Threat modeling for critical and high-risk application security has been a mainstay of software development for nearly a decade. The immediate benefits of application threat modeling include reducing application security risk and lowering production costs as potential threats are identified early in the SDLC, allowing security to be initially “baked in” rather than later “bolted on.”
However beneficial to AppSec traditional threat modeling may be, limiting the scope to only consider single applications in isolation misses the vast majority of threat majority of threat modeling benefits. When CISOs implement enterprise threat modeling, the benefits of traditional threat modeling pale in comparison.
Implement Enterprise Threat Modeling for the CISO
Threat modeling traditionally serves security practitioners and developers – That is not going to change. All threat modeling will provide some benefit to these key stakeholders, determined by underlying threat modeling methodologies. However, generating a list of potential threats and the mitigating secure coding for a single application is below the radar of most CISOs.
Their mandate is to secure the information assets organization-wide. To do so effectively, the CISO needs to understand the organization’s overall threat posture and be able to objectively quantify the expected effectiveness of security initiatives toward reducing the organizational attack surface.
CISOs implement enterprise threat modeling to achieve a variety of benefits:
- Automating and scaling the threat modeling process across the entire DevOps portfolio;
- Leveraging security team expertise through a collaborative, self-serve platform;
- Integrating into existing production toolsets and workflows throughout the CI/CD pipeline; and
- Fully left-shifting security into the earliest design white-boarding stages.
- While these are great reasons to implement enterprise threat modeling, there are yet more benefits to be gained specific to the CISO’s mandate.
Understand the Comprehensive Attack Surface
Understanding the attack surface is ultimately why organizations threat model. By understanding the attack surface on one end of potential attack paths, and the assets to be protected on the other, it is possible to derive insight into potential attackers. From that vantage, security leaders can prioritize the resources at their disposal to formulate an effective mitigation strategy against potential threats.
Since it is the CISOs mandate to protect information assets across the entire organization, the CISO needs to have available a means of obtaining a real-time, data-driven understanding of the organization’s comprehensive attack surface. A threat modeling process that can only be applied to a fraction of the organization’s application portfolio – those apps considered critical and high-risk – cannot provide the functionality and high-level perspective need by the CISO.
Today’s organizations exist in a highly interconnected environment. Not only do threats arise from applications, but from interactions between apps, from 3rd party systems, and from shared components. Moreover, threats arise from infrastructure components, from computing endpoints, from mobile and embedded devices, and from the organization’s expanding IoT footprint.
Organizations also need to consider how potential threats could compromise their industrial control systems or cyber-physical systems. Clearly the organization’s comprehensive attack surface – which the CISO must consider – is far more extensive than a few critical and high-risk applications.
Implement Enterprise Threat Modeling to Prioritize Resources
An automated enterprise threat modeling practice collates and combines the outputs of individual threat models used by the DevOps team. The combined threat model portfolio outputs provide a high-level, quantifiable perspective of the organization’s real-time level of cybersecurity relative to new and emerging threats, the attacker population, and the information assets to be protected.
An analysis of the organization’s comprehensive attack surface will yield – among other data-driven insights – a list of the organization’s top-ten threats across the full IT environment. These threats will constitute a specific percentage of the organization’s entire threat profile.
Armed with this information and with the ability to drill down to discover the particular sources of these threats, the CISO can develop and prioritize three to five initiatives to mitigate them. The result is a measurable reduction in cyber risk relative to initiative costs – security successes and ROI easily reportable to senior executives and the Board.
CISOs and other security leaders who implement enterprise threat modeling can then start to consider and proactively build objective expectations of what controls can be applied to reduce the organization’s overall residual risk further. By understanding which existing controls can be better utilized, the CISO can free up or re-prioritize additional resources to yield further mitigations of high-priority threats.
ThreatModeler™ Yields Outputs and Functionality Needed by the CISO
ThreatModeler™ is the Industry’s #1 Automated Threat Modeling Platform through which organizations can implement enterprise threat modeling. Users simply create a Visio-like diagram – with drag-and-drop simplicity – for each threat model they need. From there, ThreatModeler’s automated Threat Intelligence Framework and advanced Threat Framework automatically creates threat models with concrete, consistent, and actionable outputs for all stakeholders throughout the SDLC. Automatically generated outputs and functionality for the CISO include:
- A Data Exposure report showing the entire IT environment from the perspective of potential attackers;
- Ability to monitor and track the comprehensive attack surface – from new DevOps projects in the whiteboarding stage to legacy applications and systems, including mobile devices, computing endpoints, IoT and embedded systems, and the organization’s industrial control and cyber-physical systems;
- Objective determination of the effectiveness of compensating controls relative to emerging threats and the organization’s unique attacker population through dynamic “what-if” scenario analysis;
- Quantification of expectations and data-driven measurement of realized ROI from planned and implemented security initiatives.
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