The MITRE ATT&CK® framework has become an invaluable resource for security teams looking to improve their threat detection and response capabilities. ATT&CK provides comprehensive mappings of adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures based on real-world observations. By leveraging ATT&CK, organizations can develop more effective defenses aligned to how attackers operate in the wild.
In this post, we cover the key benefits of adopting ATT&CK, best practices for utilization, how it can aid threat hunting and investigations, and how it’s integrated into The MixMode Platform.
The MITRE ATT&CK Framework
The MITRE ATT&CK Framework is a comprehensive tactic and technique lexicon that allows threat analysts and security professionals to recognize, identify, and protect against malicious attackers. Created by the nonprofit organization MITRE, this framework is presented in a dynamic matrix format comprising 12 different categories with over 200 subcategories. This allows security professionals to easily navigate and take a holistic view of all available cyberattack techniques, tactics, and procedures.
The framework was developed through research and analysis of real-world attacks and offers highly accurate strategies and validation evidence to support its legitimacy. It also aids in understanding attack operations life cycle across multiple platforms such as cloud-based applications, networks, servers, or endpoints. Additionally, its user-friendly display helps newcomers quickly grasp complex topics related to cybersecurity information, allowing them to better protect their systems from potential threats or weaknesses. With various components organized in an easy-to-use format and accessible guidelines for use by security organizations of all sizes, the MITRE ATT&CK Framework proves invaluable for enhancing an organization’s defenses against today’s sophisticated threats.
Why ATT&CK Matters for Enterprise Security
The MITRE ATT&CK framework provides numerous advantages for enterprise security teams:
- Improved threat visibility: ATT&CK provides a model of adversary behavior that spans initial access, execution, persistence, privilege escalation, defense evasion, credential access, discovery, lateral movement, collection, exfiltration, and command and control for a comprehensive view of how attacks unfold.
- Better detection coverage: By aligning detections and controls to ATT&CK, teams gain improved coverage for known attacker behaviors. Gaps become easier to identify, and security teams can prioritize defenses.
- Faster investigations: ATT&CK gives security analysts a consistent language and taxonomy for describing and investigating incidents. This speeds up root cause analysis and remediation.
- Proactive threat hunting: ATT&CK matrices can be used to systematically hunt for known adversary behaviors that might have slipped past defenses.
- Enhanced readiness: Red and blue teams can model attacker techniques using ATT&CK to assess readiness and identify areas for security program improvement.
The MITRE ATT&CK Matrix
The MITRE ATT&CK Matrix categorizes attack techniques adversaries use to accomplish their objectives. It includes categories such as reconnaissance, resource development, lateral movement, and impact. Each category covers different aspects of an attack lifecycle, from data gathering to accomplishing the final goal.
- Reconnaissance is gathering information about a target organization for further operations planning. Techniques such as scanning networks or gathering publicly available information can help attackers create an understanding of the environment they plan to attack.
- Resource development refers to building resources supporting continued adversary activities, such as establishing command and control infrastructure or creating credential sets.
- Lateral movement techniques refer to moving laterally within an environment to gain additional access rights or escalate privileges; examples include exploiting trust relationships or privilege escalation exploits.
- Finally, impact refers to any damage inflicted on target systems, ranging from the exfiltration of stolen data to the destruction of critical systems within the environment.
The MITRE ATT&CK for Cloud Matrix
The MITRE ATT&CK for Cloud Matrix is a subset of the larger ATT&CK Enterprise Matrix, specifically designed to identify and address threats within cloud environments like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Office 365.
In contrast to network-based threats that involve malicious code entering an organization’s on-premises networks, adversaries in cloud environments do not necessarily need to introduce malware into their targets. Instead, attackers are most likely to exploit native features from the third-party CSP provider to tap into victim accounts, escalate privileges, move laterally across resources, and exfiltrate data. As such, the ATT&CK for Cloud provides organizations with mitigation techniques tailored to this environment, such as modifying firewalls or user roles and permissions.
Organizations should be aware that although malicious code can still be used in these environments, much of the attack is scalable by leveraging native platform features like role delegation and management APIs, thereby allowing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or phishing campaigns to display adversarial behavior specific to cloud attacks. Examples of tactics and techniques include account compromise by exploiting weak credentials or brute force attempts and privilege escalations focused on well-known vulnerabilities.
How is the MITRE ATT&CK framework used?
The MITRE ATT&CK framework is a valuable tool for security teams of all levels. It provides red and blue teams with a common language to define and discuss threat actors and their attack methods.
Red teamers, or offensive security professionals, use ATT&CK to better simulate adversary behaviors to test the efficacy of their network’s defenses. This allows them to anticipate threats by anticipating actions that adversaries typically take and assess the effectiveness of existing defense mechanisms.
Blue teams, or defensive security professionals, can use ATT&CK to understand what threat actors are doing and prioritize the most dangerous ones. Products such as antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and other tools can be configured using the shared set of tactics employed by attackers, documented in ATT&CK’s taxonomy.
Furthermore, information collected from various sources, such as malware artifacts or publicly available attack data, can be mapped against the framework to answer questions and provide situational awareness to asset owners quickly. In short, MITRE’s ATT&CK framework provides a standardized way to properly handle cyberattacks before they become too severe.
Best Practices for ATT&CK Utilization
To make the most of MITRE ATT&CK, organizations should:
- Map detections – Identify which attacker techniques in ATT&CK are covered by each detection rule, tool, or control. Any gaps should be addressed.
- Prioritize detections – Focus on automating detections for frequently used ATT&CK techniques and those with high impact.
- Build hunt matrices – Develop threat-hunting routines based on common ATT&CK techniques in your industry and region.
- Enrich alerts – Include ATT&CK technique IDs in alerts to accelerate investigations and response.
- Train analysts – Educate security analysts on how to leverage ATT&CK matrices during daily work and investigations.
- Drive exercises – Use ATT&CK techniques to model adversary behavior during red teaming, tabletop exercises, and incident response drills.
- Guide mitigations – Identify ATT&CK techniques being leveraged in an incident and use that to guide containment and remediation.
ATT&CK-Centric Tools and Playbooks
Vendor security tools and response playbooks optimized for ATT&CK integration provide the most value:
- ATT&CK-based analytics – Prioritize solutions using behavioral analytics driven by ATT&CK techniques for more relevant detections.
- Response modules – Playbooks should orchestrate response actions mapped to ATT&CK techniques to contain threats.
- Customizable matrices – Tools should allow teams to customize ATT&CK matrices to reflect defenders’ specific environments.
- MITRE sub-techniques – Leverage vendors incorporating ATT&CK sub-techniques for more precise detection and response.
- Latest framework versions – Solutions should stay updated as MITRE releases new ATT&CK versions and matrices.
Using ATT&CK for Threat Hunting
ATT&CK empowers more effective threat hunting:
- Hypothesis development – ATT&CK matrices give hunters known techniques to check for across categories like initial access, execution, persistence, etc.
- Scoping hunts – Hunters can scope hunts to specific categories of behavior for better efficiency.
- Detection blind spots – Spotting ATT&CK techniques not covered by current detections highlights analytics gaps.
- Expanding hunts – Detections sparked by a hunt can reveal related ATT&CK techniques to expand the investigation.
- Methodology and reporting – ATT&CK provides a consistent language for hunt plans, reporting findings, and tracking coverage.
Accelerating Incident Response
Security analysts leveraging ATT&CK can respond faster:
- Triage alerts – Categorize alerts into ATT&CK matrices for better prioritization based on severity.
- Identify mitigations – Map detected behaviors to ATT&CK techniques to guide the development of containment and remediation plans.
- Scope investigations – Use the ATT&CK framework to guide investigation expansion across categories like command and control, discovery, lateral movement, etc.
- Enrich alerts – Adding ATT&CK technique IDs provides critical context for frontline analysts.
- Develop narratives – Documenting incidents mapped to ATT&CK techniques helps teams learn from events and improve detections.
Steps to Advance ATT&CK Usage
Organizations should take the following steps to maximize utilization of MITRE ATT&CK:
- Train security teams on ATT&CK matrices, terminology, and how to leverage the framework across threat hunting, detection engineering, and incident response.
- Build ATT&CK-based hunt plans covering common risks and gaps identified during exercises. Prioritize automation of high-value technique detections.
- Integrate ATT&CK context into security alerts, investigations, and reporting for faster response.
- Assess detection coverage relative to ATT&CK matrices and address critical gaps through new analytics, tools, or controls.
- Model exercises and red teaming on ATT&CK techniques reflective of your threat landscape.
- Choose security solutions that align detections, analytics, and response actions to the ATT&CK knowledge base.
- Stay current by monitoring MITRE’s regular framework updates, adversary emulation plan, and new technique details.
The MITRE ATT&CK framework provides the industry’s most comprehensive model for adversary behavior based on real-world attacks. Aligning security programs to ATT&CK enables more impactful detection, hunting, and response against advanced threats. Organizations proficient in ATT&CK benefit from a more proactive and threat-informed approach to understanding and anticipating attacker behavior and gain a competitive advantage over peers.
How MixMode Leverages MITRE ATT&CK
The MixMode Platform fully integrates with The MITRE ATT&CK Framework, automatically mapping detections to techniques and tactics. This enables transparent ATT&CK coverage analysis, empowering customers to validate visibility into threats mapped by MITRE.
Where legacy NDR, EDR, SIEM, and XDR products have blindspots, MixMode’s analytics surface stealthy attacks at each phase, exponentially exceeding the detection capabilities of rules-based security tools.
Take this interactive walk-through to learn how, and contact us to learn how we can help you strengthen your detection and response capabilities.
MixMode is committed to MITRE ATT&CK alignment to help organizations improve their real-world defense against advanced adversaries. Contact us to learn how we can help you strengthen your detection and response capabilities.