Threat Modeling

Threat modeling

Written by Ayesha

Teams use threat modeling to identify, communicate, and understand threats to mitigate and protect their software. For DevOps teams, a threat is when unauthorized individuals access their software with malicious intentions. With a threat model, you can clearly understand various assets, potential threats, and how to mitigate them to ensure integrity. Therefore, threat modeling can help you build robust software focused on security. 

Threat Modeling

Your organization can choose from three different approaches when it comes to threat modeling:

  1. Focus on assets
    Considering all assets and analyzing their respective vulnerability.
  2. Focus on attackers
    Thinking about possible attackers and the asset they could go after.
  3. Focus on software
    Implementing security into the system to secure how data flows between different layers. 

Crucial components for effective threat modeling

Holistically, threat modeling is not focused on the development team; it needs inputs from the following people to become effective: 

  • Business stakeholders, who provide the business impact of the application. 
  • Architects, who give an overview of the application’s ecosystem. 
  • Programmers, who give code-specific input, including frameworks, coding guidelines, etc. 
  • DevOps teams that provide server and network configurations. 
  • Project management teams that can effectively manage resources. 

Five critical steps in the process

The objective of a threat model is to align your technical requirements with your business objectives and keep your organization secure. Therefore, you need to consider compliance requirements as well while incorporating these five steps: 

  1. Setting objectives

    Before you get started with threat modeling, you need to be sure of the desired outcome. Occasionally, objectives are defined while keeping in mind that your application should have: 

    1. Confidentiality
      Protecting itself from unauthorized disclosure. 
    2. Integrity
      Preventing unauthorized information changes. 
    3. Ability
      Rendering required services even if the system is under attack. 
  2. Visualizing

    In this step, the development teams document different components that make up the software. Clear documentation will make the process more straightforward in the long run. Here are two types of visualizations that you can build: 

    1. Data flow diagram
      You can use a data flow diagram to depict how data moves through the application at an operational level. A data flow diagram can display the entry and exit points, storage, processes, interactions, and trust boundaries. 
    2. Process flow diagram
      You can use a data flow diagram to depict how your users will interact and move through the software at an application level. A process flow diagram can help you identify weak endpoints within your application.
  3. Identifying threats

    After understanding how your system operates, you need to analyze them to identify actual threats. You can figure out methods that can compromise your assets while keeping your potential attackers in mind. 

  4. Mitigating threats

    A threat model will help you build a library of potential threats to your software and attacker profiles. You must analyze which aspects of your applications are most vulnerable to these threats and take corrective measures to improve your code, infrastructure, or design. 

  5. Validating

    After making the necessary changes to your software, you need to validate whether the changes have addressed the outlined vulnerabilities or not. After the validation process, you can decide on the next steps to manage threats and when to rerun threat modeling. 

Top six threat modeling methods 

Here are six threat modeling methods that can help you identify vulnerabilities in your system and take appropriate action. 

  1. STRIDE (Spoofing identity, Tempering with Data, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial of service, and Elevation of privilege) 
  2. Trike 
  3. VAST (Visual, Agile, and Simple Threat) 
  4. Attack trees 
  5. CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) 
  6. PASTA (Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis)

Conclusion

Threat modeling is a key tool for DevOps teams to prevent unauthorized access to software with malicious intentions. In this article, we’ve helped you learn how you can use threat modeling to identify, express and mitigate threats to protect your software. For more software security advice, be sure to check out our other articles on the topic.

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