and operations teams as well as business representatives to ensure all potential threats are identified and considered; collaboration among these parties also leads to improved mitigation strategies.

There are various tools for identifying and prioritizing threats, including data flow diagrams, attack trees, and CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System). Threat modeling should also evaluate the impact and likelihood of each threat before prioritizing them for fixing purposes – whether that means decreasing probability, eliminating risks entirely or shifting them elsewhere. Once prioritized, fixes can include either decreasing probability, eliminating them entirely or shifting risks onto another party.

Threat Modeling As a Service (TMaaS)

Threat models can provide organizations with an effective method for quantifying risks and mitigating the high costs associated with security breaches and data loss.

Information systems are under attack from an array of complex threats. From hacking and denial of service attacks to unauthorised information disclosure, it can be daunting knowing where to begin protecting systems.

Is threat modeling available as a service?

Tutamantic MaaS is designed to enable organizations to focus on remediation and high-level network architecture decisions without being burdened by data-crunching. Furthermore, testing can be automated every time an update or expansion takes place, with testing run as needed based on updates or expansion. Tutamantic provides managed services which include support, training, consulting services for its Enterprise version; in addition to offering free Community edition access.

Threat modeling identifies and mitigates risks to critical assets, such as customer accounts or intellectual property (confidentiality), or reliability of business-critical software applications (integrity). Furthermore, this process identifies environmental threats and suggests countermeasures.

Threat modeling provides an effective means of reconciling security objectives with DevOps processes, enabling teams to address vulnerabilities proactively without impacting speed and agility. It also facilitates compliance with regulatory standards like GDPR and PCI DSS more easily. However, it must be used responsibly – exaggerated risk can cause delays, costs and missed business opportunities; to maintain an optimal balance between protecting against all possible threats while shipping products on time or never at all is key.

Advantages of threat modeling

Threat modeling is a proactive method for developers that allows them to incorporate security features from the start, rather than adding security as an afterthought. By identifying potential threats early on in planning processes, companies can save both time and money through reduced amounts of redesign, refactoring, or bug fixing required for creating robust products with secure software systems.

Once threats have been identified, they should be prioritized based on their likelihood and impact. Those posing the highest risks should be prioritized for mitigation or removal; or by shifting responsibility onto another party.

Threat models provide a method for you to keep up with an ever-evolving threat landscape and identify vulnerabilities as they emerge. Threat modeling also offers an efficient means of quantifying the state of your security strategy and can identify bottlenecks or single points of failure that hackers might exploit. Furthermore, threat modeling serves as a documentation and validation mechanism for existing security requirements and controls in place as well as validate their efficacy.

Threat Modeling Frameworks

There are multiple threat modeling methodologies to choose from, each offering their own set of best practices that make it work effectively. Which method best fits with your organization will depend on which application or infrastructure you’re trying to model.

For example, the STRIDE framework allows you to model threats by dealing security cards and eliminating unlikely possibilities using SQUARE; this method is easy and provides accurate results. Another helpful methodology is the LINDDUN framework, which analyzes privacy threats and decides on appropriate protection controls to implement.

Threat modeling involves identifying potential attacks and listing their mitigations as the key components. Additionally, threat modeling helps identify risks and prioritize tasks. It is recommended that threat modeling be performed as early as possible during software development processes in order to catch design flaws missed by traditional testing methods or code reviews as well as avoid costly recoding after deployment of your software product. By recognizing potential threats early, threat modeling enables better understanding of vulnerabilities as well as protection of critical assets.

1. STRIDE risk management tool

The STRIDE risk management tool is a threat modeling framework designed to assist teams in recognizing vulnerabilities during the design phase of an application. It focuses on six categories of threats: Spoofing identity, Tampering with data, Repudiation threats, Information disclosure, Denial of service and Elevation of privileges. Furthermore, using this model may assist teams in devising potential mitigation strategies such as anti-virus software or policies tailored specifically towards particular types of vulnerabilities.

STRIDE is used to assess emerging threats based on four criteria: damage, reproducibility, exploitability and discoverability. This evaluation helps identify any weaknesses within a system and provide recommendations for improvement.

STRIDE is an iterative process involving multiple team members who collaborate to identify risks and threats, creating a roadmap that ensures secure code is written and tested before going into production. Additionally, this step includes creating technical diagrams such as Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) to document different user paths through the system as well as highlight trust boundaries.

2. Trike risk management tool

Trike is an open source threat modeling framework and tool, used to detect threats from a defensive perspective. It works by analyzing each asset within a system to see who has permission to read, create, update or delete that entity; this identifies threats in two categories – privilege escalation and denial of service attacks – before evaluating their impact and associated risks.

Among popular threat models is DREAD methodology, which prioritizes threats by their damage potential and other considerations. Furthermore, it helps determine effective mitigation strategies for each threat; often combined with other models like STRIDE framework or Attack Tree model for best results.

PASTA takes an attacker-centric approach to threat modeling. Its seven-stage process helps identify vulnerabilities and reduce risks by understanding an attacker’s goals, skills, and capabilities – an approach which pairs well with agile practices such as personas for improving collaboration among business, operations, technology, and security teams.

3. Attack Tree management tool

Attack trees are among the oldest and most widely utilized threat modeling methods, measuring how easy it would be to attack a system and identifying any associated dangers. Comprised of steps necessary for an attack to succeed.

Attack trees can be an effective method for assessing weaknesses in computer systems, but can be challenging to comprehend. Therefore, it is crucial that users have a firm grasp on this approach so they can safeguard against threats effectively.

Attack trees were introduced by information security expert Bruce Schneier in the 1990s. These diagrams depict various events using parent and child nodes that represent specific events. At its center sits an overarching goal for an attack; each branch represents one step toward that end with cost estimates either displayed numerically or graphically allowing an analyst to visualize which attacks are most likely to succeed while exerting minimal effort on his or her part.

4. Common Vulnerability Scoring System CVSS

The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is an industry standard method for evaluating the severity of vulnerabilities. It uses various metrics to assign a numeric score from 0.0 to 10, giving organizations an objective measure to evaluate vulnerabilities.

Organizations use this system to assess the impact of vulnerabilities on their systems and prioritize security testing. The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) publishes CVSS scores for all vulnerabilities discovered or disclosed through CVSS scoring – Exploitability, Temporal, and Environmental factors make up its scoring system.

Exploitability metrics assess the difficulty of exploiting vulnerabilities, taking into account factors like required privileges for an attacker and whether an attack can be carried out remotely or requires user interaction.

Temporal metrics evaluate how the severity of vulnerabilities changes over time. For instance, when software vendors release patches for vulnerabilities their Temporal score will decrease; conversely when attackers create and distribute exploit code the Temporal score will rise; hence the name CVSS scoring system.

5. Quantitative Threat Modeling Method

Threat modeling involves gathering information on threats, vulnerabilities and risks related to an application and then using this data to develop countermeasures for each threat. A risk evaluation for each threat allows organizations to prioritize these threats and determine effective mitigation solutions; often performed manually but there are software tools that can simplify this process as well.

Once common threats have been identified, it’s essential to examine their causes in order to understand how they could be exploited. An excellent way to do this is through creating an attack tree – an example would be showing all possible routes an attacker might take and where vulnerabilities might lie along those pathways.

Security Cards is another effective method for recognizing less common or unique threats, using a deck of cards to simulate thinking like an attacker and help analysts spot attacks that cannot be modelled with other approaches such as MITRE ATT&CK or CVSS. This approach may prove especially helpful in cases of attacks which cannot be modelled using existing methods like MITRE ATT&CK or CVSS.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.