Why it’s Time to Adopt a Risk-Based Approach to AppSec

Vinugayathri Chinnasamy
Senior Content Writer   Indusface

Today, AppSec (Application Security) is not only about compliance with regulatory frameworks. In the face of newer threats, a growing attack surface, and the lack of AppSec talent, legacy WAF solutions and traditional security approaches constantly try to catch up but unsuccessfully. And this is where the risk-based approach to security comes in. 

This article delves into the risk-based approach to application security and why it’s time to shift to it.  

What is the Risk-Based Approach to AppSec? 

The risk-based approach is a systematic method that enables organizations to identify, evaluate, prioritize, and prevent threats. This approach also includes determining, monitoring, and documenting AppSec vulnerabilities and proactively securing/remediating them based on the risks involved to ensure that attackers don’t exploit them, thus protecting digital assets. 

Why is it Critical to Shift to a Risk-Based Approach to Application Security?

It Involves an End-to-End Process

A risk-based approach to security involves an end-to-end process that doesn’t stop with risk evaluation but includes ongoing monitoring, governance, and reporting. Below are the 5 phases: 

Business Impact Analysis 

A Business Impact Analysis enables you to identify critical business processes and their dependencies (assets, personnel, data, facilities, applications, systems, etc.), ranking them based on criticality. This phase also includes ongoing and accurate asset discovery to assess the attack surface you need to protect. 

This helps you identify critical business processes and operations that, when disturbed/interrupted, would impact your business continuity. This gives you a solid foundation for building security, incident response, and Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP). 

A Thorough Risk Assessment

This phase is all about identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks facing the organization. AppSec risks are functions of threats, threat probability, vulnerabilities, and potential impact of threats actualizing. The sub-phases in risk assessments include threat assessment, as well as vulnerability assessments. Upon identification, risks are quantified and ranked as critical, high, medium, and low. 

Identify and Implement Security Controls and Defenses

Security defenses and controls are identified and implemented to mitigate risks and keep risks within the risk appetite of the organization. Critical risks, vulnerabilities, and threats are accorded maximum attention and resources for mitigation and remediation. 

For effective security, managed security solutions such as Indusface AppTrana combine the latest technologies with the trusted expertise of security professionals. This way, organizations can infuse proactivity into application security. 

Testing, Validation, and Reporting of Controls 

Today, organizations cannot sit back and relax after implementing security controls. You need to ensure that these controls are doing their jobs properly. To this end, penetration testing, security audits, compliance validation, and so forth, are performed regularly to test the strength of security defenses. The results are properly documented and reported so that leadership can proactively cover any gaps that may have developed. 

Continuous Monitoring and Governance 

Modern-day Application Security is not a one-and-done thing. Given the pace at which risks change, it needs to be a continuous and repeatable set of activities. While vulnerability scanning and threat monitoring must be ongoing, risk assessments and penetration testing must be performed annually. The gaps identified must be remediated immediately. 

Threats are Evolving and Mutating Rapidly 

This is another major reason why we need risk-based AppSec. Today, we have several new, emerging, and mutated threats from bots and malware, API-based threats, mutated multi-vector DDoS attacks, evasive threats, and persistent security threats, among others. Simply piling on new modules on the old security frameworks and legacy WAF solutions doesn’t fix the new security challenges; there is a need for a fresh perspective and approach that is provided by risk-based security. 

Customized Security 

The risk-based approach to application is a customizable method wherein organizations can tailor their security defenses, strategies, and programs based on contextual intelligence, specific business goals and needs, risk appetite, threat profile, and potential business impact. This helps ensure that you address those threats and AppSec vulnerabilities that pose the most danger to your digital assets and security posture, in line with your enterprise risk management frameworks. 

Offers Real-Time Visibility into the Attack Surface 

Through modern technology, such as self-learning AI, automation, analytics, and cloud computing, risk-based security offers ongoing visibility into the attack surface. New assets being added into the system are proactively and accurately identified, enabling you to protect them effectively. This is important in the era of remote working and the increased use of BYOT and IoT devices.

Enable Data-Driven Decision Making 

The risk-based approach to security also offers real-time insights into the security posture and the latest threat intelligence. Therefore, the top management can make data-driven decisions on security budgeting, set realistic goals, employee training, strengthen the security posture, and so on. Unlike maturity-based models, you aren’t using dated checklists but real-time intelligence to finetune security, thus driving better security outcomes. 


Legacy security frameworks and approaches have not aged gracefully and leave applications vulnerable to damaging threats. The risk-based approach enables organizations to apply the right control level to the different risks and keep strengthening application security. 

Vinugayathri Chinnasamy

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