What’s the Difference Between Risk Management & Vulnerability Management?

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com

Vulnerability management is the practice of identifying and mitigating software vulnerabilities. It is specific to computer software. Risk management — which can apply to almost any field — is the practice of identifying and preventing unfortunate events such as natural disasters, medical device failure or plane crashes. In the context of IT, it focuses on avoiding cybercrime, fires, flooding, and property theft.

Defining Risk, Vulnerability, and Threat

A vulnerability is a weakness of an asset that a threat can exploit — it’s any problem that must be addressed. An example of a vulnerability in software is a buffer overflow.

A threat is any malicious or negligent act that can exploit a vulnerability. An example of a threat in the IT industry is a phishing attack.

A risk is the damage that could occur when a threat exploits a vulnerability. An example of a risk is identity theft. Therefore, threats exploit vulnerabilities and create risks.

Vulnerability Management

The goal of vulnerability management is to look for and correct flaws in software so threats cannot exploit them and create security risks. There are many ways to correct vulnerabilities, including changing network security policies, reconfiguring software, educating users about social engineering or installing patches.

Vulnerability management is often a continuous process. That is because users may add new systems to a network, change existing systems or discover new vulnerabilities over time. Vulnerability management software like Hexway Vampy, Invicti, NinjaOne Backup and Astra Pentest can perform continuous checks for vulnerabilities in a network.

Risk Management

Risk management in the IT sector seeks to prioritize certain risks by how likely they are to occur and how dangerous they are. In 2022, cyberattacks caused the most trouble to companies worldwide, with 65% of risk managers and directors citing it as very or extremely significant.

Risk management is the process of allocating resources to prevent risks from occurring if software vulnerabilities slip through the cracks. The overall purpose of risk management is to identify relevant threats, vulnerabilities and risks, then assess their impact on the organization and create a plan to stop them.

Common Software and Network Vulnerabilities

Looking for vulnerabilities in software is crucial for network and computer security, and it’s the main component of vulnerability management. Software engineers may use a vulnerability scanner to analyze a computer system for common vulnerabilities, including:

  • Weak passwords
  • Bugs
  • Buffer overflow
  • Misconfigured HTTP headers
  • Incomplete or impromptu configurations
  • Insecure default configurations
  • Missing authorization
  • Download of codes without integrity checks
  • Broken algorithms
  • URL redirection to untrustworthy sites
  • Reliance on untrustworthy inputs in a security decision
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Unrestricted dangerous file type uploads
  • Missing authentication for critical function
  • SQL injection
  • OS command injection
  • Missing data encryption
  • Server-side request forgery
  • Insufficient logging and monitoring processes
  • Vulnerable and outdated components
  • Cryptographic failures

Common Threats in IT

In 2021, businesses faced 50% more cyberattack attempts per week than in 2020. Risk management seeks to identify and prevent threats that could cause risk. In the information technology sector, threats may include:

  • Clickjacking
  • Malvertising 
  • Zero-day exploits
  • Insider threats
  • Eavesdropping attacks
  • URL interpretation
  • Session hijacking
  • Phishing, including whale-phishing and spear-phishing
  • Password attacks
  • Web attacks
  • DoS and DDoS attacks
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks
  • Drive-by attacks
  • Ransomware
  • SQL injection attacks
  • Domain name system spoofing
  • Brute-force attacks
  • Trojan horses
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Birthday attacks
  • Business email compromise
  • DNS tunneling

Threats can also cause the physical destruction of hardware. A fire, flood or break-in may damage computers and servers. Risk management teams must address physical security concerns by installing alarm systems, locking doors and requiring IDs to enter buildings.

Common Risks in IT

Risks are the adverse events that may happen if a threat takes advantage of a system vulnerability. Some common risks in computing include: 

  • Monetary theft
  • Identity theft
  • Restricted file access
  • Theft of login credentials
  • Theft of browser cookies
  • Theft of hardware
  • Destruction of hardware

Risk Management vs. Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management and risk management are similar concepts, but the main difference is vulnerability management refers only to computer software testing to look for hidden flaws. In contrast, risk management is a broad field that deals with detecting and preventing threats and risks.

Every field has a different risk management strategy based on the specific industry’s hazards. In computer software and engineering, risk management seeks mainly to prevent cyberattacks and physical property damage.

Devin Partida is an industrial tech writer and the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com, a digital magazine for all things technology, big data, cryptocurrency, and more. To read more from Devin, please check out the site.



Follow Brilliance Security Magazine on Twitter and LinkedIn to ensure you receive alerts for the most up-to-date security and cybersecurity news and information.