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Threat, Vulnerability, or Risk? Knowing the Difference is Key

David Gruberger
 | Aug 25, 2021
 | Product Manager

It may be difficult to distinguish particular jargon in our space. Terms like “threat,” “vulnerability,” and “risk”, may sound synonymous, but they are actually distinct, both in definition and in what it means for your business. 

So let’s clear the air. 

Threat: The likelihood of a negative event affecting your organization. Such an event can affect your assets, systems, software, etc. 

  • An example of a threat can be “exploits”. These are the means through which a vulnerability can be leveraged for malicious activity by hackers. A threat is something that hasn’t yet occurred in my organization but has the potential to happen. 
  • The Vulcan Cyber platform relies on threat intelligence to offer the most reliable risk rating for a given vulnerability. Vulnerabilities are ranked based on severity. Known exploits published in the wild are easier to take advantage of, as they require less technical expertise. In order to stay on top of the latest exploits, the threat intelligence database is updated on a daily basis.

Vulnerability: A weakness in your infrastructure, networks, assets, or applications that potentially exposes you to threats.  

  • There are three main types of vulnerabilities against which organizations must be vigilant: 
    • Active exploits that represent an immediate and significant risk to the organization’s security posture.
  • Vulnerabilities that can undermine the organization’s compliance posture over time
  • Vulnerabilities in business-critical products that are widely used throughout the organization.

Risk: The potential for loss, damage, or destruction of assets or data caused by a cyber threat taking advantage of a vulnerability.

  • Preventing risk is a cross-organizational effort, not just reserved for your security team. Having your teams understand their part in remediating vulnerabilities is important for preventing a threat from turning into risk. Even with security platforms like Vulcan Cyber employed, your enterprise should be equipped with the knowledge to keep your organization safe.  


In cybersecurity, the terms threat, vulnerability, and risk help explain each other, but they are not used interchangeably. Understanding the differences helps you approach your enterprise’s security strategy more effectively. 

About the Author

David Gruberger

David is an experienced product leader who specializes in driving vision, roadmap and hands-on product development for businesses. He focuses on collaboration between customer and company, with cross-functional partners to deliver successful results. Among David’s specialties include SaaS B2B software, business processes, UX, mobile apps, data analytics, and product strategy.

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