Risk-based vulnerability management—what you need to know

| By: Patrick Beggs

We have seen in recent years that managed service providers (MSPs) are an attractive target for threat actors as these groups come to realize that MSPs possess critical client information and infrastructure that will allow them to hit multiple victims at once. As valued partners to your clients, it’s essential for MSPs to stay on top of emerging new threats, regulatory changes, and everything in between. Keeping up with such developments will help you stay proactive toward the ever-growing list of potential vulnerabilities that can affect your networks and systems.

Given today’s threat landscape, the rise of artificial intelligence, and increased sophistication of bad actors, it leaves many of us questioning what can I do to protect myself and my organization? Using risk-based vulnerability management could be the answer. Read on to explore how using risk-based analytics should be part of every MSP’s cybersecurity plan. should be part of every MSP’s cybersecurity plan.

What is risk-based vulnerability management?

Let’s start with the concept of risk-based vulnerability. First of all, what is it?

Risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM) is an approach to information security that prioritizes the identification and remediation of vulnerabilities based on their potential impact on an organization’s security posture.

The primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with cyber threats by identifying vulnerabilities, prioritizing remediation efforts, and implementing effective mitigation strategies.

Why does risk-based vulnerability management matter?

So why does that matter? Well, the traditional approach to vulnerability management involves identifying and patching vulnerabilities as they are discovered. However, this reactive approach can result in missed vulnerabilities and delayed remediation efforts. This leaves you in a risky position and opens your organization to a breeding ground of attackers.

Additionally, not all vulnerabilities are created equal. Some vulnerabilities pose a greater risk to an organization than others, and a prioritization approach is necessary to effectively address these risks.

The RBVM approach is built on the idea that vulnerabilities should be addressed based on their level of risk to an organization. This approach requires a thorough understanding of an organization's IT environment, including its assets, vulnerabilities, and potential risks. By prioritizing vulnerabilities based on their potential impact, organizations can focus their remediation efforts on the most critical issues, reducing the likelihood of successful cyberattacks..

The 4 stages of risk-based vulnerability management

We understand that every small and midsized business (SMB) has a unique set of challenges. However, here are some recommended steps you can take to shore up your security posture and to ensure you can connect with confidence.

The RBVM process typically involves four primary stages: asset identification, vulnerability assessment, risk analysis, and mitigation. Let's explore each of these stages in more detail.

  1. Asset identification

The first step in RBVM is to identify all assets within an organization's IT environment. This includes hardware, software, applications, data, and network components. Without an accurate inventory of assets, it is difficult to identify vulnerabilities and assess potential risks. Once an inventory is established, it is important to maintain it with regular updates to ensure accurate vulnerability assessments and risk analysis.

  1. Vulnerability assessment

The next step in RBVM is to conduct a vulnerability assessment to identify vulnerabilities within an organization's IT environment. This can be done through vulnerability scanning tools, which automate the process of identifying known vulnerabilities within an organization's network. Vulnerability scanning tools can be used to assess web applications, network devices, and operating systems. However, it is important to note that vulnerability scanners can only identify known vulnerabilities, and may miss zero-day vulnerabilities or vulnerabilities that have not been published.

  1. Risk analysis

Once vulnerabilities have been identified, they must be assessed for their potential risk to an organization. This includes evaluating the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited and the impact it could have on the organization. A vulnerability's likelihood is determined by its exploitability, its exposure, and its access. The impact of a vulnerability is assessed by considering its potential to affect confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and IT assets.

Vulnerability scoring systems, such as the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), can be used to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity. CVSS assigns a score to each vulnerability based on its potential impact, allowing organizations to prioritize remediation efforts based on the severity of the risk.

  1. Mitigation

The final step in RBVM is to implement effective mitigation strategies for identified vulnerabilities. This can include patching vulnerabilities, upgrading software or hardware, or implementing additional security controls to reduce the risk of exploitation. Organizations must also establish processes for ongoing vulnerability management, including regular vulnerability assessments, risk analysis, and mitigation efforts.


RBVM helps organizations streamline their vulnerability management processes by identifying the most critical vulnerabilities and focusing remediation efforts on these issues. This reduces the time and resources required to address vulnerabilities, improving efficiency and reducing costs. It is important to note that RBVM is an ongoing process, and vulnerabilities must be continually monitored and assessed for new risks as they emerge. This includes regularly scanning and testing IT assets for new vulnerabilities and updating vulnerability assessments as new threats and vulnerabilities are identified.

Take a critical step for your organization by implementing an effective RBVM program with the collaboration of IT and security teams, as well as executive leadership. IT and security teams must work together to identify and assess vulnerabilities, while executive leadership must provide the necessary resources and support for remediation efforts.

By focusing on the most critical vulnerabilities, organizations can effectively reduce their overall risk and increase their resilience to cyber threats. While implementing an RBVM program can be complex, the benefits of reducing risk and improving security make it a worthwhile investment for any organization that values the protection of its data and IT assets.

ConnectWise Cybersecurity Management offers a suite of tools MSPs need to quickly identify their most critical vulnerabilities, mitigate risk, and protect against malicious actors—ultimately resulting in a more secure environment for their customers.