The terms “cyber threat,” “vulnerability” and “risk” are often used interchangeably when discussing malware, intrusions and other attacks against an information technology (IT) infrastructure. While similar, though, they aren’t the same. Each of these three terms has its own unique meaning. So, what’s the difference between cyber threats, vulnerabilities and risks exactly?

What Is a Cyber Threat?

A cyber threat is something that has the potential harm your IT infrastructure if they are carried out. Cyber threats can be intentional or accidental. A hacker, for example, may intentionally deploy malware to steal your data. Alternatively, an employee may accidentally download a file attachment that contains a virus or malware. Regardless, cyber threats are characterized by their ability to harm your IT infrastructure if they are carried out.

What Is a Vulnerability?

A vulnerability, on the other hand, is a weakness in your IT infrastructure that can cause harm if exploited. Vulnerabilities often work in conjunction with cyber threats. A vulnerability leaves your IT infrastructure susceptible to cyber threats. After identifying a vulnerability in your IT infrastructure, a hacker or some other nefarious individual may exploit it.

What Is a Risk?

A cyber risk is similar to a cyber threat. They both involve the possibility of harm to your IT infrastructure. The difference is that a cyber risk typically combines the probability of a threat with the potential monetary loss it can cause if carried out.

Cyber threats are often classified as either low, medium or high risk, depending on their level of probability as well as their monetary loss if carried out. Cyber threats with a high probability that can cause massive monetary losses are generally classified as high risk, whereas cyber threats with a low probability and lower monetary loss are generally classified as low risk.

Safeguarding Against Cyber Threats, Vulnerabilities and Risks

As a business owner, you should take precautions to safeguard your IT infrastructure, as well as its connected devices, from cyber threats, vulnerabilities and risks. While no two IT infrastructures are the same, there are several steps you can take to keep yours safe and secure.

For starters, you should maintain up-to-date software. Whether it’s the operating system or a program or app, outdated software often contains vulnerabilities that can pave the way for cyber risks. In addition to updating all your software, consider using a firewall and antivirus software.

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