Getting Started with Protecting Data

Where to start building your cybersecurity program

Using Security Frameworks

Protecting data in today’s complex threat landscape requires a comprehensive and structured approach. Implementing security frameworks, control frameworks, and understanding tools like MITRE ATT&CK, the Cyber Kill Chain, and the Pyramid of Pain are crucial for building a robust cybersecurity strategy. This blog post provides a step-by-step guide on how to get started with these essential elements to safeguard your data effectively.

Security Frameworks

Security frameworks provide a structured methodology for implementing security practices across an organization. They help establish a baseline for security measures and ensure consistency in protecting data. Two widely recognized security frameworks are:

NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)

The NIST CSF provides a comprehensive approach to managing and reducing cybersecurity risk. It consists of five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These functions help organizations understand their security posture and implement appropriate measures.

ISO/IEC 27001

ISO/IEC 27001 is an international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It provides a systematic approach to managing sensitive company information, ensuring its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Control Frameworks

Control frameworks provide specific security controls to mitigate risks identified in security frameworks. They offer detailed guidelines and best practices for implementing security measures. Key control frameworks include:

NIST Special Publication 800-53

NIST SP 800-53 provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations. It helps in selecting and specifying security controls to protect organizational operations and assets.

CIS Controls

The CIS Controls are a set of prioritized actions that help organizations improve their cybersecurity posture. They focus on key areas such as inventory and control of hardware assets, secure configurations, and continuous vulnerability management.


MITRE ATT&CK (Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge) is a comprehensive knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations. It helps organizations understand and defend against cyber threats more effectively.


MITRE ATT&CK provides detailed information on various stages of an attack lifecycle. Organizations can use it to:

  • Identify potential attack vectors.
  • Map current security controls to specific tactics and techniques.
  • Develop and refine detection and response strategies.

The Cyber Kill Chain

The Cyber Kill Chain, developed by Lockheed Martin, outlines the stages of a cyber-attack. Understanding these stages helps in detecting and preventing attacks at different points in the attack lifecycle.

Stages of the Cyber Kill Chain

  1. Reconnaissance: Gathering information about the target.
  2. Weaponization: Creating a malicious payload.
  3. Delivery: Transmitting the payload to the target.
  4. Exploitation: Executing the payload to exploit vulnerabilities.
  5. Installation: Installing malware on the target system.
  6. Command and Control: Establishing a remote control channel.
  7. Actions on Objectives: Achieving the attacker’s goals, such as data exfiltration or system disruption.

The Pyramid of Pain

The Pyramid of Pain, created by David Bianco, illustrates the difficulty attackers face when defenders disrupt different indicators of compromise (IOCs). It helps prioritize defensive measures to maximize the impact on attackers.

Levels of the Pyramid of Pain

  1. Hash Values: Easiest to change; least impactful when disrupted.
  2. IP Addresses: Relatively easy to change but can cause disruption.
  3. Domain Names: Moderately difficult to change; can disrupt attacker’s operations.
  4. Network/Host Artifacts: Harder to change; more impactful when disrupted.
  5. Tools: Difficult to replace; significantly disrupts attacker operations.
  6. Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs): Most difficult to change; highly impactful when disrupted.

Implementing the Frameworks and Models

To effectively protect your data, it’s essential to integrate these frameworks and models in a structured manner. Here’s an ideal order to implement them:

Start with Security Frameworks

Begin by adopting a security framework like NIST CSF or ISO/IEC 27001. This establishes a baseline for your security practices and helps identify critical assets and potential risks.

Implement Control Frameworks

Once you have a security framework in place, use control frameworks like NIST SP 800-53 or CIS Controls to implement specific security measures. This step involves selecting and applying relevant controls to mitigate identified risks.


With security and control frameworks in place, use MITRE ATT&CK to understand potential attack vectors and refine your detection and response strategies. Map your current controls to specific tactics and techniques to identify gaps and improve your defenses.

Apply the Cyber Kill Chain

Use the Cyber Kill Chain model to understand and disrupt the stages of an attack. Integrate it into your incident detection and response strategies to detect and mitigate attacks at various stages.

Utilize the Pyramid of Pain

Incorporate the Pyramid of Pain to prioritize defensive actions that will have the greatest impact on attackers. Focus on disrupting TTPs and tools to significantly hinder attackers’ operations.

Best Practices for Integrating These Models

Implementing these frameworks and models requires a strategic approach and continuous improvement. Here are some best practices:

Regular Training and Awareness

Ensure that your cybersecurity team is well-trained in using these frameworks and models. Regular training and awareness programs are essential for keeping your team updated on the latest threats and defensive strategies.

Continuous Monitoring and Assessment

Regularly monitor and assess your security posture. Use tools and technologies that provide continuous monitoring of your systems and networks to detect and respond to threats in real-time.

Collaboration and Information Sharing

Collaborate with other organizations and share information about threats and best practices. Joining industry groups and participating in information-sharing initiatives can provide valuable insights and enhance your security posture.

Regular Audits and Reviews

Conduct regular security audits and reviews to ensure that your security controls and practices are effective. Use the findings from these audits to make necessary improvements and stay ahead of evolving threats.

Incident Response Planning

Develop and maintain a comprehensive incident response plan. Ensure that your team is prepared to handle security incidents effectively and minimize the impact on your organization.

Protecting data in today’s threat landscape requires a structured and comprehensive approach. By implementing security frameworks, control frameworks, and leveraging models like MITRE ATT&CK, the Cyber Kill Chain, and the Pyramid of Pain, organizations can build a robust cybersecurity strategy. Following the recommended order of implementation and adhering to best practices will help you enhance your security posture and protect your valuable assets from cyber threats. Stay vigilant, continuously improve your security measures, and collaborate with others to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape.