Cybersecurity vs. Information Security: Is There a Difference?

Is there really a difference between cybersecurity and information security? Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are quite a few differences. Some people like to swap the two terms, while others — who understand the differences — like to keep it specific. 

One of the main reasons for these two terms to be used interchangeably is that both cybersecurity and information security are related to security and safekeeping a computer system against data threats and information breaches. Despite this, cybersecurity and information security aren’t completely identical, in theory.

Banking regulatory institutions, like the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Monetary Authority of Singapore, and Reserve Bank of India, require banks to have distinct cybersecurity and information security policies. Consequently, there are some differences between the two that need to be clearly understood.

Some security professionals are baffled by the typical way people interchangeably use cybersecurity and information security. However, other security professionals are the ones who loosely swap the two terms and are comfortable in doing so.

In this article, we’ll explain the various important differences among cybersecurity and information security and explain these security-based terms in detail. But before that, we’ll discuss the basics about cybersecurity and information security individually. To deep-dive into the leading security tools and best practices in the cloud, check out Cloud Academy’s Security Training Library. You can test your skills in real-world scenarios to gain practical experiences with Hands-on Labs, and understand how to and keep your cloud environment secure and compliant. 

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Cybersecurity

Even though the terms “data” and “information” are often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between the two. While all information can be data, not all data is information. In actual, information is processed data.

Cybersecurity — or computer security — involves a range of practices, processes, and technologies intended to protect devices, networks, programs, and data from attacks and unauthorized access.

Cybersecurity not only secures data, but it also secures the resources and the technologies involved in storing that data. Part of cybersecurity also deals with protecting information and communications technologies, termed as ICT (information and communications technology) security.

Information security

Data that is interpreted in some particular context and has a meaning or is given some meaning can be labeled as information. Information security is about protecting the information, typically focusing on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability aspects of the information.

The Center for Cyber and Information Security defines information security as the process of protecting information as well as information systems against unauthorized access, disclosure, disruption, destruction, modification, or use, all for offering confidentiality, integrity, and availability. These three terms are defined as follows:

  • Confidentiality – Refers to preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including a means for protecting personal privacy as well as proprietary information.
  • Integrity – Refers to defense against inappropriate information destruction or modification, including ensuring information authenticity and non-repudiation.
  • Availability – Refers to ensuring reliable and timely access to as well as the use of information.

Cybersecurity vs. information security: The 5 most important differences

1. Definition

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting data, its related technologies, and storage sources from threats. On the other hand, information security means protecting information against unauthorized access that could result in undesired data modification or removal.

Basically, cybersecurity is about the cyber realm and data associated with it. Information security, on the contrary, primarily focuses on information. It ensures confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

2. Domain

Cybersecurity means to protect anything and everything that is present in the cyber realm, such as data, information, or devices and technologies associated with the aforementioned. Information security, on the other hand, deals with protecting both forms of information — digital and analog — regardless of the realm.

Protecting social media profiles and personal information across the cyber realm is associated with cybersecurity. Information security, contrarily, deals specifically with information assets, availability, and integrity confidentiality.

3. Process

While cybersecurity primarily deals with protecting the use of cyberspace and preventing cyberattacks, information security simply protects information from any form of threat and avert such a threatening scenario.

4. Professionals

Professionals involved with information security forms the foundation of data security. These professionals prioritize resources before dealing with threats. Cybersecurity professionals deal specifically with advanced persistent threats.

5. Protection

Cybersecurity deals with all dangers lurking in cyberspace. Information security, on the contrary, deals with all forms of threats against information only.

Cybersecurity deals specifically with cybercrimes, cyber frauds, and law enforcement. Disclosure modification and disruption, and unauthorized access are the two most important issues tackled by information security.

The synergy of cybersecurity and information security

We have already discussed the various differences between cybersecurity and information security. However, they are mostly theoretical. When it all comes down to practicality, both cybersecurity and information security usually go hand-in-hand to a varying extent.

This is due to their overlapping nature in terms of process, focus, and goals. Take a moment to observe the following Venn diagram:

Cybersecurity vs. Information Security

Source: Center for Cyber and Information Security 

The above diagram illustrates the relationship between cybersecurity, information security, and ICT (information and communications technology) security.

The extreme right side of the above diagram represents cybersecurity. As evident from the diagram, these are the things that are vulnerable through ICT, including both forms of information, digital and physical, as well as things that aren’t information, like devices.

The extreme left side of the Venn diagram represents information security, consisting of both analog and digital forms of information. Although IT security pertains to the protection of information technologies, there is no practical difference between it and ICT security. In that sense, ICT can also be viewed as yet another term for information technology.

However, an alternative definition of cybersecurity found basis in the definition of ICT security. According to it, anything that is not protected by ICT security is managed by cybersecurity.

If you closely observe the above diagram, you will notice that cybersecurity involves everything accessible via the cyberspace. So, information is also present in the cyber realm and, therefore, the part of the cyber realm having information also comes under information security.

To sum it up, cybersecurity is all about the security of anything and everything pertaining to the cyber realm, while information security is all about security concerning information irrespective of the realm. So, you can infer, in a way, that information security is a superset of cybersecurity.

Conclusion

Both cybersecurity and information security are important aspects of technology flourishing in the 21st century. Therefore, any professional looking to make it big in the world of data security should have a sound understanding of these two terms. To learn more and develop a better understanding of data security, check out these information security and ethical hacking tutorials.

Security professionals must stay one step ahead of the ones exploiting technology with the wrong intent and goals. They are the ones that know how it can happen and so, how it can be avoided, averted, or minimized. With continuous development in technology and IT, security professionals need to stay updated on all the latest happenings in technology to be able to tackle and, whenever and wherever possible, prevent such scenarios.

Saurabh Hooda

Written by

Saurabh Hooda

Saurabh Hooda is the Co-founder of Hackr, an online platform that recommends the best online programming tutorials, design courses, and cooking recipes. He has worked globally for telecom and finance giants in various capacities. After working for a decade in Infosys and Sapient, he started his first startup, Lenro, to solve a hyperlocal book-sharing problem. He is interested in the product, marketing, and analytics. His latest venture Hackr.io recommends the best design tutorials and online programming courses for every programming language. All the tutorials are submitted and voted on by the programming community.


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