Claire Allen-Addy
Product Marketing Manager
September 29, 2023

Threat Modeling Methodology: OCTAVE

Threat Modeling Methodology: OCTAVE


OCTAVE stands for Operationally Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation methodology. This technique focuses on assessing organizational risks, rather than technological risks, for example if a company experiences a data breach, which could impact that business operationally.

This methodology was initiated by Carnegie Mellon University (USA) and the CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) Division of the SEI (Software Engineering Institute) in 2003. It is generally aimed at small to medium sized businesses of less than 100 people, and would be coordinated by Management and Operations rather than Technical Teams.1  

OCTAVE employs a self directed approach, and thus employees are responsible for setting the overall security strategy - typically Management and Operations rather than Technical teams. This can make this difficult to scale and as such this methodology is aimed at small to medium sized organizations. OCTAVE benefits organizations in that it helps with the identification of mitigation techniques and increases risk management, awareness and cross team collaboration. As such, it reduces the need for excessive documentation and is highly customizable, giving security teams a reliable asset-centric view of their operations and consistent and repeatable results.

Some benefits of using OCTAVE

  • Cultivates Security Culture: OCTAVE encourages a culture of security awareness and proactive risk management within the organization.
  • Increases awareness across teams: contributes to risk management and awareness and encourages cross-team collaboration.
  • Time-saving: reduces the need for excessive documentation and provides repeatable and consistent results.
  • Supports Developers: it gives a reliable asset-centric view and assists in the identification of mitigation techniques.
  • Self-directed: OCTAVE is highly customizable for security teams and risk environments.  

OCTAVE is a self-directed approach, meaning that people from an organization take responsibility for setting the organization’s security strategy, which can make this method difficult to scale. OCTAVE also assumes that the company has a broad knowledge of the business and security processes and can conduct all of the necessary activities itself.

Are there any limitations to OCTAVE?

  • Complexity of organizational integration: integrating OCTAVE into an organization's existing processes and workflows may be challenging, especially for well-established practices.
  • May not cover all required threats: while it provides a comprehensive approach, there may be emerging or unconventional threats that are not explicitly covered by the methodology.
  • Overwhelming documentation: OCTAVE can result in extensive documentation, which may be challenging to manage, especially in agile or fast-paced development environments.

OCTAVE Allegro

As stated by the Software Engineering Institute; OCTAVE Allegro is a methodology to streamline and optimize the process of assessing information security risks so that an organization can obtain sufficient results with a small investment in time, people, and other limited resources. It leads the organization to consider people, technology, and facilities in the context of their relationship to information and the business processes and services they support.2


OCTAVE-S is a variation of OCTAVE tailored to smaller organizations (less than 100 people). OCTAVE-S is led by a small, interdisciplinary team (three to five people) of an organization’s personnel who gather and analyze information, producing a protection strategy and mitigation plans based on the organization’s unique operational security risks. To conduct OCTAVE-S effectively, the team must have broad knowledge of the organization’s business and security processes, so it will be able to conduct all activities by itself.3

Should I consider other Threat Modeling Methdologies?

To learn more about other methodologies please visit Threat Modeling Methodologies.

Information Sources:

1. Software Engineering Institute, Threat Modeling: 12 Available Methods (2018)
2. Software Engineering Institute, Introducing OCTAVE Allegro (2007)
3. Software Engineering Institute, OCTAVE®-S Implementation Guide, Version 1.0 (2005)