Cybersecurity vs Information Security: What is the difference?

By Phoebe Fasulo

Posted on May 13, 2019

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.

Prior to putting a proper security framework in place, however, businesses must understand the difference between cybersecurity and information security. How are they different, and why are these terms so often confused?

What is information security? 

Information refers to any data that has meaning and comes in any form (digital or not), so information security is primarily refers to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data regardless of its form. 

Per the NIST standard, integrity, confidentiality, and availability are defined as follows:

  • Integrity: Guarding against improper information modification or destruction, and includes ensuring information nonrepudiation and authenticity;
  • Confidentiality: Preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information; and
  • Availability: Ensuring timely and reliable access to and use of information.

What is cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is the framework of protecting and securing anything that is vulnerable to hacks, attacks, or unauthorized access, which mainly consists of computers, networks, servers, and programs. Unlike information security, cybersecurity pertains exclusively to the protection of data that originates in a digital form. 

Should I be worried about both?

Some of the confusion comes from the fact that data and information are often stored digitally on a network, computer, server or in the cloud. Hackers gain access to this information to exploit its value.

The value of the data is the biggest concern for both types of security. As referenced above, in information security, the primary concern is protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data. In cybersecurity, the primary concern is protecting 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.

Final thoughts

In sum, 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 the enterprise.

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