Cyber Bear Traps


In the threat landscape, understanding the techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors is crucial for effective defense. Several frameworks have been developed to aid in this understanding and enhance incident response and threat intelligence efforts. In this blog post, we will explore and compare three prominent models: the Kill Chain, the Pyramid of Pain, and MITRE ATT&CK. By examining their core concepts, strengths, and applications, we can gain valuable insights into the threat landscape.

The Kill Chain

The Kill Chain, popularized by Lockheed Martin, provides a systematic approach to understanding and countering cyberattacks. It consists of several stages, including reconnaissance, weaponization, delivery, exploitation, installation, command and control, and actions on objectives. This model focuses on mapping out the attacker’s actions and helps security teams identify and disrupt attacks at each stage.

The Pyramid of Pain

The Pyramid of Pain, introduced by David J. Bianco, offers a different perspective on cyber threat intelligence. It classifies indicators of compromise (IOCs) and TTPs based on their level of effectiveness for adversaries and the difficulty of mitigating or defending against them. At the top of the pyramid, high-value indicators such as specific malware hashes or unique tactics are harder for attackers to change, making them valuable for defenders.


MITRE ATT&CK (Adversarial Tactics, Techniques & Common Knowledge) is a comprehensive knowledge base and framework that catalogues the tactics and techniques used by real-world adversaries. It provides a standardized taxonomy to describe and classify attacker behavior across various stages of an attack. ATT&CK provides valuable insights into the capabilities and intent of threat actors, aiding organizations in enhancing their defenses and response capabilities.


Focus: The Intrusion Kill Chain focuses on mapping attacker actions, while the Pyramid of Pain emphasizes the value and difficulty of mitigating specific indicators. MITRE ATT&CK provides a holistic view of adversary behavior and techniques.

Granularity: The Intrusion Kill Chain offers a step-by-step breakdown of attack stages, whereas the Pyramid of Pain focuses on individual IOCs and TTPs. MITRE ATT&CK provides a detailed matrix of tactics and techniques.

Applicability: The Intrusion Kill Chain is widely used in incident response and threat hunting. The Pyramid of Pain aids in prioritizing and focusing efforts on high-value indicators. MITRE ATT&CK supports threat intelligence, defense strategy development, and security tooling.


Scope: The Intrusion Kill Chain primarily focuses on the sequence of events during an attack, whereas the Pyramid of Pain and MITRE ATT&CK have broader applications in threat intelligence and defense strategy development.

Emphasis: The Pyramid of Pain emphasizes the difficulty of mitigating specific indicators, while MITRE ATT&CK emphasizes the breadth of attacker techniques and tactics.

Detail Level: The Intrusion Kill Chain provides a high-level overview, while the Pyramid of Pain and MITRE ATT&CK offer more granular insights into specific indicators and techniques.


The Intrusion Kill Chain, Pyramid of Pain, and MITRE ATT&CK are all valuable frameworks that contribute to our understanding of cyber threats. Each model has its unique strengths and applications. By leveraging the insights provided by these frameworks, organizations can enhance their defensive capabilities, prioritize mitigation efforts, and better understand the behavior and techniques employed by threat actors in the ever-evolving threat landscape.

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About Joe Sullivan 35 Articles
Joe Sullivan has worked in information security for over two decades. He holds numerous certifications and has worked in various roles during that time. Joe is a SANS instructor and senior security consultant for TrustedSec. Joe regularly contributes to SecFlux and shares some of his experiences, knowledge, and insight into current cyber events.