Versioning and revocation of STIX content is a concept that has only been explored in STIX 1.1 and, even now, is an area the STIX team considers incomplete due to a lack of operational experience with the current approach.
That said, versioning and revoking content is an important topic that often gets overlooked. Threat intelligence is not an information domain where the information is published once and then forgotten: it constantly evolves over time as information is discovered, expanded, changed, and - when found to be wrong - deleted.
STIX versioning takes two parallel approaches: relationships are used to version content when a new version is significant enough a difference to be conceptually different or the new version is from a different producer (id namespace prefix) than the previous version, while updated timestamps are used for more incremental updates or updates within an organization.
In order to support the versioning of a construct, the following baseline requirements must be met:
idwhen it is created
timestampwhen it is created, which is set to the current time. It’s strongly suggested that the timestamp go to six decimal places in the seconds: “2014-01-01T01:01:01.000000Z”. As with all STIX timestamps, you should also indicate the timezone if at all possible.
By meeting those three requirements when initially creating a construct, you can ensure that you can version the construct later. As an example:
Incremental updates can be used when the basic nature of the construct isn’t changed but you want to add, delete, or change information. Simply create the construct again, but update the
timestamp field to the current time, keeping the
id the same.
As an example, the following TTP is an update of the previous TTP:
To perform a major update, the component should be given a new
id, a new
timestamp, and a relationship back to the previous version:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <stix:TTP xsi:type="ttp:TTPType" id="2" timestamp="2014-01-04T09:21:35.369431ZS"> <ttp:Related_TTPs> <ttp:Related_TTP> <stixCommon:Relationship>Supersedes</stixCommon:Relationship> <stixCommon:TTP idref="1" /> </ttp:Related_TTP> </ttp:Related_TTPs> </stix:TTP>
Further updates should include the previous relationships, such that the third major update will have two Related TTPs to previous versions, etc. This ensures that even consumers who don’t see all content updates understand the history of the element.
Though there has been some discussion about what a versioning vocabulary would look like, nothing has been formalized within the STIX community. Any input on this topic is appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The question of when to use each type of update is still under some level of evaluation, particularly as implementations are still being developed and the operational impact of the various approaches are not yet clear. As implementations are developed, it is hoped that the STIX community can share their experiences and work towards developing best practices for versioning using this approach as well as, if necessary, suggestions to change the approach towards something that better meets the use cases.
Current suggested practices suggest using an incremental update whenever you’re making very minor changes to a construct that don’t change its inherent meaning. Adding an alias to a threat actor, for example, would be an incremental update. Additionally, incremental updates can be used within an organization while it is developing a more final version of the construct in order to avoid churn on IDs.
Major updates, on the other hand, are suggested for anything that changes the inherent meaning of a construct or changes of content between organizations. Changing a TTP from “phishing” to “spear phishing”, for example, would be a major update because even though phishing and spear phishing are similar the inherent meaning of the construct changed.
Revocation of content is addressed as a major update with the relationship descriptor denoting the component “revokes” a previous version of the component. If a
timestamp is specified for the previous version then just that version is to be revoked. If no
timestamp is specified and only an
id is specified then all versions of content with the specified
id are to be revoked. This new version should not contain any content other than the relationships.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <stix:TTP xsi:type="ttp:TTPType" id="3" timestamp="2014-01-04T15:53:47.832653"> <ttp:Related_TTPs> <ttp:Related_TTP> <stixCommon:Relationship>Revokes</stixCommon:Relationship> <stixCommon:TTP idref="2" timestamp="2014-01-04T09:21:35.369431ZS" /> </ttp:Related_TTP> </ttp:Related_TTPs> </stix:TTP>
See the relationships idiom for more information on using relationships.