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Threat Modeling Methodology: OCTAVE

Focus: Developer-focused |  Est: 1999


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 

The benefits of this approach are:

  • Assists in the identification of mitigation techniques
  • Contributes to risk management and awareness 
  • Encourages cross-team collaboration
  • Reduces the need for excessive documentation 
  • Gives a reliable asset-centric view 
  • Highly customizable for security teams and risk environments  
  • Provides repeatable and consistent results

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.

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

Other Threat Modeling Methodologies 

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)