What are the 6 steps of threat modeling?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

The process of threat modeling involves several steps to effectively identify and address potential threats to a system or application. While there are different approaches to threat modeling, I will outline six common steps that can be followed:

1. Define business objectives: The first step is to understand the business objectives of the system or application being modeled. This includes identifying the goals, priorities, and desired outcomes of the organization. By having a clear understanding of the business objectives, you can align the threat modeling process with the specific needs and concerns of the organization.

2. Define the technical scope of assets and components: Once the business objectives are defined, it is important to identify the technical assets and components that are relevant to the system or application. This includes identifying the hardware, software, data, network infrastructure, and other resources that are part of the system. By defining the technical scope, you can focus the threat modeling process on the areas that are most critical and prone to vulnerabilities.

3. Application decomposition and identify application controls: In this step, the system or application is decomposed into its various components and functionalities. This involves breaking down the system into its constituent parts, such as modules, components, and interfaces. By understanding the different components and their interactions, you can identify the controls and security measures that are in place to protect against potential threats. This includes analyzing the existing security controls, such as authentication mechanisms, access controls, encryption, and error handling.

4. Threat analysis based on threat intelligence: Once the system components and controls are identified, the next step is to analyze potential threats based on threat intelligence. This involves gathering information about known threats, vulnerabilities, and attack vectors that could impact the system. By understanding the threat landscape, you can assess the likelihood and impact of different threats and prioritize them based on their potential risk to the system. Threat intelligence sources can include security advisories, vulnerability databases, security forums, and even personal experiences and knowledge.

5. Vulnerability detection: In this step, the system or application is scanned or reviewed to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by potential attackers. This can involve conducting vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, code reviews, or using automated tools to detect common vulnerabilities. By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, you can reduce the attack surface and mitigate potential risks to the system.

6. Attack enumeration and modeling: The final step in threat modeling is to enumerate and model potential attacks against the system. This involves identifying the potential attack vectors, such as injection attacks, cross-site scripting, or privilege escalation, and simulating how these attacks could be carried out. By understanding the potential attacks, you can identify additional security controls or measures that can be implemented to prevent or mitigate these attacks.

By following these six steps, organizations can effectively identify and address potential threats to their systems or applications. It is important to note that threat modeling is an iterative process, and should be revisited periodically as the system evolves or new threats emerge.