Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: What's the Difference?
Data is the lifeblood of every company and organization. Safeguarding that data is the job of information security and cybersecurity professionals. However, the number of large data breaches since 2000 illustrates the challenges of the job. Companies including Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Alibaba have experienced breaches that have compromised billions of users’ data.
That’s why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 35% growth in the number of jobs for information security professionals between 2021 and 2031--significantly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations, which stands at 4%.
Understanding the differences between information security and cybersecurity can help individuals who are interested in this growing career sector decide which direction to pursue. Accelerated training programs such as a cybersecurity bootcamp can provide an introduction to information security vs. cybersecurity and give aspiring professionals a familiarity with the important concepts in each field.
What Is Information Security?
Information security is the process by which an organization protects its data by controlling access to it. Cybersecurity is the subset of information security that focuses on defending an organization from online attacks such as malware or denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
Information security is responsible for both an organization’s physical security and its online security. Examples of the tools used for information security include:
- Employee badges. Badges are the first line of defense to keep unauthorized personnel out of a physical space.
- Password protections. Passwords prevent access to a computer network by malicious actors.
- Firewalls. These hardware and software tools keep hackers from accessing a server or network.
- Biometrics. Sophisticated scanners and other devices help ensure that only authorized personnel can physically access a location or a network computer.
- Security awareness training. Information security teams implement ongoing training modules so employees can be aware of common threats such as phishing (emails that purport to come from a trusted source) and social engineering (fostering personal relationships to gain access to data and physical locations).
- Disaster recovery planning. The information security team is responsible for developing a disaster recovery plan and making sure that it runs as designed.
The key objectives of information security are confidentiality, integrity, and availability, commonly abbreviated as CIA. The healthcare industry provides a relatable example of how CIA applies to a field with complex data and needs.
Personal healthcare information must be kept confidential according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) under threat of serious penalties. This data, which includes patients’ medical, financial, and personal information such as name, address, and demographics, is high-value data.
A hospital or doctor’s office must secure the integrity of its data and protect its accuracy. If a provider’s data is corrupted due to a system failure or because it was maliciously altered by an unauthorized person, it can impact their ability to provide care. Data integrity means ensuring that the data is accurate and usable for people who are authorized to access it.
Data that is locked away from all users may be safe, but it’s no longer useful. Data has to remain available to authorized personnel. Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators need to access data to treat patients, send out billing information, and schedule additional care. This concept applies to many industries. For example, an accounting team may need access to an organization’s sensitive financial data, which other teams may not be authorized to see.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity protects data from digital attacks. It secures access to data on computers and networks. Cybersecurity professionals set up virus scans, anti-malware software, and intrusion prevention systems, which monitor for suspicious activity.
The operational areas of cybersecurity include:
Preventing unauthorized access to an organization’s computer network is the first line of defense. This may include blacklisting suspicious sites so users don’t inadvertently click on malware. Spam filters catch suspicious emails. Organizations must constantly update their network and keep abreast of security patches. Out-of-date software is one of the most common ways for hackers to breach an organization’s network.
The popularity of cloud applications and the number of cloud hosting providers means that data is fragmented and accessible from many more access points. Cybersecurity professionals must understand cloud security and how it impacts their strategy to protect their organization.
A cybersecurity analyst may be responsible for breaking into their own systems to identify vulnerabilities. They provide a report on their findings and make recommendations to improve the organization’s security profile. Experts say that organizations should run penetration testing exercises once a quarter.
If a breach occurs, the cybersecurity team is responsible for implementing the disaster recovery plan for their organization. In the case of a ransomware attack, an organization must be able to access its most recent backups and be up and running again with minimal downtime. In the case of a DoS (denial-of-service) attack, cybersecurity professionals move into action to circumvent the attack and bring the organization back online, allowing business as usual to resume.
Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: How Are They Different?
The differences between the information security and cybersecurity professions can be summed up as follows:
- Information security protects all data, both digital and physical data. Cybersecurity shores up digital defenses, focusing on software and hardware.
- Information security deals with both physical and digital threats; cybersecurity deals only with digital threats.
- Information security develops policies and procedures; cybersecurity implements them.
- Information security develops the disaster recovery plan; cybersecurity implements it.
Careers in Information Security vs. Cybersecurity
The high demand for information security and cybersecurity professionals means plenty of opportunities are available for aspiring analysts.
How to Get a Career in Information Security
Since information security comprises both digital and physical security, applicants for information security roles must have a background in both technology and security, risk management, compliance, or a related area to be eligible.
Individuals interested in information security can learn about its concepts and fundamentals from a cybersecurity bootcamp. The curriculum may cover topics such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Linux, data encoding, and ethical hacking, among others. Capabilities such as excellent communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are also important for a career in information security.
Jobs in the field include:
- Information security analyst. The median salary of entry-level information security analysts was around $61,000 as of August 2022, according to the compensation research site Payscale. Lightcast placed the median salary for all information security analysts at $102,606 as of March 2023.
- Identity and access manager. Identity managers create applications that verify a user’s identity, protecting their vital personal information. The median salary of identity and access managers was around $100,000 as of August 2022, according to Payscale.
- Senior security consultant. These consultants analyze an organization’s security technology and profile and advise the organization on changes to eliminate vulnerabilities. The median salary of senior security consultants was around $110,000 as of August 2022, according to Payscale.
How to Get a Career in Cybersecurity
Many cybersecurity analysts come to the field from completely different backgrounds, even non-technical fields. Individuals interested in a career in cybersecurity can get many of the required skills and prepare to obtain basic certifications for getting started in the field through a cybersecurity bootcamp.
Cybersecurity certifications help applicants stand out in the job market. These certifications confirm that individuals have the specialized training that the job requires. The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner Certification is one of the most popular certifications. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners are certified in cloud concepts, services, and terminology. Candidates can use this certification as a springboard to tackling role-based AWS Certifications. Some cybersecurity bootcamps help students prepare for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners certification exam.
Getting a foot in the door to the cybersecurity industry can lead to a fulfilling and exciting career. Some jobs in the field are:
- Cybersecurity analyst. The median entry-level salary of cybersecurity analysts was around $79,300 as of June 2022, according to Lightcast™.
- Penetration tester. The role of the penetration tester is to identify a network’s vulnerabilities and use that information to secure the network against malicious attacks. The median annual salary of penetration testers according to Payscale was around $88,000 as of August 2022.
- Cybersecurity architect. Security architects plan, design, and implement network security. This is a senior-level development role with project and people leadership responsibilities. The median annual salary of cybersecurity architects according to Payscale was around $131,000 as of August 2022.
Become an Information Security or Cybersecurity Pro
Cybersecurity Ventures projected that global cybercrime costs will grow by 15%, reaching $10.5 trillion by 2025. The need for security professionals has never been more urgent. Whether you are attracted to the broader field of information security or are excited about focusing on the digital and coding aspects of data protection, the cybersecurity program offered by University of New Mexico Continuing Ed Tech Bootcamps can help. Explore what it takes to get started today.