Defining Threat Modeling for DevOps Teams

12 Jun 2023 by Development

As organizations strive to deliver software and services on a continuous basis, the need for DevOps teams to understand their digital assets and vulnerabilities has become more pressing.  

Without proper threat modeling, organizations can miss important security threats that may impede their progress towards successful project delivery.  

In this blog post, we will examine what threat modeling entails and how it applies to DevOps teams in order to ensure they have necessary security measures in place throughout the development life cycle. 

What is Threat Modeling? 

DevOps teams are savvy when it comes to anticipating and minimizing security risks in software applications. This is possible thanks to the adoption of threat modeling as a proactive approach.  

Threat modeling helps teams identify, triage, and correct potential security threats during each stage of the software life cycle, including development, deployment, and ongoing maintenance operations. By leveraging such an approach, DevOps teams can keep their application infrastructure secure even as threats continue to evolve over time. 

By systematically examining the architecture, data flows, and weak areas of a system, DevOps teams can anticipate and address vulnerabilities before they become critical issues. One of the big appeals of creating a threat model is the ability to identify and address any flaws within an IT asset before they can be exploited by malicious actors. 

Working together as a specialized team, developers, operators, and security experts come together to contribute to the threat modeling process. This encourages collaborative efforts between adjacent roles within the company and fuels an atmosphere of mutual accountability in providing a safe and secure environment for the applications that they work with.  

Not only do all parties benefit from this initiative but building meaningful relationships can positively contribute to security risk reduction and create a new culture where everyone takes shared responsibility for the entire security infrastructure moving forward. 

By integrating threat modeling into the DevOps pipeline, organizations can enhance their security measures, reduce potential attack vectors, and improve the resilience of their software systems against cyber threats. 

How Threat Modeling Benefits DevOps

The benefits of introducing threat modeling into dev ops culture are multifaceted. The immediate benefit that organizations will notice is the increased collaboration between departments. These collaborations happen naturally during the threat modeling process and continue long afterward.  

From a managerial perspective, having departments that are organically interwoven and avoiding scenarios where one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing is always an essential goal. There are several other benefits that businesses will see once they complete the threat modelling process, including:  

Improved Security Posture

Creating a threat model enables DevOps teams to systematically identify, prioritize, and address potential security vulnerabilities within their software development lifecycle.  

By mapping out the attack surface and understanding the various threats that could exploit these weaknesses, teams can proactively design and implement robust security measures tailored to their specific needs. This not only helps in reducing the risk of breaches and data leaks but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement where security becomes an integral part of the development process.  

Reduced Costs

By systematically uncovering vulnerabilities and prioritizing them based on their potential impact, teams can strategically allocate resources and focus on the most critical areas. This early identification and mitigation of threats help prevent costly security breaches, data leaks, and damage to an organization's reputation.  

Furthermore, incorporating threat modeling into the development process ensures that security measures are integrated from the onset, reducing the need for expensive and time-consuming rework later. The improved collaboration between developers, operations, and security professionals also contributes to more efficient workflows and faster resolution of issues.  

Overall, the implementation of threat modeling in the DevOps environment not only bolsters security but also optimizes resource allocation, ultimately driving down costs associated with software development and maintenance. 

Improved Compliance

Creating a threat model significantly aids DevOps teams in improving compliance with industry-specific regulations and standards, as well as internal security policies. By systematically identifying and analyzing potential vulnerabilities within the development lifecycle, teams can gain a comprehensive understanding of their security posture and address any gaps or shortcomings. This process allows organizations to demonstrate a proactive approach to risk management, which is often a key requirement for regulatory bodies.  

How to Build a Threat Model

The basic threat modeling workflow involves setting the scope, analyzing the asset, identifying, analyzing, and ranking threats, and suggesting fixes. Follow the steps below to get your DevOps team started on the path towards implementing a solid threat model:  

Define the Parameters

The first step in threat modeling objectives include getting a clear picture of the asset. Exactly which one of your IT assets needs a threat model developed around it? Is it an app or a service? What’s the current process that employees are following to provide the product to customers? These are all questions that should be answered in depth by all team members. Once completed, narrow the focus to a specific system.  

Asset Evaluation 

After setting the scope the next step to take is to create an inventory of all of the asset’s components. This is the time to be as meticulous as possible. The devil is in the details so pay attention to the minutiae during this step.   

Have your team map out the architecture of the asset and diagram a data flow to get a high-level sense of the asset’s role in the company. How does the business utilize the asset? Who has access to it? Is there a third-party dependency? What would make this a worthwhile target for an attack? These are questions that you should leave this stage with detailed answers to.   

Pinpoint Risks and Threats

This is a relatively straightforward step. The team should list as many potential threats and risks as possible. External and internal threats should both be addressed. In many cases, threats to IT assets are not just solely from external malicious actors. Sometimes, threats are introduced to organizations due to recklessness or carelessness from employees. It’s important to consider all kinds of threats during this stage of the process.  

Analyze and Rank Threats

After listing out all possible threats, the team should then create step by step scenarios for how each those threats would play out. Would it be a ransomware attack? Phishing scheme targeting high level employees? Data exfiltration? Depending on the threat, the team should map out exactly how the threat would unfold. 

Once you’re aware of all of the possible threats to your IT asset and how the threat would actually play out in real time you can then start to rank the threats. They should be ranked from worst case scenario to least likely to disrupt daily operations. The most commonly used method is to multiply the damage potential of the event by the likelihood of it happening.  

Suggest Fixes

During this step the team collaboratively decides on what the best course of action would be to deal with each threat. A satisfactory mitigation plan should either eliminate the threat all together or reduce it to a level that is deemed acceptable by all team members. Commom fixes include implementing firewalls, adding multifactor authentication to particularly sensitive apps or services, and code changes.  

After completing these steps, the team should document their results and share them with a decision maker. Regular reviews are essential for keeping the threat model up to date. 

No Cost Concierge Service

While incorporating DevOps into an organization brings a number of benefits to the table, effective threat modeling should not be overlooked. Threat modeling can provide vital insights and suggest protective measures that can give their software delivery process optimal security.  

As such, organizations must apply a rigorous strategy to threat modelling by first setting the scope, analyzing the asset, identifying threats and then ranking them accordingly. Through this approach, organizations can identify potential security breaches early in the development process and integrate precautionary measures to ensure a secure project delivery.   

To avoid costly oversights in their digital assets and take the necessary steps towards successful project delivery, organizations should connect with technology experts today to learn what problems they can help with. makes it easy to get free consultations for your DevOps teams. Unsure of where to start when it comes to building a threat model for your organization? Connect with our concierge team today to get the information you need to be successful – all at no cost.   

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