In this technologically dominated and interconnected world, securing our digital assets has never been so crucial—making cybersecurity the topmost priority and one of the biggest investments for organizations and businesses worldwide.
Cybersecurity is a vast field that includes multiple elements and components, including application security, network security, information security, operational security, end-user security, and more.
However, be it security professionals or business owners, many often use cybersecurity and information security interchangeably.
While both are responsible for protecting computer systems from data breaches and cybersecurity threats, they entail distinct principles. Both cybersecurity and information security roles overlap a bit but also differ in terms of specialties and skill sets.
In this article, we’ll learn the differences and similarities between cybersecurity and information security in detail. So, let’s get right in!
What Is Cybersecurity?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) considers and recognizes cybersecurity and information security as two separate fields.
In the realm of security, cybersecurity is a subset of information security. Cybersecurity is safeguarding computer systems, devices, networks, and applications and protecting the data within these digital assets from cyberattacks.
Due to evolving digital transformation and increasing data breaches, online data is at risk, and taking no measures to ensure its safety only jeopardizes the business and its reputation.
Cybersecurity involves identifying the critical, sensitive, and high-priority data, the potential risks it’s exposed to, and what security measures can be taken to secure this data from cybercriminals.
While ensuring physical security, like protecting company devices from getting stolen and avoiding spoofing attacks, teaching employees about the best security practices is crucial—supplementing these with cybersecurity measures to prevent hackers from harming the organization digitally plays a huge role as well.
These cybersecurity measures may include data encryption, password protection of critical systems, firewalls, and more.
Typically, cybersecurity measures include and primarily revolve around:
Thus, cybersecurity is identifying critical data within an organization’s network, application, and cloud infrastructure at risk, source, and protection from attacks like malware and cross-site scripting (XSS).
What Is Information Security?
Information Security, also known as InfoSec, refers to how individuals and organizations protect their digital assets, like personal information, confidential business records, intellectual data, etc.
This includes the policies and procedures corporates and businesses use to protect data and prevent unauthorized access from exploitation, scrutiny, disruption, modification, recording, and destruction.
Companies can store confidential information anywhere, right from physical files and folders to digitally on the cloud, and the defense or security mechanism for these would vary.
While physical files must be kept in drawers and only accessible to authoritative and higher positions similarly, digital files should be secured and restricted with access controls to limit unauthorized access and ensure data protection.
Information security typically includes:
Compared to cybersecurity, information security is a much broader area, as it ensures not just digital data security but enables the security, confidentiality, integrity, and governance of the overall business data requiring protection.
How Does Cybersecurity and Information Security Overlap?
Cybersecurity and information overlap in several ways, but the primary similarity between these two security solutions is that both their purpose is ensuring data security.
Information security and cybersecurity both value data. While information security entails securing data of any sort, whether stored online or offline, cybersecurity’s main concern is ensuring data security and securing an organization’s sensitive data from malicious and unauthorized access.
Besides data protection, here are other ways that make cybersecurity and information security overlap and create confusion amongst many individuals and professionals:
Shared security practices: Both cybersecurity and InfoSec use the CIA model (confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information) to enforce security policies and procedures. While cybersecurity ensures that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data, integrity enforces reliability—ensuring the data isn’t tampered with or modified in any way.
At the same time, data availability ensures that sensitive data remains available anytime you need it—be it checking your bank balance account or tracking your shipment whenever required.
Related skills and education: Whether you wish to pursue a career in cybersecurity or InfoSec, you require a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity, Information Technology (IT), or other related fields.
Learning these skills helps you build your foundational skills and knowledge as a cybersecurity engineer, job analyst, tester, or specialist.
Now that we looked at the similarities let’s look at the factors that differentiate information security and cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity vs. Information Security: Key Differences
Scope of Security
While cybersecurity and information security focus on securing data, the scope of data security for both varies significantly. The scope of cybersecurity is only restricted to securing online digital data.
Cybersecurity primarily focuses on protecting networks, computer systems, and digital assets from cybersecurity threats, including malware, viruses, hackers, and other malicious and cybercriminal threats targeting digital environments and organization networks.
It includes measures that help ensure data integrity, confidentiality, and availability of digital assets.
On the other hand, information security has a broader scope of security that protects digital data and secures physical data and information of assets and processes pertaining to the storage, management, and transmission of sensitive data and business information. Thus, information security ensures security in all forms, be it physical, paper, or digital.
Hence, while cybersecurity only focuses on digital data security, information security extends the scope of cybersecurity, covering all comprehensive aspects of information security and protection.
Focus on Security
Cybersecurity’s primary concern is securing networking systems and data stored in digital assets. Thus, it focuses on protecting these systems from digital threats such as malware attacks, hacking attempts, phishing and its types, brute force attacks, etc., to ensure data security.
On the contrary, information security takes a holistic and broader approach to protecting sensitive data of all forms. Thus, it focuses on a wider perspective of security, including personal security (like employee training), physical security (like securing company premises, avoiding spooling, and ensuring secure document storage), and enforcing policies and procedures governing data access and handling.
Security Approach as Professionals
When it comes to the professions of these security aspects, cybersecurity professionals may engage in security testing, depending on an organization’s size and resources.
The cybersecurity staff may also advise executives and managers on network and information security concerns that might affect the entire organization. At the same time, cybersecurity specialists may focus on protecting and defending networks and digital systems through defensive mechanisms.
On the other hand, an information security specialist may create and implement network, user, and data policies and educate and inform network users about network security issues—encouraging them to take the utmost care and follow the best security practices.
InfoSec professionals may also investigate and handle security incidents, documenting what happened to take steps that prevent or eliminate recurring potential cybersecurity threats.
Cybersecurity components typically involve using intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, encryption systems, antivirus software, and incident response plans—making it a more technologically-centric security aspect.
On the other hand, information security components usually include all the discussed cybersecurity components as well as physical security components, such as secure file cabinets, restricted control access to buildings and company departments, along with policies that dictate how an organization handles, dispose of, and share data online and offline.
Cybersecurity specialists and their responsibilities include verifying and enforcing security patches, software updates, firewalls and antivirus software installation and implementation, password management, and more.
Cybersecurity policies may need two-factor authentication to access software, devices, and other data and information stored on the networking and digital systems.
In contrast, information security specialists and analysts often create disaster recovery plans, providing procedures and guidelines companies can follow to prevent security threats and continue business operations in case of emergencies. These recovery plans may include copying and storing information on the cloud.
The disaster recovery plan can also consist of a security framework to maintain or resume IT operations post a manmade or natural disaster. InfoSec professionals are known to test the plans and measures they intend to implement regularly.
Compliance and Regulation
The cybersecurity compliance standards and regulations primarily focus on digital security, including PCI DSS or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for credit card data security and protection.
On the other hand, information security standards and regulations have a broader cover of all information security aspects, including physical security, employee training, and data classification.
Examples of these InfoSec compliance standards include Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Cybersecurity vs. Information Security at a Glance
Here is a tabular representation that distinguishes cybersecurity and information security much more clearly.
Scope and goal
Cybersecurity focuses on securing any data from the online or cyber realm.
Information security protects data both online and offline with no such restriction of the cyber realm.
Cybersecurity focuses on protecting data from cybersecurity threats.
Information security deals with data protection from any form of threat, including physical and cyber threats.
Cybersecurity primarily deals with and ensures defense against digital threats, like malware, hacking, phishing, and other related cybercriminal techniques.
Information security deals with and addresses a wide range of cybersecurity threats, including physical threats, security breaches, physical error, espionage, and social engineering attacks.
Professionals’ and specialists’ roles
The role of cybersecurity professionals is to prevent active threats as well as Advanced Persistent Threats (APT).
Information security professionals form the foundation of comprehensive data security and handling specialists responsible for enforcing policies, procedures, and organizational roles and responsibilities that assure data integrity, availability, and confidentiality.
The major threats and attacks cybersecurity deals with include cyber fraud, cybercrimes, and law enforcement.
Information security protects against unauthorized access, data modification, disclosure, and disruption.
Cybersecurity deals with protecting data that may or may not exist in the cybersecurity realm, like personal information or social media accounts.
Information security deals with information assets and data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Cybersecurity acts as a first line of defense.
Information security primarily comes into play when the data is breached.
Cybersecurity requires specialized skills and knowledge of computer networks and systems, including programming and software development skills.
Information security requires knowledge of compliance, risk management, technical skills, and legal and regulatory issues.
Cybersecurity relies on multiple technologies, such as antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion and detection systems.
Information security relies on technologies ensuring physical and cybersecurity, including access controls, encryption, and data loss prevention tools.
Focus on data
It focuses on protecting the data, irrespective of where it’s stored online or how it’s transmitted
It focuses on securing information assets, including data and information like the company’s trade secrets, intellectual property, and confidential customer information.
Can a cyber security professional switch to being an informational security professional and vice versa?
Yes, a cybersecurity professional can easily switch to an information security specialist or professional and vice versa, as both fields significantly overlap in the required skills and knowledge. While the two differ distinctly, the shared responsibilities and fundamentals make the transition from cybersecurity to information security and vice versa much easier. It’s critical to identify the overlapping skills, learn from my security concepts, gain the necessary training and certifications, and gain hands-on experience to switch to any other cybersecurity aspect.
What are some common skills and technical knowledge necessary for both careers?
The minimum and common skills required for cybersecurity and Information security are: 1. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or IT 2. Technical proficiency or knowledge about network security, operating systems, incident response, vulnerability assessment, and encryption. 3. Risk management skills and knowledge of compliance, security policies, and risk assessment. 4. Security awareness, including phishing awareness and user training. 5. Knowledge of security tools and technologies, including firewall management, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and intrusion detection and prevention. 6. Cybersecurity governance, including compliance management and security governance.
Understanding the difference between cybersecurity and information security is crucial, especially when pursuing a career in IT or cybersecurity.
While the goals, roles, and responsibilities of both the security aspects may overlap, cybersecurity and information security focus, skills and strategies, and attack defense differ and use distinct technologies to achieve similar goals.
So, this article will give you confidence in understanding the cybersecurity and information security differences, including how they differ in terms of technologies, attacks, scope, threat landscape, and roles and responsibilities.
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