Threat Modeling

August 2, 2023 by
Mark Nash

As cyber threats continue to increase, businesses must take more proactive steps to protect their sensitive data and digital assets from cybercriminals. Modern threats to data security are persistent and come from many different places. Today's offices are highly digitally sophisticated, and just about every work activity relies on some type of technology and data sharing. As a result of that connectivity, hackers can breach these systems from several entry points, including computers, smartphones, cloud applications, and network infrastructure. It's estimated that cybercriminals can penetrate 93% of company networks. One approach that can help organizations fight these intrusions is threat modeling. Threat modeling is a process used in cybersecurity that involves identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities to an organization's assets and systems. Threat modeling helps businesses prioritize risk management and mitigation strategies to reduce the probability of falling victim to a costly cyber incident. Here are the steps businesses can follow to conduct a threat model.

Identify Assets That Need Protection

The first step is to identify the assets most critical to the business, including items such as sensitive data, intellectual property, or financial information, any data that cybercriminals will be likely to go after (which is basically all data). Don't forget to include more mundane assets, such as company email accounts; business email compromise is a fast-growing type of cyber-attack that capitalizes on breached company email logins.

Identify Potential Threats

The next step is to identify potential threats to these assets. Common threats include cyber-attacks, such as phishing, ransomware, malware, or social engineering. Another category of threats that must be considered is physical breaches or insider threats where employees or vendors have access to sensitive information. Remember, threats aren't always malicious; human error causes approximately 88% of data breaches. So, ensure you're aware of mistake-related threats, such as:

  • Weak passwords
  • Unclear, poor, or non-existent security policies
  • Lack of employee training

Assess Likelihood and Impact

Once you've identified potential threats, the next step is to assess the likelihood and impact of these threats. Businesses must understand how likely each threat is to occur and the potential impact on their operations, reputation, and financial stability. Base the threat likelihood on current cybersecurity statistics, as well as a thorough vulnerability assessment. It's best this assessment is by a trusted 3rd party IT service provider, as performing your assessment with only internal input makes you more likely to miss something.

Prioritize Risk Management Strategies

Prioritize risk management strategies based on the likelihood and impact of each potential threat. Most businesses can't tackle everything at once due to time and cost constraints, so it's necessary to rank solutions based on the biggest impact on cybersecurity. Some common strategies you should implement include:

  • Access controls
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion detection systems
  • Employee training and awareness programs
  • Endpoint device management

Continuously Review and Update the Model

Threat modeling is not a one-time process, as cyber threats are constantly evolving. Businesses must continuously review and update their threat models to help ensure that their security measures are effective.

Benefits of Threat Modeling for Businesses

Threat modeling is an essential process for businesses to reduce their cybersecurity risk. Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities to their assets and systems helps them rank risk management strategies, as well as reduce the likelihood and impact of cyber incidents. Here are just a few of the benefits of adding threat modeling to a cybersecurity strategy.

Improved Understanding of Threats and Vulnerabilities

Threat modeling can help businesses gain a better understanding of specific threats and vulnerabilities that could impact their assets. It identifies gaps in their security measures and helps develop risk management strategies. Ongoing threat modeling can also help companies stay out in front of new threats. Artificial intelligence is birthing new types of cyber threats every day. Companies that are complacent can fall victim to new attacks.

Cost-effective Risk Management

Addressing risk management based on the likelihood and impact of threats reduces costs by enabling you to optimize company security investments. This will help ensure that businesses divide resources effectively and efficiently.