Threat Modeling Examples
Imagine you’re a castle lord in medieval times. Your stronghold is under constant threat from invaders, and it’s your job to secure it. The walls, the moat, the drawbridge – every element is meticulously designed to protect against possible threats. This is precisely what threat modeling in cybersecurity is about. In this article, we’ll explore how digital fortresses are built and maintained to ward off cyber invaders.
Threat modeling is the process of identifying, understanding, and addressing potential security threats in a system. It’s like a safety plan for digital spaces, helping us anticipate and prepare for possible cyberattacks.
Example 1: STRIDE (1999). Microsoft’s STRIDE model, an acronym for Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, and Elevation of Privilege, was one of the first structured threat modeling approaches. It categorized threats into six types, providing a systematic framework to identify and mitigate threats.
Example 2: PASTA (2012). Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis (PASTA) was introduced. This risk-based approach aimed to align business objectives with technical threats, allowing businesses to balance their risk management and business needs. PASTA is a seven-step process that takes into account the business impact of threats along with the technical details.
Example 3: ThreatModeler (2015). ThreatModeler Software Inc. launched their automated threat modeling tool that allowed businesses to visualize their entire system’s attack surface. This solution not only identified potential threats but also suggested appropriate security controls, providing a comprehensive security framework.
Threat Modeling Examples In-Depth
STRIDE: The Forerunner in Threat Modeling (1999)
Think back to when you were a child, playing a board game with friends. You had to devise a plan, anticipating your friends’ moves, thinking about all possible outcomes, right? In many ways, that’s what Microsoft did when they introduced STRIDE in 1999. They created a game plan for dealing with the complex world of cyber threats, and it’s almost as if they invented the board game of cybersecurity!
STRIDE stands for Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, and Elevation of Privilege. These may sound like terms straight out of a spy movie, but they’re simply categories of cyber threats that Microsoft believed were most important to address.
So, let’s delve deeper into what each part of STRIDE represents, kind of like learning the rules of our new board game.
Spoofing: Picture someone pretending to be you to gain access to your secrets. In the digital world, spoofing is when a bad actor impersonates another user or device to gain unauthorized access. Just like a chameleon changing colors to blend in, a spoofer tries to blend in to do their dirty work.
Tampering: Imagine someone meddling with your personal stuff, like tweaking the settings on your phone without you knowing. In cyberspace, tampering involves unauthorized changes made to data or systems. It’s like a digital prankster, only the ‘pranks’ can have far-reaching, harmful consequences.
Repudiation: This is like the classic “It wasn’t me” scenario. In a digital context, repudiation involves an individual denying that they performed an action, often due to the lack of proof. It’s a threat because it makes accountability difficult – kind of like when your sibling denies eating your hidden stash of cookies.
Information Disclosure: Imagine if someone suddenly broadcast your secrets to the whole neighborhood. That’s what information disclosure is in the digital realm – exposing confidential information, like your credit card number or email password.
Denial of Service: Imagine someone blockading your driveway so you can’t get out with your car. That’s what a Denial of Service attack does, except it happens online, blocking access to networks, systems, or applications. It’s like a digital traffic jam, with potentially serious consequences.
Elevation of Privilege: This is like a rogue employee getting unauthorized access to the boss’s office. In cybersecurity, it’s when someone gains higher-level permissions than they should have, potentially accessing sensitive data or causing major disruptions.
Microsoft’s STRIDE, even after more than two decades, is still one of the pillars of threat modeling. It laid the groundwork for anticipating and dealing with threats, just like that game plan you crafted during those childhood board games. Except, of course, the stakes are much higher in the realm of cybersecurity! The best part? STRIDE makes cybersecurity feel like less of a mystery and more of a manageable game where knowing the rules can make all the difference.
PASTA: Cooking Up a New Approach to Threat Modeling (2012)
Did the mention of ‘PASTA’ get your taste buds tingling? If so, you’re not alone. But in the world of cybersecurity, PASTA isn’t something you cook on the stove. It’s a seven-step process used to ‘cook up’ a plan against potential threats to your systems.
PASTA stands for Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis. It’s a more business-oriented approach to threat modeling that was introduced in 2012. Think of it as a recipe for identifying and dealing with cybersecurity risks, specially tailored to your organization’s needs.
Let’s dig deeper into this PASTA and see how each ingredient – or step – contributes to this flavorful approach:
Definition of Objectives: This is where you decide what you want your PASTA to achieve. Just like deciding whether you want to cook spaghetti carbonara or pasta primavera, in this step, you define your security objectives based on your business goals.
Technical Scope Definition: Here, you look at all the technical components that will be involved – the digital ‘ingredients’ of your PASTA. You consider all the systems, applications, and data that could potentially be targeted in a cyberattack.
Threat Modeling: Just as a chef considers what could spoil their dish – too much salt, undercooking, etc., this step involves identifying the potential threats to your system.
Vulnerability Analysis: This step is about identifying weaknesses in your ‘dish’. In the same way you’d check whether your pasta is cooked perfectly or if it needs more time, you analyze your systems and applications for any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by threats.
Attack Simulation: Here, you try to think like a hacker, simulating possible attacks based on the threats and vulnerabilities identified earlier. It’s like trying to anticipate how your dinner guests might react to your pasta dish. Will they find it too spicy or not spicy enough?
Risk Analysis: After simulating potential attacks, you assess the risk – or the potential impact – of each. You might think about whether over-salting your pasta would simply be an inconvenience or could it ruin your entire dinner party.
Residual Risk Analysis and Countermeasure Definition: Finally, after considering all the risks, you come up with ways to mitigate them – your countermeasures. Just like tweaking your recipe to avoid that over-salted pasta, you implement security measures to protect against the threats you’ve identified.
PASTA brought a new flavor to threat modeling by aligning it more closely with business needs and objectives. It made threat modeling a bit less like a scary, technical beast and a bit more like a recipe that any organization can follow to create a more secure cyber environment.
ThreatModeler: Building Digital Security Blueprints (2015)
Imagine you’re an architect designing a house. You wouldn’t simply start building without a detailed blueprint, right? Similarly, ThreatModeler, which came into the cybersecurity scene in 2015, provided organizations with a ‘blueprint’ to identify and manage potential threats. It was like bringing CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software to cybersecurity!
ThreatModeler Software Inc. created an automated threat modeling tool that lets businesses visualize the entire landscape of potential threats in their systems. It’s as if you had a map showing not only your home but also every possible point a burglar could use to break in!
Let’s delve into how ThreatModeler helps build safer digital homes:
Visualize the Attack Surface: Much like an architect’s blueprint shows all possible entrances and exits, ThreatModeler creates a comprehensive model of your system. It shows all the potential points where cyberattacks could occur, giving you a bird’s eye view of your digital ‘property’.
Identify Potential Threats: After visualizing your system, ThreatModeler then identifies the potential threats at each point. Think of it as marking all the weak points in your architectural design, like a window that’s too low or a door that’s too thin.
Automate Threat Modeling: Just as modern architects use software to design and test their structures, ThreatModeler automates the process of threat modeling. It continuously scans your system, keeping the threat model up-to-date. It’s like having a virtual security guard who never sleeps!
Suggest Appropriate Security Controls: Once the threats have been identified, ThreatModeler doesn’t just leave you hanging. It goes a step further and suggests appropriate security measures. It’s like an architect suggesting you install a particular type of lock or security system.
Assist in Prioritizing Risks: ThreatModeler also helps you prioritize which risks to address first, based on factors like potential impact and likelihood. It’s like knowing which repairs to prioritize if you have a limited budget – should you fix the leaky roof first, or the broken window?
By providing a complete, dynamic view of the attack landscape and offering insights into how to mitigate risks, ThreatModeler revolutionized the way organizations approach cybersecurity. It’s like going from hand-drawn sketches to sophisticated architectural software. It’s an evolution that’s made the complex, ever-changing world of cyber threats a little easier to navigate.
In this digital era, where threats loom around every corner of our online world, understanding threat modeling is like having a compass to navigate through a dense forest. Whether it’s Microsoft’s board game-like STRIDE, the delectable process of PASTA, or the architectural brilliance of ThreatModeler, each provides a unique and effective approach to securing our digital fortresses. By embracing these models, businesses can foresee potential threats, strategize their defense, and build a more secure digital realm. Remember, in cybersecurity, as in life, being prepared isn’t just about weathering the storm, but understanding the weather patterns to begin with.
How to stay safe online:
- Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
- Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
- Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
- Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
What is the main purpose of threat modeling?
The main purpose of threat modeling is to provide a structured approach to identify, understand, and address potential threats in a system. It allows organizations to anticipate and prepare for possible cyberattacks, much like a safety drill or a game plan would.
How often should threat modeling be done?
Threat modeling is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. It should be done at the design phase of a system, and regularly afterwards, to keep up with evolving threats. Whenever significant changes are made to the system or environment, threat modeling should be revisited.
What makes a good threat model?
A good threat model is comprehensive, up-to-date, and actionable. It should cover all parts of the system, reflect current threats and vulnerabilities, and provide clear guidance on how to mitigate identified threats. It should also be understandable and usable by the people implementing the defenses.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.
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