Home Security News EMB3D Threat Model: Revolutionizing Embedded Device Security for a Safer Future

EMB3D Threat Model: Revolutionizing Embedded Device Security for a Safer Future

Posted: January 4, 2024

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Introduction of EMB3D Threat Model

The EMB3D Threat Model is a ground-breaking initiative developed collaboratively by MITRE, Red Balloon Security, Narf Industries, and Niyo 'Little Thunder' Pearson of ONE Gas. The crucial purpose behind creating this security framework is to offer an effective, collaborative framework for a common understanding of threats and suitable mitigation strategies in cyber defense.

About the Collaborators

The architecting of the EMB3D Threat Model is a highly collaborative venture involving eminent entities in the field of cybersecurity. MITRE, one of the key developers, is a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. Another significant contributor, Red Balloon Security, is a leading provider of cybersecurity services for embedded devices. Meanwhile, Narf Industries specializes in application security, offering assessments and consulting for protecting software and hardware technologies. Lastly, Niyo 'Little Thunder' Pearson brings an experiential perspective from his role at ONE Gas, a large-scale US-based natural gas service provider.

Purpose of EMB3D Threat Model

The EMB3D Threat Model was developed with a primary goal: to provide an effective, collaborative framework for gaining a comprehensive understanding of threats and the best mitigation strategies. The platform TruSTAR defined this model as an "embedded system security research tool for identifying and exploiting potential attack vectors." This implies that it provides a useful means to understand vulnerabilities, face possible risk scenarios, and devise appropriate prevention measures and response protocols.

Common Understanding of Threats and Mitigation Strategies

This innovative model allows cyber defense teams to better understand potential risks in their system landscapes and corresponding mitigation strategies. This awareness prompts a better foundation for devising robust defense mechanisms, ensuring system integrity, and maintaining operations despite potential threats.

Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape

The model distinctly recognizes the rapidly evolving nature of cyber threats. It is highly adaptable and extends broad coverage of the threat landscape. With this model, organizations can more confidently face evolving cyberattack techniques and formulate effective defense shields. It also equips teams with a detailed and clear picture of potential impact zones within systems, thus enabling better defense planning and preparedness.

EMB3D as a Knowledge Base and Mitigation Tool

The EMB3D Threat Model serves not just as a framework for comprehending threats but also as a robust knowledge base that broadens the scope of existing resources and acts as a valuable mitigation tool. Its core focus on embedded devices in critical infrastructure sets it apart. This model maps threats to particular device properties, thereby assisting in customizing threat models, and exclusively focuses on potential measures that device vendors can practically implement.

Expansion of Existing Resources

EMB3D expands upon existing resources such as ATT&CK, CWE, and CVE but with a sharp focus on embedded devices. ATT&CK, developed by MITRE, is a widely used knowledge base and model for cybersecurity threats. At the same time, Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) is a community system developed to understand common software and hardware weaknesses. On the other hand, common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) is a list of publicly disclosed cybersecurity vulnerabilities. By building on these tried and tested resources, EMB3D provides tailored knowledge and defense mechanisms for embedded devices and critical infrastructures.

Mapping of Threats to Device Properties

A unique feature of the EMB3D model is how it maps threats to specific device properties. This allows threat models to be individualized to each device, making them much more helpful for device vendors and enabling a more versatile and precise response to potential threats. This tailored approach helps identify vulnerabilities, understand potential impact areas, and plan defense strategies most suited to specific devices.

Technical Mitigations by Device Vendors

EMB3D displays an exclusive focus on technical mitigations that device vendors can realistically implement. This specificity ensures that the model can be directly used to improve the security of embedded devices and the wider infrastructure. The aim is to support vendors in understanding the potential threats to their devices and equip them with feasible and effective countermeasures to secure their products and services against malicious cyber activities.

An Evolving Toolkit

It is important to note that the EMB3D model is continuously updated with new information about threat actors, vulnerabilities, and defenses. This commitment to progression ensures that the model stays relevant in the rapidly changing landscape of cybersecurity threats, offering users an evolving toolkit that is responsive and proactive in addressing the challenges of securing embedded systems in critical infrastructures.

Benefits of the EMB3D Model

The EMB3D model offers a multitude of benefits to ensure robust and agile cyber defense. It assists ICS device manufacturers in understanding the ever-evolving threat landscape earlier in the design cycle, reduces the need for post-design security additions, leading to more secure devices and cost savings, and offers the advantage of continual updates, keeping pace with the latest threat intelligence.

Understanding Evolving Threat Landscape Early in the Design Cycle

One of the key benefits of the EMB3D model is its ability to enhance understanding of the evolving threat landscape earlier in the design cycle of Industrial Control System (ICS) devices. This means that the manufacturers of these critical devices obtain a clear and early insight into potential threats. This results in a shift from reactive to proactive threat management, thus enabling them to design and produce inherently secure devices.

Reduction of Post-Design Security Additions

With an early understanding of the threat landscape, EMB3D reduces the need for security additions post-design. This is a significant milestone, as post-design security measures often come with high costs and can potentially compromise the device's functionality. By embedding security measures from the outset, ICS device manufacturers can ensure that they produce secure, reliable devices that stay resilient against vulnerabilities. This strategy also leads to significant cost savings in the long run, as it minimizes the potential need for retrofitting security features or dealing with breaches and data loss.

Continuous Updates

The EMB3D model proposes a dynamic and ever-improving framework that benefits from ongoing updates from maintainers and the wider cybersecurity community. These updates include still-emerging information on threat actors, vulnerabilities, and defense strategies. The continuous evolution and updating mechanism of EMB3D ensures it remains up-to-date, relevant, and effective in dealing with emerging threats. It provides a proactive security platform that evolves with the threat landscape.

Through continuous updates and feedback from the cybersecurity community, it strives to grow more robust and efficient, revolutionizing security measures in a world increasingly reliant on digitization and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

EMB3D Pre-release Review and Future Launch

The EMB3D Threat Model, before its official launch, is opening up for a pre-release review. The pioneers behind this innovative model encourage stakeholders from various spheres, including device vendors, asset owners, academics, and researchers, to participate in this preview process. The official launch of the EMB3D model is expected to take place in early 2024.

Pre-release Review by Stakeholders

The EMB3D team encourages a thorough pre-release review of the model from various stakeholders. Device vendors, asset owners, researchers, and academics are invited to provide their expertise and input. This inclusive approach seeks to benefit from these stakeholders' broad experience and diverse perspectives. It is also a proactive step towards refining the model further, ensuring its effectiveness and adaptability to various contexts.

Contributions by Various Entities

Each contributor to the pre-release review process brings a unique lens to scrutinizing the EMB3D model. Device vendors can provide insights from a manufacturing and market perspective, whereas asset owners can contribute valuable feedback related to practical deployment scenarios. Meanwhile, academics and researchers can give theoretical perspectives, innovating new ways to strengthen and extend the model.

Transforming Cybersecurity Culture

The planned pre-release review and eventual official launch of the EMB3D Threat Model signify meaningful steps towards transforming global cybersecurity culture. By integrating diverse perspectives and ensuring continual improvement, this initiative believes in creating highly effective, universally adaptable, and constantly evolving cybersecurity tactics. Thus, ensuring crucial infrastructure and embedded devices are always one step ahead in the battle against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.