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Cybersecurity Vs. Information Security: What's the Difference?

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Decades ago, before the digital age, companies and governmental organizations used to rely on paper copies to store and exchange information. Nowadays, things have changed drastically, and most of the information is stored in computer systems and transferred between them. Noting that a lot of this information doesn't even have a physical existence, this digital shift has made cybersecurity a much more critical issue, as it also deals with the security and integrity of the information stored in these systems.

By 2023, it is estimated that 60% of all corporate data will be stored in the cloud. However, this is just one aspect of data storage, and many other digital spaces also hold vast amounts of information. It is essential to recognize the relationship between information and security, as well as their differences, to ensure the continuity, integrity, and availability of this data.

What is Information Security?

Gartner defines Information security (InfoSec) as protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.

To gain a better understanding of this term, we need to identify the specific types of information that are considered vulnerable and critical. The answer is Personally Identifiable Information (PII). PII is any data or information that can be used to identify an individual, such as financial information (credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc.) and contact information (phone numbers, addresses, etc.).

Types of Personally Identifiable Information

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to the measures taken to safeguard organizations, their critical systems, and sensitive information from digital attacks. It involves deploying people, policies, processes, and technologies to achieve this objective. Cybersecurity consists of various elements, including but not limited to:

Cybersecurity is an extensive term that encompasses various aspects, one of which is information security. If we look at it from an information security point of view, cybersecurity refers to the measures taken to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of data stored in digital spaces. To achieve this, a well-established information risk management program should be followed.

Cybersecurity Vs. Information Security (InfoSec)

Cybersecurity and Information Security are two crucial terms for information risk management. Although they differ in certain aspects, cybersecurity practices are designed to meet some information security needs. A significant part of information security involves assets directly supported by cybersecurity practices to achieve security.

It has been reported that only 69% of organizations have disclosed experiencing data breaches or exposures due to security misconfigurations in their multi-cloud environments. However, this statistic only pertains to data stored in the cloud and not all digital spaces. This means it is just the tip of the iceberg, and we must take necessary actions to confront the bigger picture. 

Suggested Reading: Cyber Risk Assessment in Simple Steps

Therefore, it is not only essential but also urgent to define the nuances between cybersecurity and InfoSec and develop effective information risk management strategies to address the underlying and upcoming threats.

The Differences Between Cybersecurity and Information Security 

The line between information security and cybersecurity often gets blurry due to the widespread use of digital spaces for storing, protecting, and transmitting information. Information security is a comprehensive concept that involves safeguarding all types of information, be it digital, physical, or intellectual. It comprises the creation and maintenance of systems and policies to secure information against various threats. Conversely, cybersecurity primarily concentrates on safeguarding digital data in cyberspace. It safeguards digital data by addressing threats such as ransomware, social engineering attacks, and account takeovers.

While cybersecurity deals with preventing electronic and mobile devices from attacks in the digital realm, information security is concerned with maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all forms of information.

Information security tools include intrusion detection systems and firewalls, and the role of an information security officer is to identify and protect critical information that might be targeted in physical or cyber-attacks.

In summary, while cybersecurity centers on preventing cyberattacks, often by adopting a hacker's mindset, information security is broader, encompassing protecting all data from various threats. Both fields are crucial in the modern digital age, each addressing different aspects of data and information protection.

How do Cybersecurity and Information Security Intersect?

Cybersecurity refers to practices that aim to manage information risk and ensure information security in computer systems. However, it's important to note that not all information security depends on cybersecurity. Therefore, it's best to view these two terms as intersecting concepts rather than umbrella terms. 

The intersection between cybersecurity and InfoSec can be defined as the practices used to maintain the integrity, continuity, and availability of information stored digitally. Unfortunately, this overlap is highly valuable to malicious actors, as it presents opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities and gain control of important information. In other words, this overlap is like a gold mine for hackers.

Achieving Information Security: Information Risk Management

A vigilant approach must be taken to construct a solid information risk management strategy. To develop such a strategy and achieve security, the key pillars must be identified.

The CIA Triad

The CIA triad is a model designed to guide information security policies within organizations. It refers to confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

  • The confidentiality aspect of the model involves high-level rules that limit access to all types of data and information. 
  • Integrity refers to the assurance that the information is trustworthy and accurate. 
  • Availability is a form of risk management that ensures authorized people have reliable access to the information.
The CIA Triad

Building an Information Risk Management Strategy

Businesses today generate vast amounts of data that require secure management. With the increasing complexity of cloud infrastructure and IT systems, coupled with the evolution of cyber threats, information risk management has become a challenging task. 

Information security professionals have a significant role in the process, which includes identifying the risks that could have the most impact on the organization, proactively mitigating such risks, and developing an incident response and a disaster recovery plan to minimize the damage caused by cyberattacks and data breaches.

The standards for information security may vary depending on the size, industry, and other factors of a company. To assist with this, some institutions and governments provide standards and guides to help information security professionals. These standards provide a common ground to measure the information risk management strategy.

For example, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers guides and standards for maintaining information integrity, availability, and confidentiality, covering statutory responsibilities and helping organizations manage information risk effectively on a common ground. Under CIO Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) metrics, several aspects must be considered to achieve the ultimate information security posture. These include MFA, logging, and identifying critical software within the organization's structure.

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What is the difference between information security and cyber security?

Cybersecurity focuses on safeguarding electronic and mobile devices, and digital spaces overall from cyber attacks, while information security involves protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

What is the difference between cyber security and information technology?

Information technology encompasses computers, networks, software development, and infrastructure. Cybersecurity is the practice of safeguarding these systems from attacks.

What is the difference between information systems and cybersecurity?

Information systems ensure an efficient network and proper function of computerized systems and online resources, while cybersecurity mainly aims to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities within a network's security system.

What is the difference between cybersecurity and data security?

While data security focuses on protecting the data itself, cyber security encompasses all forms of digital security, including data and digital systems. Information security is closely aligned with data security.

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