What is Risk-Based Vulnerability Management?

Team Wabbi

September 29, 2023

Risk-Based Vulnerability Management (RBVM) is a security strategy that aligns the risk profile of an organization with its remediation efforts in application security. It is designed to ensure that an organization’s resources are utilized efficiently and effectively in order to reduce the risk of potential vulnerabilities. It takes into account the various elements of an organization’s infrastructure, including applications, software, hardware, networks, and people.  

At its core, RBVM enables an organization to align its operational risk strategy with its application security risk strategy. By focusing on identifying what is high-risk (and conversely, low risk) in the context of an application’s specific risk profile, organizations can ensure that their resources are being utilized in the most effective way possible. This means that organizations can prioritize vulnerability testing and remediation efforts according to their own specific risk profiles. (Yes, testing too. Do you want to wait for all of your scanners to return their results before allowing code to advance in the SDLC? Because Developers sure don’t.) 

Building Blocks of Risk-Based Vulnerability Management 

RBVM is an iterative process that allows for more granular control over the process of vulnerability identification and prioritization. It requires continuous monitoring in order to stay aligned with business risk. It also involves assessing the impact of discovered vulnerabilities in order to determine if they require immediate attention or can wait for a later date.  

You can’t fix everything first – or sometimes ever. So, RBVM asks the question: What matters:  

  • To my organization?  
  • For this application? 
  • At this time?

Organizations can customize their own risk thresholds and determine which vulnerabilities pose a greater threat based on their environment. This helps organizations focus on those vulnerabilities with the highest likelihood of exploitation or impact on the overall organization – while still recognizing other risks present within the environment that may not be as pressing or immediate but still require attention.  

Additionally, RBVM should involve regular assessment of the organization’s risk strategy in order to ensure that resources are being allocated appropriately and efficiently throughout the SDLC. This includes ensuring that patches and updates are applied as quickly as possible when new vulnerabilities are found, as well as regularly reviewing existing processes and procedures to verify whether existing controls are still effective in mitigating risks or if new ones need to be implemented to stay ahead of ever-evolving cyber threats. 

Risk-Based Vulnerability Management Automation Drives Productivity 

By taking a risk-based approach towards managing vulnerabilities, organizations are able to manage resource allocation and expectation while simultaneously reinforcing their overall security posture. RBVM enables organizations to make informed decisions about how to best maintain their security posture by providing them with insight into both existing risks as well as those posed by new vulnerabilities or changes in technology. Ultimately, this results in better decision making when it comes to resource allocation for application security initiatives – allowing organizations to stay ahead of emerging threats and deliver code on time.  

Improving Developer Productivity:  

RBVM improves the productivity of developers by providing them with a clear understanding of why and when they need to implement security standards or fixes. By implementing this approach, developers are able to prioritize and address potential vulnerabilities before they become an issue.  

Security activities can be prioritized as part of their existing workflows, whether by showing feature-specific policies directly on a ticket or in the IDE and then prioritizing vulnerabilities for remediation as part of their existing backlog. This helps developers better understand their current security posture so they can make informed decisions about where to allocate their time, eliminating any confusion surrounding when security tasks should be handled. 

Improving Application Security Manager Productivity:  

By reducing manual work and focusing on more strategic operations, RBVM enables application security teams to increase their overall efficiency and effectiveness without adding extra resources. Without it, an AppSec manager’s work in the form of running scans, applying patches, and identifying vulnerabilities is largely manual. Additionally, without RBVM, vulnerability management is time-consuming and repetitive leading to high turnover rates in the AppSec team.  

In addition to freeing up resources for other tasks, RBVM also eliminates much of the guesswork associated with VM. By automatically aligning risks associated with particular assets or areas within an organization’s risk profile, AppSec teams can streamline such processes by automating many of the steps involved, allowing security teams to focus their efforts on higher-level tasks that will produce better results for their organization.  

Must have automation to effectively scale RBVM includes: 

  • Ability to set application and feature specific policies & workflows  
  • Vulnerability indexing based off application-specific risk profile  
  • Bi-directional ticketing system integration 

Want to learn more about how you can integrate AppSec in your Development pipeline?

Check out these top resources!

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