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MITRE Adds D3FEND Countermeasures to ATT&CK Framework

The U.S. government’s National Security Agency (NSA) on Tuesday announced plans to fund the development of a knowledge base of defensive countermeasures for the most common techniques used by malicious hackers.

The project, called D3FEND, is available through the non-profit MITRE Corporation as a catalog of defensive cybersecurity techniques and their relationships to offensive/adversary techniques. 

The primary goal of the initial D3FEND release is to help standardize the vocabulary used to describe defensive cybersecurity technology functionality.

Mitre described D3FEND as an “early stage experimental research project” with the primary goal of helping to standardize the vocabulary used to describe defensive cybersecurity technology functionality.

In a statement, the NSA said D3FEND establishes terminology of computer network defensive techniques and illuminates previously-unspecified relationships between defensive and offensive methods. 

“This framework illustrates the complex interplay between computer network architectures, threats, and cyber countermeasures,” the agency said.

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The MITRE Corporation released D3FEND as a complement to its existing ATT&CK framework, which is widely used as the knowledge base of cyber adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations.

“Complementary to the threat-based ATT&CK model, D3FEND provides a model of ways to counter common offensive techniques, enumerating how defensive techniques impact an actor’s ability to succeed. By framing computer network defender complexity of countermeasure functions and techniques as granularly as ATT&CK frames computer network attacker techniques, D3FEND enables cybersecurity professionals to tailor defenses against specific cyber threats, thereby reducing a system’s potential attack surface,” the NSA said.

“As a result, D3FEND will drive more effective design, deployment, and defense of networked systems writ large,” the agency added.

A technical paper (pdf) was also released to explain the problem and propose D3FEND as a “precise, unambiguous, and information-dense knowledge graph of cybersecurity countermeasures.”

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. Ryan is a veteran cybersecurity strategist who has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's past career as a security journalist included bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.