Managing vulnerabilities in cybersecurity can feel overwhelming, especially with the increasing number of vulnerabilities and sophisticated threats. Traditional methods that treat all vulnerabilities the same just don’t cut it anymore. That’s where risk-based vulnerability management comes in.

Instead of spreading your resources thin by addressing every single vulnerability, this approach focuses on the ones that pose the greatest risk to your organization. So you can work smarter, not harder. Rather than focusing merely on vulnerability severities, the size and complexity of this problem demands a more comprehensive method of correlation and focus based on business impact and risks to your most critical resources. By using a risk-based approach, you can prioritize response and direct costly resources to the most dangerous vulnerabilities first.

This method helps your security team stay ahead of potential risk exposures, ensuring your resources are used effectively and efficiently. Plus, it aligns your security efforts with your overall business goals, making your organization more resilient. Here are 15 reasons why adopting a risk-based approach to vulnerability management can transform your cyber security strategy.

1. Prioritizes Critical Risk Exposures

When you run a scan, you probably find hundreds if not thousands of vulnerabilities. It’s impossible to tackle them all at once. It’s impractical and would overwhelm your security team. Not all vulnerabilities pose the same level of risk to your organization. Some are much more dangerous than others. To assess the risk associated with each vulnerability, you need to consider all factors. This includes the potential impact on your operations, ease of exploitation and current threat intelligence to identify exposures that are time sensitive. Once you have and use this information, your security measures become effective and efficient.

Additionally, using a risk-based approach enables stakeholders to understanding the risks and resource allocations in a way that is tailore to their areas of responsibility. When you can explicitly and quickly communicate the value of your team’s efforts, you’re building their confidence in your strategy and obtain buy-in across disparate business units.

2. Reduces Overwhelm for Security Teams

What security team wouldn’t be overwhelmed by hundreds if not thousands of vulnerabilities from a single scan?

Taking a risk-based approach is the quickest way to focus your team on what will make the biggest difference. Don’t fritter their time away addressing vulnerabilities and other types of exposures of low impact. This could be patching internal printers while missing a vulnerability that is known to be actively exploited, or an attack surface such as a public server that processes customer transactions.

When your team knows what is most important for them to address, their productivity will improve and they won’t burnout. Additionally, team will be more empowered to contribute to the risk-based strategy. This helps them to better understand their role in effecting the business’s overall security posture.

3. Improves Resource Allocation

Every organization has limited resources. So using your resources wisely is probably one of your greatest concerns. Budgets are not an infinite amount. Obtaining greater Time-to-Value (TOV) and Return on Investment (ROI) are measures that have to be considered as a critical component to any vulnerability management program.

Risk-based vulnerability management helps you direct your time, money, and team toward vulnerabilities that pose the greatest business risk. When technologies are classified and managed as business resources, the people, processes, data and response are all managed and allocated from the same perspective of other critical business functions – therefore gaining an an important seat at the table, when responding to budget and resource challenges. When your resources are allocated based on business risk, your organization becomes more resilient against threats and you can demonstrate you’re making smart, informed decisions about where to invest your efforts and budget.

4. Enhances Decision-Making

Risk-based vulnerability management gives you data-driven insights to help your security team understand which exposures are most significant and need immediate attention.

Instead of relying on just experience or previous approaches, it is vital that teams assess each vulnerability’s risk based on factors such as criticality of the asset, attack surface, exposure of sensitive data, asset traceability to stakeholder areas of responsibility, business impact, ease of exploitation, current threat intelligence and other such factors. Using a holistic approach, combined with visual tools that focus on areas of highest value, provides the ability to make speedy, decisive choices about where to focuses with the greatest impact on overall risk posture and resources of highest importance to the business.

5. Increases Efficiency

With the ability to make better and faster decisions, your security team can become much more efficient. When they focus on the highest-risk vulnerabilities first, they improve the organization’s security posture much more quickly than with any other approach. Improving your team’s efficiency means they can respond to issues faster and more effectively over traditional methods.

6. Supports Compliance

Many organizations must comply with one or more industry security standards. While many standards mandate security controls and measured that span the full spectrum of a defense-in-depth approach to security. Others, can be much more details and prescriptive. In 2024, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) updated its Data Security Standard (DSS), version 4.0, to broaden its historical focus on “protect card holder data”, to include a risk-based approach. Within the DSS, emphasis was placed on using a risk-based approach to vulnerability management.

Whether your organization has been focused on meeting regulatory requirements for years or just beginning to, your desire to remain compliant demonstrates your commitment to protecting your customers’ sensitive data, but also to implement frameworks and approaches that are used throughout the broader industry. Responding to current standards that focus on risk, also ensure your cyber program protects the business from legal penalties and fines, and potentially provides evidence to obtain more favorable rates from cyber insurance companies.

7. Boosts Confidence in Security Posture

Risk-based vulnerability management builds confidence by showing that you’re tackling the most significant security issues first. When you can clearly demonstrate your team is focusing on high-risk vulnerabilities with a business context, it reassures stakeholders that you’re effectively protecting the organization, as well as areas of critical importance across key stakeholders. Using the Asset classification and metrics you design into your risk-based approach also makes it easier to provide regular updates on progress and improvements. This transparency helps build trust with both internal and external stakeholders that you’re strengthening the organization’s security posture.

8. Promotes Proactive Security Measures

The only way to stay ahead of threats is by shifting from a reactive to a proactive security strategy. Risk-based vulnerability management helps you anticipate and address the most critical vulnerabilities, effecting the most critical assets, before they are exploited. Additionally, the ability to align vulnerabilities with highest risk to forecasted exploitation projections (future risk), proactive security facilitates a more effective proactive approach as a “leading indicator” versus a “lagging indicator” that current and historical data cannot provide.

9. Improves Incident Response

When you know your most critical assets and their vulnerabilities of highest risk, your ability to quickly and effectively respond to security incidents improves dramatically. With a risk-based approach, you can proactively prioritize your resources based on the potential business impact of each vulnerability. While incident response (IR) is typically seen as an active to respond to a breach or active attack, proactive, risk-based vulnerability management can reduce the likelihood of a breach or attack, thus providing time to focus on other types of attack vectors that are often exploited, such as human weaknesses, data segmentation/exposure and system misconfigurations (as highlighted from industry benchmark analysis).

10. Aligns with Business Priorities and Objectives

One of the greatest benefits of using a risk-based approach is in gaining a “seat at the table”. Too many times, security leaders are relegated to a lesser level of importance or value to a business over other executive or functional areas of the business. With a risk-based approach focused on business context, you can easily align your cybersecurity efforts and communication with your organization’s businesses areas and critical assets, and measure activities and outcomes as they relate to the business versus merely a technical activity.

11. Facilitates Communication Across Teams

Effective communication is required for a strong security posture.

When the rest of the organization believes the cyber security team supports their needs, it becomes much easier to communicate across teams. Risk-based vulnerability management provides clear and easy-to-understand illustrations, from the context of business, that can be shared with non-technical stakeholders, which further builds trust. When everyone understands the current posture, priorities and the reasoning behind them from a common language and perspective, collaboration can flourish, which helps teams remain aligned and work toward the same goals.

Improved communication also helps to gain buy-in from stakeholders. Buy-in then makes it easier to implement necessary security measures and create a culture of improved cyber hygiene. .

12. Encourages Continuous Improvement

Risk-based vulnerability management promotes a cycle of continuous improvement by helping you focus on the most significant risks, measure consistently over time, and introduce improvements in a concise and measureable way. This helps you to maintain a strong security posture by adapting to new threats and improving your defenses over time.

Of course, continuous improvement also means learning from past incidents and adjusting your strategies accordingly. You will be building a more resilient organization that can better withstand future cyber threats.

13. Reduces Costs

Focusing on the most impactful vulnerabilities, you use resources to address the areas where they can make the biggest difference.

The first cost reduction is in prioritization and directing remediation to the highest value areas. Lower priority items can be fit into a more manageable plan. However, highest value and greatest return is strategic, organized, planned and managed. When you deprioritize work on low-risk vulnerabilities, you save time and reduce operational costs. This helps keep your security measures effective and economical.

Secondly, by preventing high-risk vulnerabilities from being exploited, you eliminate or greatly reduce the significant costs associated with incident response – cost of response and recovery, fines, legal fees, increased insurance premiums, and damage to your reputation. ROI is achieved in what you DON’T expend resources on, rather than making difficult decisions on limited, measured response.

14. Supports Scalability in Security Efforts

Scalability is crucial for long-term success, and a risk-based approach helps you build a strategy that can grow with you. Your defenses can remain robust and adaptable, no matter how large or complex your operations become.

The only way to effectively and responsibly scale security efforts is through risk-based vulnerability management. That is because it provides a flexible framework that can adapt to the changing size and complexity of your operations.

When you focus on the highest priority business assets and highest-risk vulnerabilities first, your security team’s efforts remain effective even as new assets and systems are added. As each asset or system is deployed, categorizing each as a business resource then becomes systemic and easily integrated into the existing risk-based framework, systems, communications and operations. Your organization thus maintains a strong security posture and your security team is not overwhelmed again, as increase scale is required.

15. Strengthens Vendor and Third-Party Relationships

Managing third-party risks is a must for maintaining a strong security posture. Risk-based vulnerability management provides a clear framework for evaluating and managing the dangers associated with vendors and partners.

By including these “external variables” to the risk scope, you can manage these potential exposures with the same rigor you do with internal assets. You can better ensure external relationships and interconnected systems do not compromise your security. It can also help you identify potential risk exposures early. Risks that were typically out of scope of a legacy approach, and provide a common framework in which to prioritize, communicate and address these external risks before they become significant issues.

Clear communication and regular assessments of these relationships also helps build trust with your vendors and partners. By demonstrating a proactive risk strategy for the relationship, you set expectations for the shared responsibility of risk, and foster stronger relationships.

Lastly, by establishing a risk-based approach and measurable levels of commitment within these relationships, you also ensure that your vendors and partners are held to the same high standards as your own organization. This further strengthens your overall security posture.

Risk-based vulnerability management can drive innovation in cybersecurity.

In addition to all of the benefits previously listed, focusing on the most significant risk exposure can position you to more easily adopt new practices and technologies that improve your security posture. In other words, by being strategic, you can build a resilient and future-proof cyber security framework that adapts and overcomes many of the technical, financial and leadership challenges you face.

Ready to take your scan results from overwhelming to focused and effective? Learn more about our Vulnerability Risk Management System.

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