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What You Should Know About Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

In 2023 alone, 26,447 cyber vulnerabilities were reported. Of those, 32.5% (or about 8,595) were found to have impacted network devices and web apps. When the SaaS stack of an average mid-sized business in the U.S. includes 255 apps, that’s an overwhelming number of threats for most security teams to keep up with. The task becomes even more daunting when there is no strategy in place to prioritize certain risks over others based on the individual organization. However, having such a strategy has become absolutely critical in recent years and, as technology advances and connectivity spreads into more areas of business, it’s likely that it will become a necessity (if it isn't already). This is where risk-based vulnerability management comes in.  

With risk-based vulnerability management, security teams can develop a tailored approach and focus their resources on the highest risk vulnerabilities for individual organizations. 

What is Risk-Based Vulnerability Management? 

Risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM) is a program designed to prioritize and manage security vulnerabilities based on their potential impact to an organization’s assets and operations. It’s a strategic approach that emphasizes the importance of contextual risk assessment, prioritization, continuous monitoring, and strategic remediation.  

Instead of relying solely on information like CVSS ratings, RBVM takes into account the broader risk landscape, including an organization’s industry sector, threat landscape, regulatory environment, and business priorities. 

Risk-Based Vulnerability Management vs Traditional Management 

So, how does risk-based vulnerability management differ from traditional methods? Outside of being a more bespoke and focused approach to vulnerability management, RBVM differs from traditional vulnerability management in a few key ways: 

Focus on Risk vs Focus on Severity 

Traditional vulnerability management typically prioritizes vulnerabilities based on severity scores and/or CVSS ratings. However, these severity ratings may not always align with the risk that the vulnerability poses to any given organization.  

Risk-based vulnerability management, in contrast, prioritizes vulnerabilities based on their potential impact. It considers factors such as assets’ criticality, data sensitivity, and the likelihood of exploitation.  

Holistic Risk Assessment vs Vulnerability Scanning  

In traditional vulnerability management, security teams primarily rely on scanning tools to identify and assess vulnerabilities within the organization’s infrastructure. But this leaves out the context of the threat and limits the kind of information security teams can work from. 

RBVM involves a comprehensive risk assessment that considers both the vulnerabilities and the broader context of the organization’s environment, such as exposure to threats and the effectiveness of mitigating controls.  

Continuous Risk Monitoring vs Point-in-Time Assessments 

Traditional vulnerability management incorporates periodic point-in-time assessments, like quarterly or annual vulnerability scans. However, this method does not provide real-time visibility into evolving risks. 

With a risk-based vulnerability management program, security teams can implement continuous monitoring of the organization’s risk exposure. Regular assessments identify new vulnerabilities and reassess existing risks on an ongoing basis so you and your security team can remain vigilant and adaptable.   

Strategic Prioritization vs Tactical Remediation 

Finally, traditional vulnerability management often focuses on tactical remediation based on severity ratings, without considering the broader risk landscape or business impact. As a result, remediation efforts may not always align with business objectives and needs. 

Remediation efforts in RBVM programs typically align better with business priorities and risk tolerance. This is due to the strategic approach to prioritizing vulnerabilities so your security team can focus on addressing high-risk issues that have the greatest impact.  

Building an Effective RBVM Program 

In order to develop an effective risk-based vulnerability management program that is aligned with the assets and needs of your organization, there are a number of things you’ll need to have in place. To begin with, a solid RBVM program is built on: 

A Complete Asset Inventory—Understanding an organization’s assets is fundamental to RBVM. Without this inventory, it’s difficult to assess the potential impact of vulnerabilities and to prioritize them accordingly. A complete asset inventory provides visibility into the organization’s IT infrastructure and forms the foundation for vulnerability assessment and risk management. 

Contextual Risk Assessments—A deep understanding of an organization’s risk landscape enables more informed decision making. This allows your security team to prioritize remediation efforts based on the potential impact and to identify high-risk vulnerabilities that warrant immediate attention. 

Strategically Prioritized Vulnerabilities—Prioritizing vulnerabilities based on risk levels ensures that limited resources are allocated to address the most immediate and severe threats first. This allows vulnerability management efforts to be better aligned with organizational objectives and risk tolerance. 

Structured Process for Deploying Necessary Patches—Risk-based vulnerability management programs establish structured processes for identifying, testing, deploying necessary patches to address known vulnerabilities. This helps ensure that patches are applied promptly and efficiently to minimize the window of opportunity for attackers. 

Remediation Planning—Effective remediation measures ensure that vulnerabilities are addressed in a systematic and timely manner. In RBVM, remediation plans are developed to address high-risk vulnerabilities, including timelines, resource requirements, and contingency measures. 

Continuous Monitoring—Security threats are constantly evolving and new vulnerabilities emerge on a regular basis. Continuous monitoring ensures that organizations and their security teams remain vigilant and responsive to new security threats. RBVM makes use of continuous monitoring in order to maintain an accurate and up-to-date view of an organization’s risk posture, which in turn facilitates proactive risk mitigation and threat response. 

Get Tailored Risk Based Vulnerability Management with Inversion6 

With new vulnerabilities and risks cropping up every day, it’s important to have security experts on your side. At Inversion6, we’re proud to provide cybersecurity risk management solutions that are tailored to your organizational needs. Whether you require a comprehensive risk-based management program, managed XDR services, SaaS security assessments, fractional CISO support, or anything in between, we have the capabilities and expertise to deliver. 

Connect with our team today to get started. 








Post Written By: Inversion6
Inversion6 and our team of CISOs are experts in information security, storage, and networking solutions. We work alongside your team to implement technology solutions that are smart, flexible, and customized to fit your needs.

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