Posted on May 4, 2020
Cybersecurity and information security are often used interchangeably, even among some of those in the security field.
The two terms are not the same, however. They each address different kinds of security, and it’s important for any organization that’s investing in a proper security framework to understand each term, what it means, and the difference between the two. So, what are they, how do they overlap, and how do they differ? Before you can understand the difference between cybersecurity and information security, it may help to think of each term in terms of what it’s specifically protecting.
Cybersecurity is defined by NIST as the “ability to protect or defend the use of cyberspace from cyber attacks.” While there are other definitions — CISA has its own definition as does ISO — most of them are similar.
Put simply, cybersecurity is related to attacks from the inside or outside of an organization. It is the framework of protecting and securing anything that is vulnerable to hacks, attacks, or unauthorized access which mainly consists of computers, devices, networks, servers, and programs.
Cybersecurity also pertains exclusively to the protection of data that originates in a digital form — it’s specific to digital files, which is a key way it differs from information security. So when we talk about cybersecurity, we are automatically discussing digital information, systems and networks.
Companies with an F rating are 7.7x more likely to experience a data breach than A-rated companies.
We tend to think of computers and digital information when we think of information security, but meaningful, valuable data can be stored in many forms.
Information security primarily refers to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, no matter its form. Information security can just as easily be about protecting a filing cabinet of important documents as it is about protecting your organization’s database.
Information security is, broadly, the practice of securing your data, no matter its form.
Below is NIST’s definition of information security:
Protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide:
To be fair, there is some overlap between cybersecurity and information security, and that causes some justified confusion about the two terms.
Most information is stored digitally on a network, computer, server, or in the cloud. Criminals can gain access to this information to exploit its value.
The value of the data is the biggest concern for both types of security. In information security, the primary concern is protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data. In cybersecurity, the primary concern is protecting against unauthorized electronic access to the data. In both circumstances, it is important to understand what data, if accessed without authorization, is most damaging to the organization, so a security framework can be established with proper controls in place to prevent unauthorized access.
Where there are dedicated resources in separate teams, it is likely that both teams will work together to establish a data protection framework, with the information security team prioritizing the data to be protected and the cybersecurity team developing the protocol for data protection.
Cybersecurity focuses on protecting data found in electronic form from being compromised and attacked. Cybersecurity professionals take on a more active role by protecting servers, endpoints, databases, and networks by finding security gaps and misconfigurations that create vulnerabilities. They also identify what the critical data is and where it’s living, determine its risk exposure, and assess related technology.
The following are some examples of cybersecurity:
In contrast, information security is concerned with ensuring data in any form is secured in cyberspace and beyond. That is to say, the internet or the endpoint device may only be part of a larger picture. Information security professionals focus on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all data.
Information security is inclusive of cybersecurity and also involves:
Businesses are more technically and digitally savvy than ever. With these advancements in interconnectivity comes the need for businesses to have the proper security framework and procedures in place to protect their most important assets.
SecurityScorecard can help you monitor both your cybersecurity and your information security across 10 groups of risk factors with our easy-to-understand security ratings. Our ratings continuously monitor every part of your security operation.
We monitor your information security by keeping an eye on your data and the systems and networks you have in place to protect it, and we also monitor your cybersecurity by making sure your organization’s systems are patched when they need to be, and that there’s no hacker chatter about your organization on the dark web. Once your score drops, you’ll know that something has changed, and our platform will then offer remediations to help you fix the problem before there’s a breach.
There might be a difference between cybersecurity and information security, but they are both equally important to your organization. While cybersecurity can be viewed as a subset of information security, ultimately both focus on data protection. Both cybersecurity and information security personnel need to be aware of the scope and the shared mission to secure your enterprise.
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