Cloud Security Authors: Mehdi Daoudi, Elizabeth White, John Walsh, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Feed Post

Even If They Hacked It, So What? Why Threat Modeling Matters By @daedtech | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps

Eliminating waste is by far my favorite part of the agile approach to software

Even If They Hacked It, So What? Why Threat Modeling Matters
by Erik Dietrich

Eliminating waste is by far my favorite part of the agile approach to software.

In a world where the entirety of a piece of software is designed up front, I might ship and learn only after the fact that nobody ever uses the software's WhizBang feature.

That's brutal - the entire development team spent three months on that. But in an iterative world where we ship every week or two, we'd have shipped a small slice of that feature, seen that it wasn't getting used, and pivoted to something that provided more value to the users.

The same concept can also be applied to the security of your software. This doesn't mean you'll implement security and ditch it after two weeks if no one tries to break in, or that you should wait until something bad happens to implement security functionality.

But it does mean you should assess threats from a likelihood and impact perspective and then prioritize them accordingly. And, like delivering features, you should do this as close to the start of the project as possible.

This is where threat modeling comes in.

What is threat modeling?
Threat modeling involves being deliberate about identifying who would want to attack the system you are building and how those people would go about conducting the attack. Significantly, as Margaret Rouse points out, it is also about determining "where the most effort should be applied to keep a system secure."

Threat modeling isn't just a brief brainstorming session followed by items hastily added to a team's backlog. Teams define entire processes around it, such as this one described by Microsoft, with varying levels of formalism. The key is to identify all manner of threats and then to tie them to business significance - and thus, priority. Implementing counter-measures then becomes a first class feature for the team.

Some obvious examples come to mind.
If you run an E-Commerce site, financially motivated thieves will want to game the payment system to get free things.  Perhaps politically motivated people would want to get administrative access to publicly vandalize the site with some kind of message. Or perhaps one user would want to target another, gaining inappropriate access to see what that person buys and sells.

But there are also less obvious examples that are equally important. If the site is storing personal information, which operational or IT administrative employees have access to it? Would it be possible for them to record that information and retain it, even after leaving the company? What would happen if they did?

It's not just your employees, either.
Do you have an agency that you're subcontracting operational work to, who, in turn, might be subcontracting it even further? What sort of access do those folks have, and what could they do with it? If your relationship turned sour, could they try to hold your operations hostage somehow?

It is by answering these questions that you start to understand what could happen and how to prioritize counter-measures. And you also gain a sense for how likely a threat is, how important it is to protect pieces of your infrastructure, and if a threat really even matters.

As strange as it may sound- not all threats are equally important.

Security in a Vacuum
Software developers are conscientious people that take pride in their work and knowledge. In a vacuum, this can lead to situations where they make decisions on the basis of doing "the right thing" as a matter of principle rather than profit. They might say to themselves, "what kind of programmer would I be if I didn't create a login for our site and salt and encrypt the passwords being stored to the database?" This would obviously be followed by implementing such a scheme.

But what if the application consisted only of publicly-available functionality and content, such as a simple web-based calculator? Should the developers have done "the right thing" or should they have just skipped implementing signup/login altogether?

Testers are similarly conscientious people that take pride in their work and knowledge - and who can also slip up in the same way. "What kind of tester would I be if I didn't test a scenario where the user doesn't actually enter a password?" They might test this scenario and submit a defect, noting that users could bypass signup and get straight to the content by leaving the password field blank. But if all of the content is publicly available, who cares?

Left to their own devices, these folks will run with "the right thing" due to their sense of professionalism and previous battle scars. That is why threat modeling is so important - it moves decisions about security from happening in ad-hoc fashion at the individual level to deliberate fashion at the team or project level.

Threat Modeling for Business Value
In the example above of creating a spurious login page, nobody ever stopped to ask, "If they hacked it, so what?" If a hacker were able to spoof an existing user and log in, they would...do what, exactly? Use the calculator? Who cares?

If threat modeling had been performed, and those questions had been asked, creation of a login page would either have been deprioritized or, more likely, jettisoned altogether. It would not have come across a developer's desk as something to implement in the first place, and a developer would be unlikely to take it upon herself to do it as gold plating. After all, the team would already have been through the threat modeling process and thus, all aware that ‘unauthorized' access to the calculator is a non-issue.

Instead, the team might have come away understanding that distributed denial of service attacks (DDos) were a threat to the calculator's core business. They would then be able to plan high availability and remediation of threat as properties of the system from the beginning. In this fashion, the team is working not just on the highest value user features but also on the highest value security features as well.

Assumption of Control
With both user features and security properties of the system, it's important to prioritize the work with the highest ‘bang for the buck' factor. But there's an additional component to the specific value of threat modeling.

The attack vectors for a piece of software or a system are conceptually infinite, as the black hat hackers of the world are constantly dreaming up creative new ways to ruin your day. What's not infinite is the time and resources of the team - those are often highly constrained.

Right out of the gate you face a tall order. The only hope of keeping up is to identify the most damaging, likely threats and design your system in a way that mitigates these.

In a world where attacks on your application are a constant way of life, threat modeling gives you the best fighting chance to sleep easily, knowing that you've got a good strategy for preventing the worst attacks and that you've spent your money wisely.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By SmartBear Blog

As the leader in software quality tools for the connected world, SmartBear supports more than two million software professionals and over 25,000 organizations in 90 countries that use its products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications. With today’s applications deploying on mobile, Web, desktop, Internet of Things (IoT) or even embedded computing platforms, the connected nature of these applications through public and private APIs presents a unique set of challenges for developers, testers and operations teams. SmartBear's software quality tools assist with code review, functional and load testing, API readiness as well as performance monitoring of these modern applications.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...