Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

Risk-based vulnerability management is a vulnerability management approach that prioritizes vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to an organization.

Wiz Experts Team
5 minutes read

What is risk-based vulnerability management?

Risk-Based Vulnerability Management (RBVM) focuses on prioritizing vulnerabilities based on the risk they pose to the organization, allowing security teams to allocate resources more efficiently and reduce the organization's exposure to cyber threats.

A risk-based vulnerability management program is a strategic approach to identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating vulnerabilities within an organization's IT environment based on the level of risk they pose to the business. Unlike traditional vulnerability management, which may treat all vulnerabilities with the same level of urgency, RBVM focuses on the impact and likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited, allowing organizations to allocate their resources more efficiently and effectively to protect against potential threats.

Risk-based vulnerability management is a necessary evolution of legacy approaches that identify and remediate vulnerabilities without business-specific context. Without business, cloud, and workload context in vulnerability management, serious problems emerge. For instance, a lack of context can exacerbate hidden cloud vulnerabilities, squander IT and security resources, and deoptimize remediation efforts. 

Vulnerability management: Legacy vs. risk-based 

Legacy vulnerability management can affect the progress of other cybersecurity programs. Integrating legacy vulnerability management solutions with SIEM, SOAR, and SCM programs can be fruitless because a long list of irrelevant vulnerabilities neither fulfills the requirements of a vulnerability management program nor provides other cybersecurity programs with actionable knowledge and context.

Risk-based approaches focus on context and prioritization. They consider a wide range of criteria to identify and prioritize the most critical risks faced by a specific organization. Customization is key: A critical vulnerability for one organization may be well within the risk appetite of another. 

Here’s what you need to remember: Risk-based vulnerability management is important because your business simply can’t keep up with every vulnerability in dynamic cloud environments. A risk-based approach allows you to spend existing resources and efforts on the most critical vulnerabilities. 

The benefits of risk-based vulnerability management

Shifting to risk-based vulnerability management can be a powerful and transformative step up for organizations. Let’s take a quick look at the potential rewards of risk-based vulnerability management. Below are the eight most significant benefits of a risk-based approach.

1. Identify vulnerability risk based on business context

Risk-based vulnerability management leverages a wide range of data to map complex IT infrastructures and prioritize vulnerabilities based on business, cloud, and workload contexts. Identification mechanisms naturally become more accurate with a risk-based approach, enabling companies to pinpoint and prioritize vulnerabilities with previously unseen precision. 

2. Comprehensive visibility across complex cloud environments

Risk-based vulnerability management imparts a more holistic and interconnected view of your multi-cloud and cross-technology IT environment. From build to deployment, including enhanced visibility across virtual machines, serverless, appliances, and containers, risk-based vulnerability management has you covered.

Pro tip

The cloud poses unique challenges that traditional vulnerability management solutions may struggle to address. Cloud vulnerability management is a proactive security solution that can keep up with the speed and scale of the cloud.

Traditional scanning tools were able to identify and remediate vulnerabilities but often flagged vulnerabilities that were non-critical and irrelevant. Furthermore, traditional vulnerability management had a significant deficiency: context.

3. 24/7 monitoring and management capabilities

Cloud environments can now be altered and scaled by a range of users, from devs to data engineers. The simplicity and speed of cloud expansion are exciting features but can introduce a range of known and unknown vulnerabilities. The continuous monitoring capabilities of risk-based vulnerability management ensure that dynamic influxes of critical vulnerabilities are identified and addressed in real time.

4. Optimized IT and security resource allocation

IT and cybersecurity resources are scant across the globe and, according to Gartner, a whopping 81% of HR leaders are unequipped to navigate the talent shortage. The repercussions of this global IT resource and personnel shortage include limited implementation of emerging technologies, a rise in cloud security incidents, and resource inefficiency brought on by too many manual processes. Risk-based vulnerability management ensures that businesses spend critical resources like time, budgets, personnel, and technology on the most important vulnerabilities.

5. Remediation efforts and resources based on risk appetite

Most enterprises accept certain risks in pursuit of their overarching business goals. This is commonly known as a risk appetite. Unfortunately, legacy vulnerability management overlooks risk appetite, and this often induces alert fatigue for organizations. Many companies find themselves overwhelmed by alerts about irrelevant vulnerabilities. Risk-based vulnerability management addresses vulnerabilities that exceed an organization’s risk appetite. Simply put, it focuses on vulnerabilities that matter. 

6. A hygienic vulnerability intelligence ecosystem

Vulnerability intelligence is a critical form of threat intelligence that can help businesses refine their vulnerability management programs, aid parallel security initiatives, and tackle critical security concerns. Risk-based vulnerability management gives you peace of mind that the quality of vulnerability-related information being logged and analyzed is contextualized, prioritized, and business-relevant. High-quality vulnerability intelligence enriches every other cybersecurity branch in a threat-sharing program.

7. Empowered DevOps engineers and protected agile pipelines

Integrating risk-based vulnerability management into CI/CD pipelines can significantly strengthen and streamline agile operations by helping you address vulnerabilities at the build stage before deployment. Failure to shift left and address vulnerabilities early in software development lifecycles (SDLCs) can result in supply-chain attacks like the one suffered by Mercari. Mercari’s data breach compromised more than 27,000 records and was the fallout from the Codecov supply-chain attack, which involved the theft of critical data from the CI/CD environments of Codecov customers. 

8. A safe springboard to scale multi-cloud infrastructure

Risk-based vulnerability management is a powerful antidote to alert fatigue. A risk-based approach can help you scale multi-cloud infrastructure because companies can prioritize remediation efforts and optimize resources, making the process more manageable. A risk-based approach also helps maintain control as the infrastructure scales and ensures that security measures don't overly burden system performance. 

Pro tip

Traditional VM tools only produce simple table-based reports with only a basic snapshot of vulnerabilities at a given time. Advanced vulnerability management solutions consolidate information from multiple scans and provide information on what has changed over time.

Learn more

How to prioritize cyber risk

Organizations should consider the following factors to identify the vulnerabilities that present critical risks in their environments:

Vulnerability severityThe severity of a vulnerability is a measure of how easily it can be exploited and the potential impact if it is successfully exploited. The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is a standard way of measuring the severity of vulnerabilities. It takes into account factors such as the ease of exploitation, the potential impact on confidentiality, integrity, and availability, and the exploitability of the vulnerability.
Asset criticalityThe criticality of an asset is a measure of its importance to the organization. Factors that can influence asset criticality include the business value of the asset, the sensitivity of the data it stores, and the impact that a disruption to the asset would have on the organization's operations.
ExposureThe exposure of an asset is a measure of how likely it is to be targeted by an attacker. Factors that can influence exposure include whether the asset is accessible to the public, whether it is known to attackers, and whether there are any active exploits for the vulnerability.
Threat intelligenceThreat intelligence is information about known and emerging threats. Threat intelligence can be used to identify vulnerabilities that are actively being exploited by attackers and vulnerabilities that are likely to be exploited in the future.
Compliance requirementsOrganizations may be subject to compliance requirements that specify which vulnerabilities must be remediated and within what timeframe. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires organizations to remediate all high-risk vulnerabilities within 60 days.
Business impactThe business impact of a vulnerability is a measure of the potential damage that could be caused if the vulnerability is exploited. Factors that can influence business impact include the loss of customer data, the disruption of critical business processes, and damage to the organization's reputation.

Key features to look for in risk-based vulnerability management software

There’s no shortage of vulnerability management and cloud security solutions. The challenge lies in choosing the right software for your risk-based approach to vulnerability management. Keep an eye out for a few must-have features like the ones listed below. 

  • Agentless scanning: Agentless scanning offers faster and simpler deployment, fewer false positives, optimized use of IT budgets, more comprehensive workload coverage, and easier integration into CI/CD pipelines.

  • Automated prioritization: Your risk-based vulnerability software must be able to filter out irrelevant vulnerabilities and report on vulnerabilities with the biggest blast radius. Pick the right vulnerability management software, and you can bid farewell to alert fatigue. 

  • Visualized reporting: Long and complex tables can be difficult to navigate even if the information within them is accurate. Choose software that provides highly visual graphs that can be used to create easily understandable and accurate snapshots of your organization’s vulnerabilities.

  • Cross-cloud capabilities: Your risk-based vulnerability management software must be compatible with complex, multi-cloud environments. Interoperability across AWS, GCP, Azure, OCI, Alibaba Cloud, and VMware vSphere is a must-have. 

  • Deep assessments across technologies: You need to be able to assess, prioritize, and remediate vulnerabilities across multiple cloud technologies, including containers, container registries, serverless, virtual appliances, and managed compute resources.

  • Comprehensive vulnerability catalog: Your risk-based vulnerability management software needs to be supported by a comprehensive catalog of vulnerabilities across operating systems and applications. 

Your organization will be affected by known and unknown cloud vulnerabilities. That much is certain. Tackling these vulnerabilities, however, can be swift and effective if you choose a risk-based vulnerability management approach. Wiz’s agentless and cloud-native vulnerability management solution discovers, prioritizes, remediates, validates, and reports vulnerabilities based on the intricate contexts and circumstances of your organization. 

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