What Should Developers Know About Threat Modeling?

November 13, 2019 0 comments

Threat modeling is a process that very few developers seem to pursue. However, it is a process that helps you and your entire team to model all potential threats to model all possible risks to your application.

This process has become essential for optimizing network security by recognizing objectives, vulnerabilities, and developing measures to prevent the effects of threats towards the system. The threat is something that can be malicious to your organization and data systems. Like for example, incidental occurrences such as the failure of a storage device which can compromise the integrity of the entire organization.

Now, let’s read the remaining part of the article to get more insight into this topic.


Importance of Threat Modeling:

Threats are one of the most significant factors that compel companies to spend $89.1 billion only on enterprise security solutions. Gartner back in 2017 predicted that threats would climb to $96.3 billion by the end of 2018. Also, the Raytheon Study on Global Megatrends in Cybersecurity of 2018 revealed that 36% of senior IT and cyber professionals identified criminal or malicious insiders as a top cyber threat.

However, with these increasing threats, many organizations often lack insider policy enforcement tools and threat policies. As a result, they face difficulty in aligning IT and security responsibilities to tackle the threat effectively.

Threat modeling allows you to determine which threat might exist for your application or not? It is always a better idea to understand beforehand what dangers might be waiting for you. By following all these threats, you will be able to decide on accepting the risk or not.

Threat modeling for cybersecurity is an evolving discipline where you can develop threat models for almost any situation you can imagine. Organizations can make use of threat modeling to ensure that their firewalls are prepared adequately? Zero-Day vulnerabilities are reduced and what strategies are adopted to prevent malware.

For a threat to exist, there must lie a combination of the following where the combined impacts are significant to do something. A framework to understand threat modeling includes: inquiring what are you working on, what might go wrong, and what can be done in this regard.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) defined threat modeling as a process that allows you to refine your method based on what you have done so far. Starting with all the potential vulnerabilities is pointless as most of them are not attackable by the threat agents, secured and safeguard, or doesn’t lead towards an outcome. Thus, it is best to start with the factors that make some difference.

All these steps include assessment scope, existing countermeasures, identity threat agents, countermeasures, recognizing vulnerabilities, prioritizing identified risks to reduce the threats.


Assessment Scope

In this step, you need to understand the price of what’s at stake. Recognizing tangible assets, like databases of information or sensitive files, is usually straightforward, and realizes the capabilities provided by the application.


Identify Possible Attacks/Threats

An essential part of threat modeling is characterizing different groups of people who might be able to attack your application. It includes both insiders and outsiders performing inadvertent mistakes and malicious attacks. During this stage of development, consider existing countermeasures that allow determining what potentially exploitable vulnerabilities exist which need to be addressed. Perform extensive research to look for weaknesses and later connect attacks you have identified to the adverse outcomes you have recognized.


Prioritizing Identified Risks

Once identified, risk management can be prioritized. For every threat, determine potential outcomes and the impact of those to understand how to reduce these issues. Also, look for ways to mitigate any future risks.

Although many of the threats might appear to be security-related, and others might have more natural explanations.  Threat assessments also include power outages and even a flooded server room. All these factors can lead to severe threats to your enterprise.


What’s the Best Time to Model the Threat?

The most suitable time to model the threat is at the beginning of a project. However, it’s better to conduct a threat modeling project halfway by a project or even at the end than not at all. To model, the threat at the end of a project can be beneficial, like understanding the architecture and how data flows through it. But, threat modeling at the end of a project can lead to finding more work which might require to fix poor design decisions that were not caught at the beginning.

Those entering into threat modeling, remember to conduct the first session on your existing project, letting you experiment with a threat modeling session so that you can familiarize yourself with everything required. By doing so, you will better analyze all assets and the flow of data to assess the risks. Once the process is hit out, you’ll have a better chance of getting successful in your new project of threat modeling.

Moreover, you will also be prepared for threats that might exist in the design phase of the project. From here, you might begin to take into account threats during the initial design of a brand new feature.


How to Approach the Threat Model?

Each approach method depends on the organization and its goals. Massive organizations usually have previously established processes for threat modeling, while smaller organizations are new to threat modeling and can begin by hiring in experience to start the task for seeking outside support from experts or those who can provide advice on the program.

Then you need to understand who the users are within the administrators, regular system users, outsourced contractors and perhaps potential hackers with apps or other tools looking for vulnerabilities within your network.

There are other actors, too, which includes disgruntled former employees. Defining the user’s actors is vital as missing a group can indicate that you might be missing an entire category of threats. Also, consider the different types of hackers or a group of hackers within your model.


The Flow of Data and Information:

At this point of threat modeling, track each of the different data flow running through the system. For each of them, you need to know where the data goes. What does it interact with along the way? Later look to identify where data can leak or where it might get exposed. More data components mean more opportunities for a hacker to gain access to the information.

While individual data means that the information flows differently based on the architecture and the specific situation. One example might include a request from a user’s browser where the cookie is sent through and interacts with multiple components as it does.

Search for opportunities for each data flows for any actors to get hold of valuable information. If something makes you frown, step back through the process and move that threat through until you can mitigate the frowning moment.


Threat List Complete:

When the list gets completed, prioritize the list from unlikely to improbable to not likely. No matter what is the probability of the risk, work through the risk as a real possibility. When you have the risk list then manage the threats by the following ways:

•  Accepting: If the risk is shallow, recognize the potential impact. It is also possible that you will find the potential negative user impact, and you can also reassess it later.

•  Transferring: Maybe another team is responsible for managing a particular risk. If that team picks up the defense quickly so, outsource it.

•  Avoiding: Consider the complete structural changes to your data flow to avoid risks. It might also mean that architectural changes are required to kill a particular feature so as not to prevent the danger.

•  Reducing: Take all possible actions to lower the risk by lessening the impact of the risks. You may need to take multiple steps to reduce the threat. Great efforts are required to mitigate the risks.


Final Thoughts:

Don’t stop once the threat modeling is completed. Keep working because of threats and actors’ changes with time. Make a list of all potential issues or risks that must be addressed and incorporate them into your plan.

Also, remember that you should be careful with whom you are sharing your threat modeling plan. It is essential because you never know where that information might end up, or who might be a threat to your data and organization.



Rebecca James: Enthusiastic Cybersecurity Journalist, A creative team leader, editor of privacycrypts.com.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rebecca_jeames
LinkdLn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-james-628657119/
websiteL: https://privacycrypts.com/

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