MITRE Evaluates Tools for APT Detection

A new service from MITRE will evaluate products based on how well they detect advanced persistent threats.

What happens during a cybersecurity attack? How do you know if one is underway? Those are among the questions that MITRE answers with its ATT&CK (pronounced “attack”) knowledge base and a new product evaluation service based on the data.

With the new offering, MITRE will evaluate endpoint detection and response products for their ability to detect advanced threats. “There are a lot of products on the market that try to detect adversary behavior, and we’re trying to figure out what they can do,” says Fred Duff, principle cybersecurity engineer at MITRE. He explains that the methodology and knowledge base MITRE uses will allow those reading the results to understand what MITRE is evaluating, how it’s performing the evaluation, and what the results mean.

The knowledge base for ATT&CK (which stands for Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge) is seen as an asset by others, as well. In a tweet about ATT&CK, Microsoft Windows Defender security researcher Jessica Payne wrote, “If you have ever wondered ‘how does an APT do ___?’ or wanted to emulate an actual adversary in a Red Team, this database is a great start.”

Duff says the knowledge base originally was collected as a tool to allow red team members to communicate more easily with blue team members and corporate executives. It has always been compiled from publicly available sources, he says, so there’s no “contamination” from internal MITRE information and no issue with sharing the resource back to the community.

It’s important, Duff says, to understand that MITRE is performing an evaluation, not a test. And to keep the evaluation manageable and meaningful against a huge data set, MITRE is very tightly focusing the first evaluation. The first round will be based on APT3/Gothic Panda and will evaluate the products’ ability to detect the threat.

Focusing on detection, Duff says, allows MITRE to perform a purely objective evaluation and provide objective results. In a statement, MITRE says that information it will provide from results includes “the ATT&CK technique tested, specific actions the assessors took to execute, and details on the product’s ability to detect the emulated adversary behavior.”

Those results will be available to the public, Duff says, because it’s important both to be transparent and to contribute to the general community’s base of knowledge. And the general community has been asking for this kind of evaluation. Duff says that security vendors have been eager to map their capabilities to ATT&CK and their customers have approved, but those customers have also been reluctant to simply take the vendors’ word about how they perform. That’s where MITRE will step in.

The call for vendors to participate in the first round closes on April 13, 2018.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and … View Full Bio

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