MITRE D3FEND Framework: The Ultimate Guide

What Is the MITRE D3FEND Framework?

MITRE is a government-backed not-for-profit organization that conducts federally funded cybersecurity research to support defensive IT security across all sectors, including government agencies and defense contractors. MITRE D3FEND is a knowledge base—defined as a "knowledge-graph" by MITRE—that serves as a library of defensive cybersecurity countermeasures, technical components, and their associations and capabilities. It is complementary to the MITRE ATT&CK framework of cybercriminals’ Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP).

The MITRE D3FEND Framework maps relationships between ATT&CK's adversary TTP and defensive countermeasures for developing defensive strategy that corresponds directly to known attacker behavior. D3FEND's growing collection of Tactics and Techniques define specific technical elements to monitor to neutralize offensive cyberattacks. The D3FEND framework is relatively new; MITRE released the beta in July 2021.


While the MITRE ATT&CK framework is branched into three main variants known as Matrices (Enterprise, Mobile, and ICS), there is currently only one MITRE D3FEND Matrix. D3FEND’s countermeasure information is organized similarly to ATT&CK’s hierarchy of adversary TTP but from a defensive perspective. Tactics are the highest-level classification in the D3FEND hierarchy and correspond to the specific goals defenders must achieve to counter specific phases of a cyberattack. Each Tactic contains multiple Techniques and Sub-Techniques that describe technical methods for accomplishing the associated defensive tactical goals and include references to relevant IT security industry standards, tools, and patents. 

MITRE D3FEND Tactics and Highest-Level Techniques

  • Harden
    • Application Hardening
    • Credential Hardening
    • Message Hardening
    • Platform Hardening
  • Detect
    • File Analysis
    • Identifier Analysis
    • Message Analysis
    • Network Traffic Analysis
    • Platform Monitoring
    • Process Analysis
    • User Behavior Analysis
  • Isolate
    • Execution Isolation
    • Network Isolation
  • Deceive
    • Decoy Environment
    • Decoy Object
  • Evict 
    • Credential Eviction
    • Process Eviction
D3FEND also has a unique hierarchical catalog of associative information known as “Digital Artifacts” not found in ATT&CK. Digital Artifacts represent digital concepts and objects, and the catalog has four primary classes: Top-Level Artifacts, Files, Network Traffic, and Software. A portion of ATT&CK's offensive TTPs have been mapped to D3FEND Techniques using Digital Artifacts for use as a reference to identify related countermeasures and vice-versa. Those associations can be searched for and viewed within the Digital Artifacts Ontology

How to Use the MITRE D3FEND Framework

D3FEND validates a common defensive cybersecurity language and classification hierarchy that can be used between stakeholders when developing a cybersecurity program from the ground up or evaluating an existing cyber program, assessing and comparing the security posture of software or cloud vendors’ products, or informing acquisition and investment.

D3FEND has practical applications for organizations of all sizes, from SMBs to large enterprises. The D3FEND Tactics and Techniques can serve as a checklist for security planners, architects, and decision-makers planning and designing integrated network defenses and software products that will ultimately be the barrier between adversaries and the organization’s digital assets. 

Although the ATT&CK framework includes some limited mitigation advisory, D3FEND provides more formalized and organized insight into defensive countermeasures that mitigate and enable a long-term strategy to monitor, detect, and respond to cyberattacks.



MITRE D3FEND is a knowledgebase of defensive cybersecurity countermeasures, their components and capabilities. It is complementary to the MITRE ATT&CK Framework that describes cybercriminals’ Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP). The MITRE D3FEND Framework maps relationships between attacker TTP and defensive countermeasures, providing a model of defensive techniques and artifacts to neutralize or mitigate specific offensive cyberattack strategies.ATT&CK stands for Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge.

What does MITRE D3FEND stand for?

D3FEND stands for Detection, Denial, and Disruption Framework Empowering Network Defense.

Why does MITRE D3FEND reference patents?

IT security patents were the initial focus of D3FEND. Because the patenting system incentivizes inventors and organizations to disclose the details of novel technologies and require legally authoritative assessments, they are a wealth of detailed engineering design information and citations to prior scientific knowledge.

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BlackBerry’s CylancePROTECT® and CylanceOPTICS® solutions provided comprehensive detections on individual attack techniques with high confidence, helping to reduce wasted resources spent chasing false positives.