Why Risk Classification is Important

Traditional threat models posit that it is necessary to protect against all attacks. While this may be true for a critical national defense network, it is unlikely to be true for the typical commercial enterprise. In fact many technically possible attacks are economically infeasible and thus not attempted by typical attackers.

This can be inferred by noting that most users ignore security precautions and yet escape regular harm. Most assets escape exploitation because they are not targeted, not because they are impregnable.

As Cormac Herley points out “a more realistic view is that we start with some variant of the traditional threat model, e.g., it is necessary and suffi cient to defend against all attacks” but then modify it in some way, e.g., defense eff ort should be appropriate to the assets.” However, while the first statement is absolute, and has a clear call-to-action, the qualifier is vague and imprecise. Of course we can’t defend against everything, but on what basis should we decide what to neglect?”

One way around this is by risk classification. The more you have to lose, the harder you must make it for the attacker. If you can make the value of the attack to be less than the monetization value then a financially motivated attacker will move on as its not worth it.

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