The STRIDE Threat Model

The STRIDE Threat Model

27 March 2024

The lead developer had pulled me aside.

"Why are you exposing the user's password via the API?"

"Is that a problem?"

"It certain is. Here is why..."

That same afternoon, a long time ago, my junior developer self got a much-needed lecture on securing applications that I still remember.

I felt a bit embarrassed not knowing application security fundamentals, but at least I was starting my systems security journey.

I will consider this write-up a success if I can help even one developer avoid similar embarrassment.

Secure Apps

In a world of malicious attackers, securing our systems is critical.

We must know about security problems and how to repair them.

So, where might an attacker look for vulnerabilities?


That's where the STRIDE Threat Model comes in.

STRIDE gives us the tools to identify security threats.

STRIDE is an acronym. Each letter stands for a specific threat:

  • Spoofing
  • Tampering
  • Repudiation
  • Information Disclosure
  • Denial of Service
  • Elevation of Privilege

Let's examine each of these in detail:

Spoofing - Means pretending to be another person, identity or account.

For example, gaining access to someone's credentials, like username and password.

Tampering - Is the malicious modification of data.

Truncating the 'Customer' database table or the unauthorised lowering of product prices are examples of destructive tampering.

Repudiation - Means an attacker can successfully deny their action. When a user acts maliciously, we want a record identifying them as the offender of the attack:

  • Who did it?
  • What did they do?
  • When did they do it?

For example, an attacker might be able to remain anonymous and so claim innocencenot good. Alternatively, an authenticated (i.e. logged-in) system user attacks the system, but their actions are not logged against their identity, thus offering easy deniability.

Information Disclosure - This one is self-explanatory. Information is revealed to individuals who are not meant to have it.

Getting access to a file that contains sensitive company financials, or deceiving someone into relinquishing their banking credentials in a phishing attack, are both serious Information Disclosure events.

Denial of Service (DOS) - Denial of service attacks are attempts by malicious users to overwhelm a system's capacity and deny legitimate users access.

Examples: A successful DOS attack on a banking web app will stress the bank's system until it becomes overwhelmed and responds with '503 - Service Unavailable'.

Elevation of Privilege - An attacker gains unauthorised privileged access to a system.

A compelling real-world example was the Stuxnet worm targeted to setback Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Stuxnet exploited several vulnerabilities in Windows to spread and escalate its privileged access within infected networks.

OK, I have a hands-on learning exercise for you.

Lab: Insurance Company Web Portal

An insurance company has built a web portal for independent insurance brokers. Advisers are required to log in with their username and strong password.

Once authenticated, brokers can request new policies and do all the other things advisers can do for their clients.

The system logs all incoming requests for auditing purposes.

The web portal allows reporting on individual customers via this URL:

The customerno can be an integer number up to 999999, and the reporttype is the requested report.

A few enterprising insurance advisers have discovered that by altering the customerno in the browser's address bar, they can view confidential policy information for customers belonging to other brokers.

Your task is to analyse which aspects of the STRIDE threat model come into play.

I suggest you take 5 minutes to work through this problem before checking out my answer below.

My STRIDE Analysis

As pointed out in the description, the integer nature of the customerno, represents a blatant opportunity of attack already exploited by some brokers.

Switched-on (and unscrupulous) advisers have discovered that they can acquire detailed financial information on their competitors' customers.

Here's my STRIDE analysis:

Spoofing? No. The advisers are not assuming the identity of another adviser. They are still logged in as themselves.

Tampering? No. The problematic URL refers to reporting only, and thus won't involve tampering of data.

Repudiation? No. The system logs all requests, and the degree of offending by broker advisers should be recorded and be undeniable.

Information Disclosure? Yes. Offending insurance advisers accessed financially sensitive policy information on their competitors' clients.

Denial Of Service? No. This vulnerability is not particularly exploitable by DOS attacks.

Elevation of Privilege? No. No elevation of privilege was required to exploit this security hole.

Opportunistic insurance advisers used only one exploit: Information Disclosure.

Nonetheless, much financial damage might have occurred to some advisers until the security hole was identified and fixed.

The Fix?

Repairing this authorisation security hole would be relatively easy: Ensure that the specified customer number belongs to the currently logged-in adviser account. If it's not their customer, display an appropriate error message.


The STRIDE Threat Model allows for the evaluation of security threats to a system.

Next time you want to pick holes in a system's security, I recommend using it.


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