Threat modeling for all: how it improves digital lives

Anton P. | September 18, 2020

Threat modeling is similar to keeping a fire extinguisher or restocking the medical cabinet. Even though your apartment is not in any immediate danger, you secure it should the need arise. Threat modeling is all about foreseeing plausible emergencies and arranging practical defense and mitigation strategies. While physical hazards are a priority, a structured process for pinning down digital risks is vital from any standpoint. Let’s observe the perks of systematic danger evaluation and how it is beneficial to you.

What is threat modeling?

Threat modeling is the systematic assessment of potential threats and applicable countering techniques. This process is a combination of technical skills, artistry, and critical thinking. A closely-related term is penetration testing, allowing developers to take hackers’ roles and confront systems’ vulnerabilities.

Successful threat modeling requires unique input and guidelines fully adapted to a specific environment. However, mapping out the potential threats and estimating their severity does not have to be a corporate-exclusive action. Anyone can perform threat modeling and identify the areas that need improvement. While there are many pre-established templates of threat modeling, here is the universal version:

  1. Identifying the assets you want to protect. These are the things that hold value to you. For some, this might be home security, while others might want to preserve their digital privacy.
  2. Recognizing forces that threaten the security of those assets. What adversaries do you think might work against you? List them by highlighting the most prominent ones.
  3. Predicting the likelihood of those risks. How plausible are different attack scenarios?
  4. Preparing an action plan for when attacks strike. If the threat turns out to be highly relevant, you should devise guidelines necessary for preventing it.
  5. Fixing gaps in current security. Put the plan in motion. For instance, if you live in a region heavily influenced by natural disasters, you should take the necessary precautions.
  6. Foreseeing consequences of successful attacks. What will happen if you avoid solving the problems?

Why should you spend time on threat modeling?

Threat modeling can seem like a dull activity, surrounded by an unnecessary mystique. Even companies wrestle with this process, and it is usually at the bottom of the priority list. Security experts need to guide developers and contribute a lot during the production stage. However, threat modeling is relevant beyond companies and developers. Here are the benefits that this process offers:

  • Better awareness of digital threats. Education on cybersecurity is an ongoing process. By performing continuous threat modeling, you can stay aware of the trendy attacks on the prowl.
  • Pre-made guidelines on attack mitigation. The biggest advantage of threat modeling is the research and structured approaches built before the actual incidents. Even if the defense mechanisms in place fail, people have an exact protocol for dealing with the threat.
  • Structured approach towards security. Many have loose cybersecurity guidelines, and people frequently improvise their applications. Threat modeling examines each risk in-depth, evaluates probabilities, and predicts potential outcomes. Hence, it is much more formal documentation, providing insightful and critical information.
  • Expediting products’ development. Developers do not see threat modeling as an inspiring or motivational activity. However, it is worth it in the long run. Production can move at a highly fast pace without it. The truth is that the detections of bugs and flaws later force developers’ to revisit these projects. Consultations with cybersecurity specialists and thorough analysis of threat models minimize the resources needed to sustain products.
  • Recognizing threats relevant to you. Every user scrolling through the web is a potential victim. Most of it is about luck, but skill and knowledge contribute to the difference between safety and danger. As a regular netizen, you should be cautious and ready to tackle threats that come your way.

Threat modeling for a regular netizen: an example

By following the threat modeling stages, let’s devise a prototype for a regular internet visitor.

  1. Netizens value their privacy, data, and comfort. So, they will want to protect these three variables.
  2. What are the threat actors relevant for this threat modeling? Hackers and con artists. Their deceptive means, impersonations, tricks, and other techniques spread malware, steal data, and force users to be skeptical online. Additionally, social media, digital marketers, companies, and other third-party entities manipulate and monetize your data.
  3. Depending on your digital habits and routines, all netizens might have comparable chances of falling victims to scams, tracking, and malware. However, the verdict is relatively simple: nobody should get too comfortable and laid-back online.
  4. You should have a plan if threat actors put your cybersecurity on the line. For instance, learn how you can quickly freeze your bank accounts or remove data from compromised storage services.
  5. Ideally, you pick appropriate solutions and reconsider some digital habits for the sake of security after threat modeling. Antivirus software will assist and alert you of any suspicious activities happening on your devices. A VPN can make a drastic difference between closely monitored browsing and anonymity. The latter is rare, and while people continue to thrive for it, the internet’s tendency to be intrusive is a feature, not a symptom. By installing Atlas VPN, you won’t have to be the subject of suspicious activities, studies, and psychological manipulation.
  6. The final stage of threat modeling makes you imagine the aftermath of attacks. What would happen if your credentials, confidential data, and private documents end up on the public record? Besides humiliation and stress, compromised people need to consider how malicious actors can misuse their data later. Identity theft is a dreadful reality. It not only encompasses privacy violations but a real threat to your reputation and financial stability.
Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.


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