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MITRE ATT&CK® Mitigations: Thwarting Cloud Threats With Preventative Policies and Controls

MITRE ATT&CK® Mitigations: Thwarting Cloud Threats With Preventative Policies and Controls

Blog Article Published: 03/28/2023

Originally published by Rapid7.

Written by James Alaniz.

As IT infrastructure has become more and more sophisticated, so too have the techniques and tactics used by bad actors to gain access to your environment and sensitive information. That’s why it's essential to implement robust security measures to protect your organization. One way to do this is to utilize the MITRE ATT&CK framework, which provides a comprehensive guide to understanding and defending against cyber threats.

Who is MITRE and what is the MITRE ATT&CK Framework?

MITRE is a non-profit organization supporting various U.S. government agencies across a variety of fields, but primarily focusing on defense and cybersecurity. The MITRE ATT&CK® Framework is a free knowledge base of adversarial tactics and techniques based on real-world observations.

It is a tremendous resource for any security practitioner, and can be used as a foundational resource for developing specific threat models and methodologies in both the public and private sectors. The framework is curated by the folks at MITRE, but anyone is able to contribute information or findings for review, as they look to crowdsource as much intelligence as humanly possible to better serve the broader community.

The ATT&CK Framework is intended to provide insights into the goals of hackers as well as the techniques and tactics they are likely to use. These insights provide organizations and the security teams that protect them with a detailed roadmap to plan, detect, and mitigate risk and detect threats. Once an organization has identified potential attack vectors, it can implement the appropriate mitigations.

Wait, but what are Mitigations?

Under each technique outlined within the ATT&CK Framework is a section on relevant mitigations. Mitigations represent security concepts and classes of technologies that can be used to prevent a technique or sub-technique from being successfully executed. It is a large and comprehensive list, so MITRE has broken these mitigations into two primary groups: “Enterprise,” focusing on mitigations that prevent hackers from breaching a corporate network, and “Mobile,” which — as you might have guessed — is dedicated to protecting against attacks targeting mobile devices.

While these mitigations can not guarantee that you won’t be breached, they serve as a great baseline for teams looking to do whatever they can to avoid an attacker gaining access to their sensitive data.

Example mitigations and what they entail

As noted above, MITRE provides a wide range of mitigations. For the purpose of this post, let’s look at a few example mitigations to give a sense of what they entail.

Before we dive in, a quick note: It’s very important to select and implement mitigations based on your organization's specific threat landscape and unique aspects of your environment. You’ll want to prioritize the mitigations that address the most significant risks to business operations and data first to effectively mitigate risk and the likelihood of a breach.

Mitigation: Data Backup (ID: M1053)

Backing up data from end-user systems and servers is critical to ensure you’re not at risk of attack types that center around deletion or defacement of sensitive organizational and customer data, such as Data Destruction (T1485) and Disk Wipe (T1561). The only recourse to these types of attacks is to have a solid disaster recovery plan. Security teams should regularly back up data and store backups in a secure location that is separate from the rest of the corporate network to avoid them being compromised. This way, you’ll have the ability to quickly recover lost data and restore your systems to a steady state should a bad actor delete your data or hold it as ransom.

Mitigation: Account Use Policies (ID: M1036)

This mitigation is geared toward preventing unwanted or malicious access to your network via attack types such as brute force (T1110) and multi-factor authentication request generation (T1621). By establishing policies such as limiting the number of attempts a user has to properly enter their credentials and passwords before being locked out of their account, you can thwart bad actors that are simply repeatedly guessing your passwords until they gain access. This control needs to be configured in such a way that effectively prevents these types of attacks, but without being so strict that legitimate users within your organization are denied access to systems or data they need to perform their jobs.

Mitigation: Encrypt Sensitive Information (ID: M1041)

As you can probably guess from the name, this mitigation focuses on implementing strong data encryption hygiene. Given that the end goal of many breaches is to gain access to sensitive information, it will come as no surprise that this mitigation plays a critical role in protecting against a wide range of attack techniques, including adversary-in-the-middle (T1557), improper access of data within misconfigured cloud storage buckets (T1530), and network sniffing (T1040), just to name a few. Properly encrypting data — both at rest and in transit — is a critical step in fortifying against these types of attacks.

There are several MITRE tactics and techniques, such as those highlighted above, where the only mitigation for an attack is to ensure your organization’s security policies and controls are configured properly. While it can be a daunting task to ensure you maintain compliance with all policies and controls across your entire environment, InsightCloudSec offers out-of-the-box insights that are mapped directly to each mitigation.

Leveraging a CSPM tool to implement and track performance against MITRE ATT&CK Mitigations

Users should continuously audit and assess their entire environment against the recommended mitigations provided by MITRE to ensure they are taking every step possible to stop bad actors from gaining unauthorized access to your network and accessing your sensitive information.

A strong CSPM tool can monitor your environment to ensure you’ve properly implemented the necessary controls as recommended by MITRE to thwart attackers, regardless of which technique or sub-technique they utilize and can instantly detect whenever an account or resource drifts from compliance.

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