What’s the difference between a risk, a threat, and a vulnerability? This is worth knowing, because if you can spot the risks in your enterprise and mitigate or eliminate them, you might not have to worry about associated threats.
Proactive action like this can keep your enterprise safe and secure, without having to worry (unduly) about changes in finance, sales, production, IT, or others.
So, the first thing to understand is the definition of each term and how they relate to each other.
A handy way of understanding the relationship between risk, threat, and vulnerability is the following simple equation:
Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Impact
Now, a threat is something you cannot control. Cyber criminals threaten the security of your systems, while a hurricane threatens power supplies, for example.
Vulnerability represents the degree to which your organisation is exposed to the threat. Impact represents the consequences if the threat materializes on or in your organisation.
As these three factors go up or down, they will cause the risk to go up or down too. For example, a very strong and relevant threat (ransomware in IT, weather causing shipments to be delayed) pushes the risk up.
On the other hand, reducing vulnerability (making multiple data backups, building suitable stocks at remote distribution centres) pushes risk back down again.
That leaves impact. For the ransomware example, IT systems could be crippled and the company could be forced into admitting publicly that it has been successfully attacked by cybercriminals. Impact is high.
For shipments, impact might be high or low depending on whether the recipients of the shipments simply adjust to new delivery dates, or decide to look for another supplier.
Conversely, by looking for risks and fixing vulnerabilities, it may be possible to proactively thwart threats as well.
Systems and services in IT security for example are beginning to provide this kind of proactive risk assessment to allow them to avoid threats.
So, start plugging your own data into the equation above to better comprehend to see where you stand.