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Introduction

ATT&CK Categories

Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge (ATT&CK™) is a model and framework for describing the actions an adversary may take while operating within an enterprise network. The model can be used to better characterize and describe post-access adversary behavior. It both expands the knowledge of network defenders and assists in prioritizing network defense by detailing the post-initial access (post exploit and implant) tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) advanced persistent threats (APT) use to execute their objectives while operating inside a network.

ATT&CK incorporates information on cyber adversaries gathered through MITRE research as well as from other disciplines such as penetration testing and red teaming to establish a collection of knowledge characterizing the post-access activities of adversaries. While there is significant research on initial exploitation and use of perimeter defenses, there is a gap in central knowledge of adversary process after initial access has been gained. ATT&CK focuses on TTPs adversaries use to make decisions, expand access, and execute their objectives. It aims to describe an adversary's steps at a high enough level to be applied widely across platforms, but still maintain enough details to be technically useful.

The nine tactic categories for ATT&CK were derived from the later stages (control, maintain, and execute) of the seven stage Cyber Attack Lifecycle (first articulated by Lockheed Martin as the Cyber Kill Chain®[1]). This provides a deeper level of granularity in describing what can occur during an intrusion after an adversary has acquired access.

Each category contains a listing of techniques that an adversary could use to perform that tactic. Techniques are broken down to provide a technical description, indicators, useful defensive sensor data, detection analytics, and potential mitigations. Applying intrusion data to the model then helps focus defense on the commonly used techniques across groups of activity and helps identify gaps in security. Defenders and decision makers can use the information in ATT&CK for various purposes, not just as a checklist of specific adversarial techniques.

To view the contents of ATT&CK use the left navigation pane which breaks out techniques by tactic category or view All Techniques.

ATT&CK Matrix

The MITRE ATT&CK Matrix™ is a overview of the tactics and techniques described in the ATT&CK model. It visually aligns individual techniques under the tactics in which they can be applied. Some techniques span across more than one tactic because they can be used for different purposes.

MITRE ATT&CK Matrix - Overview of ATT&CK tactics and techniques

Purpose

ATT&CK is a constantly growing common reference for post-access techniques that brings greater awareness of what actions may be seen during a network intrusion. We do not claim it to be a comprehensive list of techniques, only an approximation of what is publicly known; therefore, it is also an invitation for the community to contribute additional details and information to continue developing the body of knowledge. Contributions could include new techniques, categories of actions, clarifying information, examples, methods of detection or mitigation, and data sources. See the Contribute page for instructions on how to get involved.

The result will help focus community efforts on areas that are not well understood or covered by current defensive technologies and best practices. Developers of current defensive tools and policies can identify where their value and strengths are in relation to the ATT&CK framework. Likewise, cyber security research can use ATT&CK as a grounded reference point to drive future investigation.

ATT&CK Use Cases

  • Prioritize development and/or acquisition efforts for CND capabilities
  • Conduct analyses of alternatives between CND capabilities
  • Determine “coverage” of a set of CND capabilities
  • Describe an intrusion chain of events based on technique used from start to finish with a common reference
  • Identify commonalities between adversary tradecraft, as well as distinguishing characteristics
  • Connect mitigations, weaknesses and adversaries

Related Efforts

MITRE is well-known for its work in leading communities in the standardization of threat and vulnerability information. While ATT&CK is not as of yet an independent formal information standardization effort within the existing portfolio, we are working closely with related efforts to define how ATT&CK fits in that landscape. See the Related Efforts page to see how ATT&CK relates to other relevant information standardization efforts.

References

  1. "Cyber Kill Chain® by Lockheed Martin: Hutchens, et al.