The MITRE D3FEND® Framework is a cybersecurity framework developed by MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates federally funded research and development centers in the United States. D3FEND was created as a counterpart to the widely recognized MITRE ATT&CK® Framework, which focuses on describing and categorizing adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) in the cybersecurity domain.

While the ATT&CK framework focuses on helping organizations understand and defend against cyber threats by detailing how adversaries operate, the D3FEND framework aims to provide a structured, systematic approach to implementing defensive cybersecurity measures. The D3FEND framework offers a common language and taxonomy for describing defensive techniques, enabling cybersecurity professionals to better communicate, collaborate, and develop more effective security strategies.

D3FEND framework covers various defensive techniques across multiple categories, including data protection, network defense, endpoint defense, identity and access management, and others. The framework is designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing organizations to tailor their security strategies to their unique needs and threat landscape.

Why is MITRE D3FEND important? 

D3FEND is a knowledge graph of cybersecurity countermeasures. It addresses key challenges in the cybersecurity domain and provides valuable resources to organizations and security professionals. Here are key reasons to use MITRE D3FEND:

Complements the ATT&CK framework

D3FEND framework serves as a counterpart to the widely used ATT&CK framework, which focuses on understanding and categorizing adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures. While ATT&CK helps organizations recognize and defend against cyber threats, D3FEND provides a structured approach for implementing defensive measures to improve overall security posture.

Common language and taxonomy 

D3FEND offers a standardized vocabulary and classification system for defensive cybersecurity techniques. This enables security professionals to communicate, collaborate, and share knowledge more effectively, leading to better strategies and more robust defenses.

Supports informed decision-making 

The D3FEND framework helps organizations make informed decisions about their cybersecurity strategies by providing clear, actionable guidance on defensive measures. This allows organizations to prioritize their investments in security technologies, personnel, and training based on their specific needs and threat landscape.

Encourages best practices 

By offering a comprehensive and organized repository of defensive techniques, D3FEND promotes the adoption of best practices and proven security measures, helping organizations reduce their risk of cyberattacks and minimize the impact of successful breaches.

Facilitates continuous improvement 

As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, so too must the techniques used to defend against emerging threats. D3FEND serves as a living framework that can be updated and expanded over time, helping organizations stay current with the latest defensive strategies and adapt their security posture as needed.

Accessible and vendor-neutral 

MITRE, as a not-for-profit organization, provides the D3FEND framework as a free, public resource, ensuring that it remains accessible to organizations of all sizes and across various industries. Additionally, D3FEND is vendor-neutral, which means it is not tied to any specific security products or services, allowing organizations to choose the solutions that best fit their needs.

The MITRE D3FEND Matrix 

The MITRE ATT&CK framework is divided into three matrices (Enterprise, ICS, and Mobile), but MITRE D3FEND currently has only one matrix. The D3FEND countermeasure guidance is arranged in a similar way to the ATT&CK hierarchy of TTPs, but with the emphasis on defense instead of attack. 

The D3FEND hierarchy’s highest classification is Tactics – each Tactic represents a defense objective related to a given stage of an attack. Within the Tactics are Techniques and Sub-Techniques describing the methods used to accomplish the Tactics’ goals, including references to industry security standards and tools. 

Tactics and High-Level Techniques

MITRE D3FEND comprises the following high-level categories:

  1. Hardening: Covers measures for reducing the attack surface, emphasizing restricted access and monitoring. The techniques involved include platform, message, credential, and application hardening. This category reflects security protocols and regulations for authentication and access control and emphasizes updates and patches to reduce the risks of vulnerabilities. 
  2. Detection: Focuses on analyzing identified threats based on the MITRE ATT&CK framework. It includes file, identifier, message, process, and user behavior analysis, as well as platform monitoring. This category also includes SIEM solutions and MDR services. SIEMs can aggregate data to analyze defenses against the identified threats, while MDR can make it easier to monitor and analyze the platform, network, and processes. 
  3. Isolation: Focuses on isolating vulnerable or compromised hosts. It includes network and execution isolation, which help with continuous traffic monitoring and DNS/IP filtering. 
  4. Deception: Focuses on creating decoys of the whole IT environment, including objects such as network resources, files, users, and credentials. The aim is to deceive attackers and divert them from the real environment to a fake one where they cannot do damage.
  5. Eviction: Covers how to terminate compromised and vulnerable components to strengthen the organization’s security profile. It includes process and credential eviction, which help reduce the attack surface and facilitate defense.

MITRE D3FEND also offers a hierarchical catalog of related information called Digital Artifacts, which is not included in MITRE ATT&CK. Digital Artifacts include digital objects and concepts split into four main categories: top-level artifacts, files, network traffic, and software. Some adversarial TTPs from ATT&CK can be mapped to D3FEND’s Techniques, with  Digital Artifacts serving as the reference for identifying related offensive measures and countermeasures.

7 Best Practices for Using MITRE D3FEND 

MITRE D3FEND is a comprehensive framework that provides a taxonomy of defensive cybersecurity techniques. While the framework itself doesn’t explicitly outline “best practices,” organizations can use it to create or improve their cybersecurity strategies by considering the following guidelines:

  1. Understand your organization’s risk profile: Assess your organization’s risk tolerance and identify the most valuable assets and potential threats to your daily operations. This will help you determine which D3FEND techniques are most relevant and critical for your organization.
  2. Align with the MITRE ATT&CK framework: Use D3FEND in conjunction with ATT&CK to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the threat landscape. Map defensive techniques from D3FEND to relevant ATT&CK tactics, techniques, and procedures to create a proactive, threat-informed defense strategy.
  3. Implement layered security: Apply multiple defensive techniques across different layers of your organization’s infrastructure to create a defense-in-depth strategy. This approach reduces the chances of a single point of failure and increases the overall resilience of your security posture.
  4. Regularly review and update your defenses: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your defensive measures and make adjustments as needed. Stay informed about emerging threats and new defensive techniques to ensure your organization’s security measures remain effective and up to date.
  5. Educate and train employees: Ensure that all employees are aware of the importance of cybersecurity and understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a secure environment. Provide ongoing training and education to keep your workforce up to date on the latest threats and defensive techniques.
  6. Collaborate and share information: Collaborate with other organizations, industry partners, and government agencies to share threat intelligence and best practices. This collective knowledge can help you better understand the threat landscape and improve your overall security posture.
  7. Measure and track performance: Establish metrics to track the effectiveness of your defensive techniques and identify areas for improvement. Regularly review these metrics to make data-driven decisions about your cybersecurity strategy.

By following these guidelines and using the MITRE D3FEND matrix to map security strategy and countermeasures to the likeliest attack vectors, organizations can develop a robust and effective cybersecurity strategy to protect their assets and mitigate potential risks.

MITRE D3FEND with Exabeam

As the industry’s most powerful and advanced cloud-native SIEM, Exabeam Fusion monitors for well-known threats, identifies compliance violations, and detects signature-based threats using context from the Exabeam Threat Intelligence Service with options for customers to map their own correlation rules specifically against ATT&CK framework TTPs. With over 120 pre-built correlation rules and models matching the most common use cases of malware and compromised credentials, no other SIEM or Native XDR provider delivers more pre-built content in support of the ATT&CK framework. 

Exabeam Fusion correlates observed user and entity behaviors automatically, providing security personnel with a fast, reliable way to categorize suspicious activities in real-time. Exabeam also enables users to write custom responses based on these frameworks so security teams can develop unique policies, workflows, and automation that apply specifically to their organizations, taking their unique security posture into account.  

Exabeam has contributed two techniques to support the MITRE ATT&CK knowledge base.