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MITRE Unveils EMB3D Threat Model for Embedded Systems Security

The MITRE Corporation has recently unveiled the EMB3D Threat Model, a sophisticated framework designed to fortify security across embedded devices. This initiative marks a significant enhancement over existing models such as Common Weakness Enumeration, MITRE ATT&CK®, and Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures, with a particular focus on the unique vulnerabilities inherent to embedded systems.

EMB3D’s Advancements over Similar Frameworks

The MITRE EMB3D framework represents a significant advancement over previous threat modeling frameworks, particularly in its tailored approach to embedded devices used in critical infrastructure. Unlike general frameworks that may apply broadly across many technologies, EMB3D is specifically designed for embedded devices, which are critical components in sectors like manufacturing, energy, and healthcare.

EMB3D builds on existing resources like ATT&CK, CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures), and CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration), providing a more comprehensive knowledge base that includes threats observed in the field as well as those identified through theoretical research and proofs of concept. This allows for a more detailed and device-specific understanding of potential threats and vulnerabilities.

One of the key improvements of EMB3D is its focus on early integration of security measures during the design phase of device development. This proactive approach helps manufacturers understand the evolving threat landscape and apply mitigations earlier, which can significantly reduce the need for costly security additions after the devices are deployed. This not only enhances the security of the devices but also reduces overall security costs by making devices inherently more secure from the outset.

Furthermore, EMB3D is designed as a living framework, which means it will continuously be updated with new information about threat actors, vulnerabilities, and defenses, ensuring that it remains relevant as new threats emerge. This ongoing adaptation is crucial for maintaining the security of critical infrastructure against sophisticated and evolving threats.

Overview of the EMB3D Framework

Knowledge Base and Threat Mapping: EMB3D integrates a detailed knowledge base of cyber threats that have been identified in the field, or demonstrated through theoretical research and proofs-of-concept. Each threat is mapped to specific device properties, which aids in the development of precise threat models tailored to individual device scenarios.

Mitigation Strategies: For each identified threat, EMB3D provides recommended mitigation strategies. These strategies are designed to help manufacturers build security directly into their devices from the outset, rather than retrofitting it post-development.

Adaptive and Evolving: Recognizing the dynamic nature of cyber threats, EMB3D is structured as a “living framework”. It continuously evolves, incorporating new threats and mitigation strategies as they are discovered by security researchers.

Community-Driven Resource: EMB3D functions as an open community resource, promoting a collaborative approach where security professionals and organizations can submit additions and revisions, enhancing the collective understanding and defense against threats.

Detailed Analysis of Threats by Device Properties

EMB3D offers an exhaustive classification of potential threats based on various device properties, spanning hardware, system software, application software, and networking. Some highlights include:

  • Hardware Threats: Such as side-channel attacks through power consumption analysis and unauthorized direct memory access.
  • System Software Threats: Including vulnerabilities like inadequate bootloader protection and exploitability of the system network stack.
  • Application Software Threats: Covering risks from modified application binaries to vulnerabilities in web applications like cross-site scripting and SQL injection.
  • Networking Threats: Addressing issues like undocumented protocol features and network service exposures that could lead to unauthorized access or data breaches.

Collaborative Efforts and Acknowledgements

The development of EMB3D has been a collaborative endeavor involving MITRE, cybersecurity luminaries such as Niyo ‘Little Thunder’ Pearson, Red Balloon Security, and Narf Industries. The framework has undergone extensive peer review and pilot testing across various industries, including energy, water, manufacturing, and healthcare, drawing invaluable insights from these interactions.

Future Prospects

With EMB3D, MITRE is encouraging ongoing collaboration within the cybersecurity community to continually refine and enhance the model. This collaborative effort is vital for staying ahead of emerging threats and ensuring that the framework remains an effective tool for developing secure-by-design embedded devices.

For more information about participating in the development of EMB3D or to explore its detailed threat models and mitigation strategies, interested parties are encouraged to engage with the growing EMB3D community. This engagement will play a crucial role in shaping the future of cybersecurity in embedded systems.

How Can Netizen Help?

Netizen ensures that security gets built-in and not bolted-on. Providing advanced solutions to protect critical IT infrastructure such as the popular “CISO-as-a-Service” wherein companies can leverage the expertise of executive-level cybersecurity professionals without having to bear the cost of employing them full time. 

We also offer compliance support, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and more security-related services for businesses of any size and type. 

Additionally, Netizen offers an automated and affordable assessment tool that continuously scans systems, websites, applications, and networks to uncover issues. Vulnerability data is then securely analyzed and presented through an easy-to-interpret dashboard to yield actionable risk and compliance information for audiences ranging from IT professionals to executive managers.

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