For every business, it is critical to have a clear, in-depth understanding of their enterprise security and its vernacular to steer clear of the organization of any unwanted risk. In the world of cybersecurity, probably the three most often confused terms are vulnerability, threat, and exploit. Entrepreneurs generally mix these terms up and fog their ability to understand how to protect their security infrastructure and fail-proof it against sophisticated cyber threats. At times, lacking security jargon impedes proper conversation with their IT professionals and security teams.
A study at World Economic Forum revealed that simple human errors have made businesses vulnerable to threats and caused around 95 percent of overall cybersecurity breaches! And the number of new victims falling prey to cybercrime globally is constantly increasing every year.
Hence, understanding threat vs. vulnerability vs. exploit is the first sane step toward achieving a more robust and efficient vulnerability management approach and strengthening your cyber security posture while lowering your cyberattack risk.
To give SMEs and start-ups more clarity so they can handle their cyber security confidently, this blog walks you through the key differences between the three terms and shed light on their significance. Let us dive in.
Precisely, vulnerability is a loophole or weakness in a security infrastructure or network that exposes a business to different kinds of web threats. Threats are activities that increase the probability of harmful events, such as cyberattacks caused by vulnerability exploitation. An exploit is a process of hackers attacking a vulnerability and benefiting from it.
Since all three are directly related to cyber security risks, let's understand them one by one in detail to prevent potential data loss or damage to critical assets in a business.
A vulnerability is any weakness or loophole in an organization's security infrastructure that threat agents can leverage to compromise the business's security. In other words, a Security Vulnerability is a flaw, gap, or even human error (known or unknown) within a security environment or process having the potential to be used by attackers to slide into your system and crash/ harm it.
Vulnerabilities can be present in any entity that exists within the security system. For example:
- Hardware devices
- Operating systems
If you are an IT geek, you know that millions of bugs and viruses are found in the software, plugins, or systems we use - every year! Hence, it is time to take security seriously; else, even basic vulnerabilities can cause businesses to lose everything.
If your vendor is responsible enough, they will generally publish patches from time to time to fix any known vulnerabilities found in their hardware/ software/ app. However, these patches can also have some unknown bugs that you will get to know about only in the future. Attackers might already use these bugs (vulnerabilities) to break into your IT environment and cause a threat to your security.
Solution: Patching vulnerabilities is one thing you can do to stay secure from traditional data breaches, but having a legit vulnerability assessment or a managed Email security solution can protect you from the highest profile attacks and advanced types of email threats.
Threats are potential attacks that can damage your data and disrupt your business. Typically, the primary intent of a security threat is to cause harm to your business. When it comes to cyber security, threats can be of two types,
Intentional Threats. As the term suggests, intentional threats are the threats that are created or launched with the intention to cause harm to an enterprise or a network. Viruses such as malware, ransomware (email threats asking for money), worms, phishing scams, and malicious code - all fall under the category of intentional threats. These are all the email threat examples and methods that threat actors use to exploit your organization's security.
Unintentional Threats. Human errors often cause Unintentional threats. For businesses, it is critical to avoid unintentional threats by double-checking their IT environment and security systems or practices from time to time. For example- Not updating your login credentials often, using an Antivirus software/ solution or Firewall from an anonymous third party, not using two-factor authentication, not patching your vulnerabilities or bugs, and not using proper DLP practices.
Solution: Even if you did not intend to handle your security loosely, the bad actors can still benefit from this and cause a threat to your sensitive information if left unmonitored. To stop this from happening, businesses need to know that threats and vulnerabilities are real and practice strong security practices to keep intentional/ unintentional threats at bay.
Exploitation is the step in an attacker's playbook where they try to find a way to get into the security network after they find a vulnerability that they can exploit. Although an exploit is not part of the equation Threats x Vulnerabilities = Risk, it is an integral part of making the threats feasible.
Exploit is something that comes somewhere in between the process of finding a vulnerability in your security ecosystem and launching a threat in the form of malicious activities. These activities could include malware, pieces of software, malicious code, and sequences of commands. All these malicious activities are in the form of source or binary codes, making it easy for attackers to benefit from a specific vulnerability and gain unauthorized access to a network, system, or application.
Solution: It is also critical to know that exploit codes do not exist for all known vulnerabilities. Hackers generally take their time to develop exploits for new vulnerabilities -with the greatest potential to result in a successful attack. Hence, rather than giving in to the bad actors, businesses should invest in managed SIEM services to stay one step ahead of the attackers and fix known/ unknown vulnerabilities and loopholes existing in their security infrastructure.
While threats and vulnerabilities in cyber security are constantly evolving – giving further context to the stages and dangers to businesses of all shapes and sizes. What should you do to lower your overall risk? A wise approach will be to have an experienced Security Information and Event Management expert with you. A managed SIEM service provider like ACE will scan your IT environment for possible vulnerabilities and fix them with their vulnerability management tool.
Collecting and analyzing or monitoring your logs from a single viewpoint can make it much easier to control activities on your network. ACE Managed SIEM tools can help you set up effective proactive defenses in your organization that offer vulnerability and threat control to fix vulnerabilities and fend off threats and new exploits in real-time, keeping your IT environment safe.