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Boost your cyber security with Threat Modeling – a practical approach to designing secure systems based on NCSC, MOD, and NIST standards 

By William Keogh25 June 20243 min read

What is threat modeling and why is it important? 

Threat modeling is a systematic process of identifying, analysing, and mitigating potential threats to your systems, data, and assets. It helps you to understand the risks you face, the impact they could have, and the best ways to prevent or reduce them. By applying threat modeling to your IT and OT environments, you can ensure that your systems are secure by design, meaning that security is built in from the start and not added as an afterthought. 

Threat modeling is a continuous practice that should be integrated into your system development life cycle (SDLC). It can help you to align your security objectives with your business goals, comply with industry standards and regulations, and foster a culture of security awareness and responsibility within your organisation. 

How to apply threat modeling to your systems.

There are different methods and tools for conducting threat modeling, but they generally follow a similar approach. The basic steps are: 

  • Define the scope and boundaries of your system, including its components, interfaces, data flows, and external dependencies. 
  • Identify the assets that your system handles or protects, such as information, functionality, reputation, or physical resources. 
  • Identify the threat actors that could target your system, such as hackers, insiders, competitors, or nation-states. 
  • Identify the threat scenarios that could compromise your system, such as data breaches, denial of service, sabotage, or espionage. 
  • Assess the likelihood and impact of each threat scenario, using qualitative or quantitative measures. 
  • Identify the existing or planned security controls that could prevent or mitigate each threat scenario, such as encryption, authentication, firewalls, or backups. 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and gaps of your security controls, and prioritise the actions that you need to take to improve your security posture. 

What are the benefits of threat modeling? 

Threat modeling can provide you with many benefits, such as: 

  • Improving your security awareness and understanding of your system and its environment. 
  • Enhancing your security design and architecture by identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses. 
  • Reducing your security costs and risks by preventing or minimising the impact of security incidents. 
  • Increasing your security compliance and assurance by following industry best practices and standards, such as NCSC and NIST. 
  • Strengthening your security culture and communication by involving different stakeholders and roles in the threat modeling process. 

Getting started with threat modeling.

Here are some tips and resources that can help you: 

  • Choose a threat modeling method and tool that suits your needs and preferences. Some examples are STRIDE, DREAD, PASTA, OCTAVE, Trike, Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool, and OWASP Threat Dragon. 
  • Start with a simple and high-level threat model of your system, and refine it as you learn more and discover new threats and controls. 
  • Seek feedback and input from different perspectives and experts, such as developers, testers, architects, analysts, managers, and users. 
  • Update your threat model regularly as your system evolves and changes, and as new threats and controls emerge. 
  • Use your threat model as a guide and reference for your security decisions and actions, and as a way to communicate and demonstrate your security value and performance. 

Threat modeling is a powerful and practical way to improve your cyber security and resilience. By applying it to your IT and OT environments, you can design secure systems that meet your business and security objectives, and that are aligned with NCSC, MOD, and NIST industry best practice.