Threat Modeling – Generic Steps

For a threat to an application to exist, there must be a combination of the following where the combined likelihood and impact are important enough to do something about. Following is a four question framework that helps understand threat modeling:

· What are we working on?

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· What can go wrong?

· What are we going to do about it?

· Did we do a good job?

There are many ways to answer each of these questions.

To understand whether an application is secure enough or not, you have to search out combinations of these ingredients that lead to realistic threats.

There is no “right” way to evaluate the search space of possible threats. But there are better or worse ways. Attempting to evaluate all the possible combinations of threat agent, attack, vulnerability, and impact is often a waste of time and effort. Note that many of the automated tools take this approach – gathering lots of data and producing thousands of possible threats. Generally it is more productive to focus on finding high likelihood and high impact threats.

The basic threat modeling process consists of the following generic steps. The process of exploring the search space is iterative and constantly refined based on what you have done so far. So, for example, starting with all possible vulnerabilities is usually pointless, as most of them are not attackable by the threat agents, protected by a safeguard, or do not lead to a consequence. Therefore, it’s generally best to start with the factors that make a lot of difference.

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