Cybersecurity threat model for embedded devices

Cybersecurity threat model for embedded devices

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A consortium in the US has developed a model of cybersecurity threats to embedded devices, providing a common understanding of these threats with the security mechanisms required for mitigation.

The EMB3D cybersecurity threat model is a result of a collaborative effort by MITRE, Niyo Little Thunder Pearson, Red Balloon Security, and Narf Industries.

Numerous organizations have tested out the threat model, offering invaluable feedback across energy, water, manufacturing, aerospace, health, automotive, as well as researchers and threat tool vendors.

EMB3D aligns with and expands on several existing models, including Common Weakness Enumeration, MITRE ATT&CK and Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures, but with a specific embedded device focus. This is based on observation of use by threat actors, proof-of-concept and theoretical/conceptual security research publications, and device vulnerability and weakness reports.

The threats are mapped to device properties to help users develop and tailor accurate threat models for specific embedded devices. For each threat, suggested mitigations are provided for technical mechanisms that device vendors should implement to mitigate the given threat by building security into the device.

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EMB3D is intended to be a living framework, where new threats and mitigations are added and updated over time as new threat actors emerge and security researchers discover new categories of vulnerabilities, threats, and security defences.

EMB3D is a public, community resource where all information is openly available, and the security community can submit additions and revisions.

The team is now looking to strengthen the ability of the model to enable “secure by design”.

“Our framework’s strength lies in the collaborative efforts and rigorous review process across industries,” said Yosry Barsoum, vice president and director, Center for Securing the Homeland at MITRE. “The diverse perspectives and invaluable insights shared have fortified our approach, ensuring a robust and effective solution to address the evolving challenges in embedded device security.”

The initial release of EMB3D includes the Device Properties and Threats enumerations. The full set of Mitigations will be available in the Summer 2024 update.

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Device properties describe a device’s hardware and software components and capabilities of a device. These include physical hardware, network services and protocols, software, and firmware. Each category is further divided into sub-properties that are then mapped to a set of threats. By mapping properties, users can identify the threats associated with a given device property.

EMB3D threats identify how a threat actor can achieve a specific objective or effect on a system or device. Each threat description includes (i) information about the technical features that are targeted by the threat; (ii) the actions that must be performed by the threat actor to cause the threat’s effect, including the impact or effect the threat will have on the device; and (iii) the vulnerabilities or weaknesses within that mechanism that enable the threat actions.

Mitigation strategies and techniques are described for each threat. These can be leveraged by device vendors to prevent and reduce the risk of a threat, and by end users to validate that devices are sufficiently protected against that threat. The mitigations define the mechanisms or technologies that protect against the threat while remaining flexible in how mitigations can be implemented within the device’s unique constraints.

The MITRE EMB3D Threat Model is now publicly available at


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