Jon Baleva Jan 25, 2024
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What is Threat Modeling: Process and Methodologies

As there is an increase in the number of hacking incidents and security threats, many organizations have made cybersecurity their priority. They only brought security threats to their attention when they risked the business’s reputation, remediation costs, and loss of business. 

Our lives, both corporate and personal, have shifted to the online world, and we have so much at stake. This enabled us to take up cybersecurity and digital security. Cybersecurity professionals are working frontline to protect the data, assets, and identity by deploying a load of defenses and countermeasures to keep the data and sensitive information safe. 

Threat modeling is an easy and cost-effective way to enable security in the design phase before any code is written. Its primary intention is to perform a proactive cybersecurity threat assessment. You can have your threat modeling process, but to do so, we shall elaborate on the term Threat Modeling, its process, and methodologies. 

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What is Threat Modeling?

Threat modeling is a proactive strategy for evaluating risks. It is a process of identifying and prioritizing potential threats to protect valuable data and sensitive information. In other terms, it is a method of optimizing network security by locating vulnerabilities, identifying objectives, and developing countermeasures to prevent or reduce the effects of cyber-attacks against the system. 

One of the apparent benefits of threat modeling is the improved application security posture. Organizations often identify application vulnerabilities in the final stages of software development. With threat modeling, these threats are resolved through security controls, thus forcing them to be implemented in the design phase. This injects security with the design principles into the application’s architecture and reduces threats and vulnerabilities before the codes are written. It reduces the effects of a cyberattack and reduces remediation costs. 

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Why is Threat Modeling important?

Cybercrime is taking place every day, all day long. There is no stopping it but, all we can do is protect our networks and computer systems from these malicious attacks. To fight this, sound threat modeling design for intense security is essential. It can help the security teams to understand where security is lacking, how it is vulnerable and help them make an informed decision. 

  • Threat modeling is vital as it helps the security teams prioritize threats and ensure the resources are evenly and effectively distributed. 
  • The security teams can conduct threat modeling at any point during the application development, but it is always safe and best to do it at the start of the project. 
  • When carried out routinely, it will help the security teams to ensure the protections are in line with the ever-evolving threats. 

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The Threat Modelling Process

While performing the threat modeling process, several aspects and processes should be included. It works by identifying the threats that have caused harm to the application or the computer system. It enforces analyzing the software architecture, enabling a deeper understanding of essential aspects of the system. 

Threat modeling is the process of taking a broader look at assessing the organization’s digital assets, identifying the weak spots, determining the threats, and coming up with protection plans. Generally, the developers perform the threat modeling process by asking these four questions.

  • What are we working on? Application infrastructure diagram.
  • What can go wrong? Identify the threats.
  • What are we doing to defend against these threats? Determining countermeasures and mitigation.   
  • Did we do an excellent job on each of the previous steps? Validate and rank the threats. 

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To understand each of the questions specifically, you need to have a clearer understanding of the components to address the threats. 

  • Threat Intelligence: 

Threat intelligence is an area of collecting information about types of threats, detection of the mechanism and tools, identifying the motivation of malicious hackers, and the vulnerabilities they might exploit. They enforce it to enrich the understanding of possible threats and inform responses.

  • Mitigation Capabilities:

Mitigation capabilities are referred to as the power of the tools and technologies used to protect, detect, and respond to a type of threat. Assessing the current stuff will help you determine whether you need additional resources to mitigate a threat. 

  • Risk Assessment:

Risk assessment tools are necessary to understand the current status of their security systems. It develops plans to address vulnerabilities with the vigorous testing of systems and solutions. 

  • Threat Mapping:

Following the paths of potential threats defines the process of threat mapping. It is used to expect the movement of attackers so that defenses and resources need to be effectively layered or applied. 

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Threat Modeling Methodologies

The varying structured approaches for threat modeling are called methodologies. With the increasing number of cyber-attacks, there are various methods through which cybercrime is fought. The suitable model depends on the type of threat you are facing. Following are a few methodologies that are used for threat modeling. 

  • VAST
  • Trike
  • Attack trees
  • Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS)


STRIDE is the threat model created in the late 90s by Microsoft engineers. It is meant to guide threat discovery in a system. STRIDE stands for the six categories of threats it covers. 

  • Spoofing: an impersonating user or computer pretends to another, violating the authenticity.
  • Tampering: attackers modifying the data or code within a system to achieve malicious goals. It violates integrity. 
  • Repudiation: the ability of the intruder to deny their entry and perform malicious activities. It is impossible to link the action due to the absence of proof. 
  • Information Disclosure: exposing or leaking protected data to a user who isn’t authorized to see it, violating its confidentiality. 
  • Denial of Service (DoS): services are exhausted and overloaded with traffic to prevent legitimate use, violating the availability. 
  • Elevation of Privilege: attackers grant themselves the privilege to execute commands and functions. 


PASTA stands for Process for Attack Simulation and Threat Analysis, a seven-step attacker-centric methodology. It is designed to focus on aligning technical security requirements with business activities. It offers a dynamic threat identification, enumeration, and scoring process. The steps of the PASTA model are: 

  • Define business objectives.
  • Define the technical scope of assets.
  • Application decomposition and identifying its controls.
  • Threat analysis.
  • Vulnerability and weakness detection. 
  • Attack modeling and enumeration. 
  • Risk and impact analysis. 


DREAD is a threat modeling method used to rank and assess security risks in 5 categories. 

  • Damage Potential: ranks the extent of the damage if the vulnerability is exploited. 
  • Reproducibility: ranks on how easy it is to reproduce the attack.
  • Exploitability: rates the effort required to launch an attack.
  • Affected Users: a rough value on how many users will be affected if a weakness is exploited. 
  • Discoverability: measuring how easy it is to discover a threat. 


VAST stands for Visual, Agile, and Simple Threat modeling. It provides unique actional outputs for the specific needs of various stakeholders. It is a modeling platform that distinguishes between the application and operational threat models.


Trike is an open-source tool that focuses on threat models as risk management tools. It operates from a defensive viewpoint, where threats are identified and given risk values. 

6.Attack trees

Attack trees are conceptual diagrams that display how they can attack the assets. It consists of root nodes with possible paths as different branches with child nodes. It is one of the oldest threat modeling techniques, which is now used by combining PASTA, CVSS, and STRIDE. 

7.Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS)

The CVSS system is designed to access threats, identify effects, and assign a numerical score to understand their intensity. This representation helps organizations easily understand the depth of impact and prioritize unique vulnerability management processes. 


The OCTAVE, which stands for Operational Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation, is a risk-based threat modeling methodology. It focuses only on assessing organizational risks and does not address technological risks. It comprises three phases:

  • Building asset-based threat profiles
  • Identifying infrastructural vulnerabilities 
  • Developing and planning a security strategy

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The vast number of malicious attacks requires adequate methodologies to prevent and mitigate their effect on the network and system. Consider having various threat models interconnected with one another. Keeping in mind is that a threat model is a live document and needs regular updates. There are several ways to assess security threats, which is because the threats will continue no matter what, as hackers keep developing alternative ways to conduct their malicious activities. 

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Jon Baleva is an IT professional with 20 years of experience in programming and networking. He is an expert in Python & IT Security domains as well as in Operating Systems (OS). He has trained professionals and students in IT Programming courses, Microsoft Azure, Linux   & MAC OS. He is also a writer who writes on tech-related topics for various tech magazines in Philippine. He is now an IT Trainer with Edoxi Training Institute, Dubai.