Cybersecurity and information security may sound like two different terms for the same idea. But while they’re related, they’re actually different concepts. What is cybersecurity? What is information security? And what’s the actual difference between them?
What is cybersecurity?
Let’s start with a definition of cybersecurity. You’ll get a different definition for this depending on which organization you’re consulting. For example, according to ISO, cybersecurity is the “preservation of confidentiality, integrity and availability of information in cyberspace.” And according to CISA, “Cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.”
But the simple version is this: cybersecurity is about protecting an organization from hacking, attacks, breaches and other forms of unauthorized access from the outside world. With the right framework, an organization can proactively detect these threats, prevent them from happening and respond to them if they’re already in progress.
Cybersecurity is also concerned with data that natively has a digital form. For example, digital files and data stored on your computer are natively digital. Any discussion of cybersecurity is, by definition, discussing digital information, systems, networks and processes.
What is information security?
So what is information security?
According to NIST, information security (or InfoSec) is “The protection of information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction in order to provide confidentiality, integrity and availability.”
In other words, information security is all about protecting the integrity, accessibility and confidentiality of data no matter what form it takes. Instead of designing security processes around your digital PDFs, you’ll also need to think about the filing cabinets full of files in your office.
Ultimately, information security aims to protect your information and information systems by preserving it in three ways:
1. Integrity. First, your information needs to be protected in terms of its integrity. In other words, it needs to be prevented from being modified or destroyed. The authentic information must be preserved in its original form at all costs.
2. Availability and accessibility. Information also needs to remain available and accessible to the people who need it. Leaders and team members within your organization should be able to access information whenever they need it.
3. Confidentiality and privacy. Finally, information needs to remain confidential. In other words, it shouldn’t be accessible by unauthorized parties. It also needs to remain compliant with privacy policies, and should keep proprietary information protected.
What are the differences between cybersecurity and information security?
Are you still confused? It’s understandable, considering the significant overlap between these two concepts. But cybersecurity and information security are differentiated in a few important ways:
- Type of information. Cybersecurity is focused on protecting your organization’s information when it’s in a digital format. But information security is concerned with all types of information, including physical, tangible information. There’s significant overlap here, considering information security also needs to consider digital information.
- Mode of protection. The type of protection offered by cybersecurity and information security also differ. Information security is all about protecting your information in terms of its confidentiality, integrity and availability. By contrast, your cybersecurity strategy will be more focused on guarding against specific threats of unauthorized access, including hacks and data breaches.
- Threat analysis. In the cybersecurity world, you have to think like a hacker. You need to understand how malware works, familiarize yourself with common types of cyberattacks, and guard against them. But in the information security world, you need to be prepared for all types of threats, including natural disasters as well as human-originated potential issues.
Of course, cybersecurity and information security also have a lot in common, including:
- Aim to protect information. Both cybersecurity and information security have the same goal: to protect information within an organization. Though they may target slightly different types of information and protect it in slightly different ways, your organization’s information remains the top priority for both these systems.
- Proactive and reactive measures. In both cybersecurity and information security, you’ll need to establish proactive and reactive measures for your security strategy, respectively. As a first line of defense, you must establish protective measures that prevent attacks, breaches and other threats from occurring. You can proactively monitor your systems to observe potential threats and work actively to ward them off. But you’ll also need response plans in place regarding what your organization will do in the event of a live attack. How are you going to respond if your first line of defense fails?
- Demand for risk assessment and hierarchies. In cybersecurity and information security, you’ll need to spend time evaluating risk and establishing hierarchies within your organization. For example, which types of data are most important to protect? Which ones are indispensable for your organization, and which ones are expendable? What legal compliance must your organization adhere to? What are the biggest risks and threats you face as an organization?
- Need for security processes and documentation. Neither cybersecurity nor information security can be improvised or written off as unimportant. To be successful in either area, you’ll need to spend time coming up with a specific process for protection and document it.
Why you need cybersecurity and information security—and third-party security
Having a cybersecurity strategy isn’t enough to protect your organization; it will leave your non-digital information vulnerable to attack. Similarly, an information security plan alone won’t suffice to protect your organization from hackers and other external, digital threats.
If you want your organization to remain secure, protected and compliant, you need both cybersecurity and information security strategies. These complementary forces must work together for the hygiene and safety of your organization.
Unfortunately, just because you take cybersecurity and information security seriously, doesn’t mean your third parties do. Since your vendors have access to your assets, it behooves you to properly vet new third-party vendors as well as monitor them on an ongoing basis. Doing this will help ensure the security hygiene of your vendors is up to snuff. This can be accomplished by combining security questionnaires with external attack surface assessments and business context.
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How Panorays can help
Third-party security is something you can’t afford to ignore. Panorays automates, accelerates and scales the third-party security evaluation and management process so you can quickly and easily manage, mitigate and remediate risk. Our platform reduces breaches, ensures vendor compliance and improves your security across the board. Request a demo today to see how it works and take your next step toward greater third-party security.