One of the best ways to improve your digital security is to let the past help prepare you for the future. Knowing the tactics threat actors have used in other cyber-attacks will help you determine what you should protect your systems from. Luckily, you needn’t figure that out by yourself. Mitre has created frameworks of the many different ways cyber-attacks have been orchestrated in existing use cases. Here’s how you can use this information to strengthen your cyber-resilience.
What is the Mitre PRE-ATTACK framework?
Mitre is an American organisation conducting federal-funded research into various markets with the aim to create a safer world through their research. Cybersecurity is one of those markets. To help organisations understand where their might need to focus more security resources on, they created two matrices of all techniques cyber-criminals have used to set up and execute attacks in the past. These are called the ATT&CK and the PRE-ATT&CK frameworks.
Even though the ATT&CK framework is most well-known, we see a shift occurring, as PRE-ATT&CK is starting to step out of the shadow of ATT&CK with a more specific focus. Whereas the ATT&CK framework concentrates on the steps taken once an attack is launched, the PRE-ATT&CK framework focusses on the preceding preparation phases, allowing organisations to predict and prepare for attacks before they happen.
Mitre’s frameworks match with other models, helping to frame the extensive matrices. To illustrate how PRE-ATT&CK differs from ATT&CK, we’ve plotted the frameworks in the ‘7 stages of the cyber kill chain’, as created by Lockheed Martin. All steps needed to execute a cyber-attack can be divided over these seven stages. As shown below, the first two stages are broadly covered by Mitre’s PRE-ATT&CK, and the other five by the ATT&CK framework.
How to apply PRE-ATT&CK
Preventing an attack is far more cost-effective than having to repair damages to IT systems, let alone the financial or reputational impact it can have. It is hard and expensive to determine the impact of an attack with IT forensics and replacing infected systems can have a negative effect on overall business productivity.
Incorporating an automated outside-in perspective of your brand’s online exposure allows you to discover vulnerabilities in the same way an attacker might look for entry points into your IT infrastructure. This approach empowers you to regain control over your digital attack surface and mitigate risks before they can be exploited. This approach is called digital footprint management and can be placed under the concept of Digital Risk Protection.
Below is an overview of Mitre’s PRE-ATT&CK framework. The complete matrix is a little too large to be read in detail, so a deep dive into the content is available via this video.
The highlighted fields represent the areas covered by Digital Risk Protection and digital footprint monitoring. The light green indicates partial coverage and deep green full coverage. Combining the PRE-ATT&CK framework with your existing security procedures can help you identify potential threats and weak spots in your systems.
Still, you first need to have a complete overview of your organisation’s digital assets before you can confidently say where you are more likely to be hit. That’s why the digital footprint approach works so well with PRE-ATT&CK. Having both will help you determine and validate where you might have underspent or overspent on security measures, for example.
Besides improving the cyber-resilience of your systems, incorporating the Mitre PRE-ATT&CK framework in the organisation’s digital footprint will bring more business value to the organisation as a whole. This whitepaper explains the PRE-ATT&CK framework in more detail, and describes the specific ROI for your organisation.
Looking for a comprehensive clarification of the security tactics described above, explained with actual use cases? Watch our recorded webinar.
Sebastiaan Bosman is Content Marketeer at Cybersprint. With a background in Communications and Linguistics, he is responsible for the creation and editing processes of most internal and external communication. He writes content such as blogs, whitepapers and case studies, primarily based on Cybersprint’s own research data. Previously, Sebastiaan worked as Content & Communications Advisor at ING Global.