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What is the MITRE ATT&CK framework?
The MITRE ATT&CK® framework is an open-source knowledge base of tactics and techniques used by cyber attackers to gain access, evade detection, and move laterally within a network.
The framework was created by MITRE, a non-profit government research organization in 2013, through years of studying the movements of cyber attackers. It leverages real-world observations from threat actors that are actively targeting organizations around the world.
The framework helps security teams prioritize which threats they should focus on, identify gaps in their defense strategies, and measure their effectiveness at detecting and mitigating malicious activities.
By focusing on the full scope of an attacker's operations, MITRE ATT&CK can help organizations detect incidents earlier and respond faster to them.
Let's discuss more about this concept and how it can be implemented for rigid cybersecurity protection.
What the MITRE ATT&CK framework does
This framework provides a common taxonomy that can be used to track the techniques and tactics adopted by threat actors. This framework is not only useful for understanding malicious activity, but also can be used as a tool to detect and defend against potential threats.
The framework is broken down into several levels of attack categories ranging from pre-attack activities such as:
- Initial access
- Execution methods including malware
- Weaponizing documents
- Defense evasion techniques such as obfuscation
- Privilege escalation
- Credential access
- Lateral movement
With the ability to understand these categories and the various techniques within them, security teams are better equipped to spot threats before they cause damage.
Additionally, MITRE ATT&CK provides an extensive list of resources which allow organizations to build preventative measures tailored toward specific threats and attack tactics.
For example, an MSP can use the framework to create specific malware signatures that are tailored to prevent malicious activity, or they can deploy automated processes that monitor and block suspicious network traffic.
These resources can be leveraged to enhance an organization’s security posture, helping protect against potential threats.
Understanding tactics vs. techniques
MITRE ATT&CK makes it easier to understand the tactics and techniques used by threat actors. Tactics refer to the high-level goals that a threat actor wants to accomplish, such as data exfiltration or privilege escalation.
Techniques are specific methods used to achieve these goals, such as using malware or exploiting vulnerabilities. Understanding both of these concepts is key to recognizing malicious activity and defending against potential threats.
For example, a threat actor may use malware to access a system. This is an example of the “Initial Access” tactic, which has several techniques that can be used to achieve it, such as malicious code execution or phishing.
By understanding these tactics and techniques, organizations can take the necessary steps to prevent attackers from gaining access to their systems in the first place.
How the MITRE ATT&CK framework benefits MSPs
The MITRE ATT&CK framework helps MSPs to identify threats quickly and accurately. It provides a comprehensive list of cyber-attack techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) that attackers use to exploit vulnerabilities in their systems.
The framework also facilitates better collaboration with clients, as it provides greater visibility into potential threats by providing detailed information about the attack methodologies used by attackers.
With this knowledge, MSPs can develop more proactive security strategies and detect malicious activity more quickly.
Additionally, the ATT&CK framework can help to reduce risk and exposure from known attack vectors by enabling faster response times during incident investigation processes.
MSPs can also use the framework to identify areas of their clients' networks that may need additional security controls and assess risk for new vulnerabilities.
By mapping out the various techniques used by attackers, MSPs can help their clients stay ahead of potential threats.
Furthermore, the ATT&CK framework enables MSPs to optimize their threat intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities.
For example, by cataloging the various tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by attackers, MSPs can better focus their security monitoring and analysis efforts.
This in turn allows them to detect and respond to threats, thereby increasing their clients’ overall security posture.
By leveraging the framework, MSPs can identify emerging threats more quickly and develop effective countermeasures to mitigate them.
H2: Best practices for using the MITRE ATT&CK framework
Utilizing the MITRE ATT&CK framework isn't just a one-time process. It should be used on an ongoing basis to ensure that networks and systems remain secure. Here are some best practices for using the framework:
- Start simple: Before taking on the entire MITRE ATT&CK framework, start with a few tactics and techniques. Focus on those that are relevant to your organization’s environment and security posture.
- Train personnel: Ensure that all IT personnel understand the concept of threat modeling and how it can be used in conjunction with the MITRE ATT&CK framework. This will enable them to identify possible attack vectors and create mitigation strategies within their own systems.
- Leverage automation: Automation is key to efficiently monitoring and detecting malicious activity within an organization's networks, systems, and applications. Utilizing automated tools such as security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platforms can help organizations quickly identify, investigate, and respond to potential threats.
- Incorporate into incident response program: Integrating the MITRE ATT&CK framework into an organization’s incident response program will provide additional visibility into the attack surface and can be used to strengthen remediation procedures.
- Monitor and review: Continuous monitoring of activities within a system is essential for effective security posture management and responding to attacks in a timely manner. Reviewing the MITRE ATT&CK framework on a regular basis can assist with identifying new techniques that may have been missed or overlooked in the past.
Implementing the framework into your cyber defense plan
Again, the importance of incorporating the MITRE ATT&CK framework cannot be overstated. Using this framework helps MSPs rely on intel that demonstrates how most threat actors behave.
Ultimately, this framework will provide a common language to discuss security issues, and it will enable you to develop a holistic approach to managing your organization's cyber risks.
By utilizing the framework, you can create processes that identify, assess, prioritize, and respond to cyber threats in an efficient manner.
You can also use the framework to evaluate policies, procedures, and technologies that are necessary for meeting regulatory requirements and industry standards.
Additionally, the framework provides guidance on how organizations can protect their assets from malicious actors by providing effective incident response plans and other protective measures.
Our webinar on how to develop an incident response plan is a great tool if you have further questions on best practices.
Get started today with cybersecurity management
The MITRE ATT&CK framework is a powerful tool for organizations to use in order to better protect their assets from malicious adversaries.
By utilizing the framework, organizations can gain increased visibility into their attack surface and create a comprehensive cyber defense plan that is tailored to their unique needs.
If you need help getting started, ConnectWise can assist with implementing the MITRE ATT&CK framework within your environment. Contact us today to speak to one of our experts and learn how to protect your organization from threats.