Why You Should Implement the New Vulnerability & Risk Management (VRM) Paradigm

Dan Blum, Managing Partner and Principal Consultant, Security Architects
October 16th, 2018

Hey there vulnerability management (VM) professionals—how would you like a solution that reduces both the risks to your employer and your workload? Through Vulnerability Risk Management (VRM), you can accomplish both by combining risk management (RM) processes with smart VM products.

This blog post summarizes and introduces the full content of our recent webinar.


Figure 1: Vulnerability & Risk Management (VRM) Framework

How Conventional Vulnerability Management is Failing

As the vulnerabilities and patches come in, do you ever feel like hamsters spinning in an endless break-fix wheel? Multiple VM challenges afflict an IT industry operating at elevated risk levels in a target-rich, complex environment.

Vulnerability scanners report thousands of vulnerabilities at any given point for a large enterprise. Once patches, or workarounds, are identified, IT typically goes about fixing whichever ones are perceived to be the easiest or most critical, but leaves many untouched. Due to testing and deployment issues, this process can take months.

Unfortunately, we see it all the time—unfixed vulnerabilities accrue, and eventually lead to disaster. Exploits, such as ransomware attacks, bolt through vulnerability cracks that should not exist, or through products that should have been taken off the network years ago.

Why VRM is the Way Forward

We can’t just admire the VM problem and accept our limitations or blame lack of funding. We must proactively seek better ways of working. In my VRM webinar for BeyondTrust, I detail a model for VRM.

Since VRM is a combination of risk management and vulnerability management, some assembly is required, but don’t worry – it’s worth it! The following case study explains what VRM looks like in practice:

A large enterprise client retained my company, Security Architects Partners, last year to develop a risk management framework – with a twist. This company operates all its business and IT projects through agile methodologies. This agile emphasis meant we had to push issue management, risk assessment, and remediation down to 9-person agile “squads” in a way that truly engages the workforce in security and risk management to an unprecedented degree. This is something CISOs dream of, but it never works unless you make the work extremely easy for the squads, or teams. A powerful model for RM, and VRM, was forged in this crucible.

Figure 2: VRM decision-making framework in action, based on a customer case study.

The VRM overlay diagram above illustrates VM in relation to RM. Vulnerabilities (vulns) come to agile squads as security issues. The squads assess the vuln severity and the assets affected to see if they can remediate within a risk-adjusted tolerance time, or SLA. If they can, the squads handle the vuln as a local issue, not even as a risk. The vuln gets fixed.

Otherwise the issue proceeds through a tiered risk assessment process.

The following components (explained in the webinar) make up VRM:

  • Asset Risk Profile: A risk score and 6 dimensions of risk metadata
  • Issue Management: Routine vulnerability identification and patching
  • Issue Triage: If a vuln can’t be fixed for the asset within a risk-adjusted SLA, it is a risk
  • Lightweight Risk Assessment: A quick IT process to rate the vuln risk
  • Focused Risk Assessment: Higher-risk vulns are escalated for expert security risk assessment

The secret sauce behind these VRM components is a risk taxonomy that we can tailor to a customer’s IT environment, security policies, and security organization based on industry standards, such as the Factor Analysis for Information Risk (FAIR). We then implement the process of risk profiling and lightweight risk assessment to make it extremely easy for non-security expert staff to work with.

To learn this VRM approach in more detail, check out my on-demand webinar.

Dan Blum, Managing Partner and Principal Consultant, Security Architects

Dan Blum, Principal Consultant, Security Architects Partners An internationally-recognized expert in security, privacy, cloud computing, and identity management, Dan Blum leads and delivers consulting projects such as: cloud security and privacy assessments, security program assessments, risk management framework reviews, and identity management architectures. Formerly a Golden Quill award-winning VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, Mr. Blum holds CISSP and Open FAIR certifications. He has participated in industry groups such as ISACA, FAIR Institute, the CSA, IDPRO, Kantara Initiative, and others.