Threat Modeling 101: Reducing Your Cybersecurity Risk

Redline Cyber Security
Feb 7, 2023
min read
Threat Modeling 101

As major data breaches and intricate cyberattacks continue to make headlines, organizations are drawn to investing in the latest cybersecurity solutions. However, merely spending money on the issue doesn't resolve the underlying problem. The key to understanding why cybercriminals are succeeding lies in threat modeling, which involves adopting a hacker's perspective to better protect your organization.

Understanding Threat Modeling

Infographic depicting the 5 key steps of threat modeling process, including defining objectives, identifying assets, finding threats, mitigating threats, and documenting & reviewing

Threat modeling is a widely used technique in application development, comparable to risk analysis in the insurance sector. It helps identify potential threats, allowing organizations to implement appropriate safeguards in critical areas. This process not only enhances security but could also reduce costs.

Consider, for example, deploying a web application firewall (WAF) to protect critical applications. Although the WAF may offer some protection, it requires proper configuration and maintenance, leading to additional expenses. Furthermore, organizations may remain unaware of vulnerabilities in their attack surface. According to ESG Research, 69% of organizations experienced cyberattacks originating from poorly managed or unmanaged internet-facing digital assets.

Threat modeling can have a significant impact across an organization, benefiting not only developers but also Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). These executives should adopt a top-down approach, incorporating threat modeling across all departments under their supervision.

Four Key Questions for Conducting Threat Modeling

  1. What assets will hackers target?
    To stay ahead of cybercriminals, it's essential to identify the assets you need to protect. Analyzing your attack surface, both internally and externally, provides a comprehensive view of your organization's potential vulnerabilities. In doing so, you may discover overlooked assets or resources that were intended to be temporary.

Consider the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability) when assessing risks.

Visual representation of the CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability) with the Redline Cyber Security logo prominently displayed.

Understanding the potential risks associated with compromised confidentiality, integrity, or availability enables you to address vulnerabilities more effectively.

  1. What can go wrong?
    Cybercriminals aim to maximize damage, targeting areas you may not be monitoring closely. These blind spots often cause the most significant issues for organizations.

For instance, a misconfigured web server or forgotten resources from a previous cloud infrastructure may provide an entry point for hackers. This can quickly escalate, compromising third parties and supply chains. ESG reports that 80% of organizations experienced a supply-chain breach, yet only 22.5% monitor their entire supply chain.

  1. What actions are we taking?
    As you develop a threat model, prioritize potential risks. Implement appropriate controls for the most probable threats once you've identified all possible vulnerabilities. Common starting points include firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and content delivery networks. However, these measures don't address unknown threats the organization may be unaware of.
  1. Are our efforts sufficient?
    Organizations often lack a complete understanding of their attack surfaces, leaving room for improvement in their security measures. Threat modeling encourages creative thinking to identify and limit potential threats. Implementing this strategy is essential for a more secure organization.

One way to quickly reduce risk is by removing unused assets. Eliminating these unnecessary resources closes off potential avenues for hackers to exploit. Instead of allocating your security budget towards addressing the risk of a breach, threat modeling can help you identify and rectify vulnerabilities. With increased visibility, you can better defend your organization against cybercriminals before they gain access to your network.

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