What is threat modelling, and what is its importance in current pentesting methodologies?
Threat modelling plays a significant role in identifying and enumerating potential threats based on priority and devising mitigation strategies. According to a recent report, by 2025 organizations will lose approximately US$ 10 trillion annually to cyber threats and cybercrimes. To prevent enterprise-level cyberattacks, companies shifted to cyber threat modelling to determine vulnerabilities and lack of defence strategies and devise ways to tackle them systematically.
Today, our ethical hackers will provide a comprehensive idea of threat modelling, its benefits, common threat types, processes, and some methodologies.
What is Threat Modelling?
Threat modelling implies optimizing network security by predicting possible threats, discovering vulnerabilities or flaws, and recognizing security objectives. It also helps maximize application security, strengthen IT infrastructure, and devise countermeasures.
Through threat modelling, enterprises plan to secure systems and mission-critical digital assets, sensitive customer data, and business plans, among others, in a systematic and structured manner.
The four steps of threat modelling are broken down into:
Developing safeguarding techniques
Some well-known threat modelling methodologies include: STRIDE (Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information Disclosure, Denial of Service, and Elevation of privilege); PASTA (Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis); and Trike.
Common Types of Cyber Threats in 2023 and Beyond
Now that we've outlined what threat modelling is, let's dive into the types of threats it can help counteract.
External threats: External threats are attacks launched by activists, malicious hackers, and cybercriminals. The threat actors include those with unauthorized ownership, leveraging the opportunity to steal sensitive data or damage an enterprise's digital assets. They use different attack techniques to leak confidential corporate details on the dark web or do any remote action that harms a business.
Internal threat: 90% of enterprises and organizations are vulnerable to insider cyber threats. Internal threats are among the deadliest, as they are challenging to find and fix, even for threat modelling techniques. Internal or insider threats get triggered by disgruntled employees who feel unappreciated, underpaid, or sell out the organization for monetary benefits.
Web application attacks: Any vulnerability in the web application can pose a massive threat to the enterprise. Since web applications are the face of the business, attackers often try to exploit them. Web applications remain exposed to the internet with a massive attack surface. Thus, enterprises should also prioritize threat modelling for web application vulnerability assessment.
This tactic assists enterprise security professionals in reducing the attack surface by identifying weak points and vulnerabilities in the system that attackers could exploit. Cyber threat modelling helps security professionals get an overall picture of where attackers could cripple their security.
Through threat modelling methodologies and tactics, IT managers and security risk analysts can gauge the impact of a threat. They can quantify its severity and execute countermeasures to control or eliminate it. Along with reducing architectural and security complexities, threat modelling lowers risk exposure. It helps enterprises stick to the security budget by identifying and fixing security issues before attackers can exploit them.
Lastly, threat modelling embraces the defence-in-depth principle, which uses a layered view to protect enterprise assets by identifying and eliminating a single point of failure. It also helps security professionals comprehend the entire cyber attack kill chain.
The Four Phases in Threat Models
Asset identification: With the global acceleration in the transformation of technological domains, identifying and prioritizing critical assets is essential. In threat modelling, security professionals must determine all the digital assets that can be potential targets of the attacker. Mapping digital footprints can help identify hidden assets likely to become a threat.
Threat identification: Before an attacker identifies and exploits the threat within the enterprise's IT infrastructure and apps, security professionals must identify and fix them. Often, threat modelling follows the OWASP top 10 vulnerability list to look for web application vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability analysis: In this phase, the security researchers should perform thorough research to find the most effective remediation to eliminate a threat. This objective can become complicated when vulnerabilities get detected in the vendor system or network. A proper analysis should precede the decision on the remediation strategy.
Designing countermeasures: Once the vulnerabilities get identified and analyzed, security professionals must develop countermeasures. This objective should comprise the best and most productive mitigation techniques or solutions without exhausting internal resources.
Threat modelling is a must-have methodology to find and fix vulnerabilities before threat actors can exploit them. Proactive threat modelling not only enhances the overall security posture but also allows organizations to stay one step ahead of their adversaries.
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