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Difference Between Threat, Vulnerability and Risk in Computer Network

  • Last Updated : 16 Dec, 2021

The Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk these terms are interrelated but not the same. In this article, we are going to discuss the difference between them and how they are related to each other.

Threat

A cyber threat is a malicious act that seeks to steal or damage data or discompose the digital network or system. Threats can also be defined as the possibility of a successful cyber attack to get access to the sensitive data of a system unethically. Examples of threats include computer viruses,  Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, data breaches, and even sometimes dishonest employees

Types of Threat

Threats could be of three types, which are as follows:

  1. Intentional- Malware, phishing, and accessing someone’s account illegally, etc. are examples of intentional threats.
  2. Unintentional- Unintentional threats are considered human errors, for example, forgetting to update the firewall or the anti-virus could make the system more vulnerable.
  3. Natural- Natural disasters can also damage the data, they are known as natural threats.

Vulnerability:

In cybersecurity, a vulnerability is a flaw in a system’s design, security procedures, internal controls, etc., that can be exploited by cybercriminals. In some very rare cases, cyber vulnerabilities are created as a result of cyberattacks, not because of network misconfigurations. Even it can be caused if any employee anyhow downloads a virus or a social engineering attack.

Types of Vulnerability

Vulnerabilities could be of many types, based on different criteria, some of them are:

  1. Network- Network vulnerability is caused when there are some flaws in the network’s hardware or software.
  2. Operating system- When an operating system designer designs an operating system with a policy that grants every program/user to have full access to the computer, it allows viruses and malware to make changes on behalf of the administrator.
  3. Human- Users’ negligence can cause vulnerabilities in the system.
  4. Process- Specific process control can also cause vulnerabilities in the system.

Risk: 

Cyber risk is a potential consequence of the loss or damage of assets or data caused by a cyber threat. Risk can never be completely removed, but it can be managed to a level that satisfies an organization’s tolerance for risk. So, our target is not to have a risk-free system, but to keep the risk as low as possible. 
Cyber risks can be defined with this simple formula- Risk = Threat + Vulnerability. Cyber risks are generally determined by examining the threat actor and type of vulnerabilities that the system has. 

Types of Risks

There are two types of cyber risks, which are as follows:

1. External- External cyber risks are those which come from outside an organization, such as cyberattacks, phishing, ransomware, DDoS attacks, etc.

2. Internal- Internal cyber risks come from insiders. These insiders could have malicious intent or are just not be properly trained.

Difference Between Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk

 ThreatVulnerabilityRisks
1.Take advantage of vulnerabilities in the system and have the potential to steal and damage data.Known as the weakness in hardware, software, or designs, which might allow cyber threats to happen.The potential for loss or destruction of data is caused by cyber threats.
2.Generally, can’t be controlled.Can be controlled.Can be controlled.
3.It may or may not be intentional.Generally, unintentional.Always intentional.
4.Can be blocked by managing the vulnerabilities.Vulnerability management is a process of identifying the problems, then categorizing them, prioritizing them, and resolving the vulnerabilities in that order.Reducing data transfers, downloading files from reliable sources, updating the software regularly, hiring a professional cybersecurity team to monitor data, developing an incident management plan, etc. help to lower down the possibility of cyber risks.
5.Can be detected by anti-virus software and threat detection logs.Can be detected by penetration testing hardware and many vulnerability scanners.Can be detected by identifying mysterious emails, suspicious pop-ups, observing unusual password activities, a slower than normal network, etc.
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