Differences in Information Security vs. Cybersecurity

Male cybersecurity professional analyzing digital report on computer

Information security and cybersecurity are two terms that are often used interchangeably, even by professionals who work in the industry. Yet, there are significant differences between information security vs. cybersecurity. Although there is some overlap, the two terms refer to different concepts.

One thing they share in common is that both are becoming increasingly more important in today’s modernized world. If you’re thinking of pursuing a high-demand career in the technology industry, a cybersecurity degree or technology degree would prepare you to fight the new generation of black hat hackers. Organizations in all sectors and industries hire cybersecurity professionals to safeguard their systems and protect their customers.

Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: An Overview

The primary difference between information security vs. cybersecurity is the role of technology. Cybersecurity involves the safety of computer systems and everything contained within them, which includes digital data. In contrast, information security refers to the safety of information in all its forms, whether it’s stored on a computer system or not.

Governments around the world go to great lengths to conceal confidential information from spies of foreign nations. Likewise, corporate espionage is of great concern to major companies. Information security is also significant for individuals. It’s why people are advised to shred their paper tax returns and other sensitive documents before discarding them.

Whereas information security refers to the safety of information contained within or on any medium, cybersecurity is solely concerned with the safety of technology. If you think of information security as an umbrella category, you’ll find cybersecurity nestled within it as a subcategory.

Yet, cybersecurity encompasses more than just the safety of data. Although it’s true that hackers often attempt to gain unauthorized access to a network for the sake of exploiting sensitive data for financial gain, some may disrupt a computer network for other reasons, such as to commit a political attack or act of terrorism. It’s the job of cybersecurity professionals to prevent all types of cyberattacks, and to investigate them when they do occur.

Taking a Closer Look at Information Security

When considering the concept of information security, it can be helpful to think about how it affects your own life. The items you possess that contain sensitive information typically include the following:

  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Tax returns
  • Credit card statements
  • Medical records

Some of these are actual paper documents (e.g. your birth certificate). Others may exist in both paper and digital formats (e.g. your tax returns and credit card statements). In order to effectively protect your sensitive information, you need to prevent unauthorized access to all the available formats it takes — both paper and digital.

The commonly accepted definition of information security acknowledges that it includes three main elements known by their acronym: CIA.

  • Confidentiality: Confidential information must be protected from unauthorized access. It’s important to consider that unauthorized access may not always be intentional, but could instead be accidental. For example, someone might accidentally publish confidential information on public websites or leave sensitive data exposed on a publicly viewable computer screen or notepad.
  • Integrity: Sensitive information must be protected from improper destruction or modification. In other words, it’s necessary to ensure that data is authentic and accurate.
  • Availability: Although it’s important to safeguard information, it cannot be so thoroughly locked away that authorized users cannot access it. The information must remain reliably available to authorized users whenever they need access to it.

Essential Skills and Characteristics for Information Security Professionals

There are many careers available for those who wish to work in information security. For those who want to work as an information security analyst, for example, there are a few skills and characteristics that are necessary to succeed in the field, including:1

  • Creativity
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Communication
  • An eye for detail
  • Analysis

Exploring the Fundamentals of Cybersecurity and Data Security

Cybersecurity refers to the process of protecting all of cyberspace from unauthorized access. It encompasses the protection of servers, online accounts, computer networks and individual computers, as well as other devices, such as mobile phones.

Cybersecurity also extends to smart gadgets, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT). These days, a wide range of devices can connect to the internet, ranging from smart TVs to home surveillance systems to smart window shades and even internet-enabled fish tanks. It’s important for cybersecurity professionals to safeguard all these devices. Hackers can gain unauthorized access to connected devices and then use that access as a steppingstone to gain entry to networks with sensitive data.

Many black-hat hackers primarily target sensitive information that they can exploit for financial gain, such as credit card information. They may find this information on a range of networks, from computer systems used for retail stores to those used by hospitals. However, not all hackers are primarily motivated by financial gain.

Some hackers seek to breach the security of computer networks for other purposes. For instance, they may try to access machines to influence or compromise the integrity of the data contained within those machines.

In other cases, hackers may be motivated to commit acts of domestic or international terrorism. For example, a state-sponsored cyberattack may seek to disrupt a country’s infrastructure or to obtain the blueprints for secret military technology.

In order to safeguard the integrity of computer networks and devices:

  • Use and regularly update computer programs, including firewalls, to improve the protection of a computer network and its devices
  • Carry out penetration testing to detect potential vulnerabilities in the network
  • Develop security patches for possible vulnerabilities to prevent hackers from exploiting them
  • Monitor computer networks and look for signs of a potential security breach
  • Respond quickly to security breaches, cutting off unauthorized access and investigating the breach to determine which data were compromised and whether other parts of the system were adversely affected
  • Compile security information into reports and recommendations to be passed along to senior management personnel

Cybersecurity professionals may also work with non-tech employees of their organization. They may help these individuals become more proficient with the use of cybersecurity safeguards.

What Can You Do With a Degree in Information Security or Cybersecurity?

Earning a degree in information security or cybersecurity can open both entry-level and advanced positions in the field, including computer and information systems management, information security analysis, computer systems analysis and computer network architecture.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

As a computer and information systems manager, you would help accomplish company goals by coordinating activities related to computer systems. You may also:

  • Identify problems and take steps to solve them
  • Maintain computer hardware and software and recommend upgrades
  • Analyze and present the budget to company executives
  • Coordinate with other professionals and vendors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2021, computer and information systems managers had a median annual wage of $159,010 in May 2021.3

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts protect computer systems by implementing security programs. As an information security analyst, you may also:

  • Spot and resolve security breaches and possible vulnerabilities
  • Research new security programs and present them to upper-level staff
  • Assist in installing computer security systems
  • Organize reports concerning security breaches and cybersecurity concerns

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts had a median annual wage of $102,600 in May 2021.4

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts create solutions to problems within computer systems. As a computer systems analyst, you may also:

  • Research technology that could improve a company’s efficiency and analyze potential upgrades to computer systems
  • Create new systems and upgrades to computer systems, hardware and software
  • Write instruction manuals for computer systems and train others in the use of those computer systems
  • Supervise system installations and test them for problems

In May 2021, computer systems analysts had a median annual wage of $99,270, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.5

Computer Network Architect

Computer network architects build local area networks, wide area networks, intranets and other types of data communication networks. They may also:

  • Upgrade hardware and software
  • Plan the networks they wish to build and present their plans to members of the management
  • Research new technology that may be useful to their organization
  • Examine their networks for problems and take steps to solve those problems

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer network architects had a median annual wage of $120,520 in May 2021.6

Should You Earn an Information Technology Degree or a Cybersecurity Degree?

Now that you know the differences between information security vs cybersecurity, you may be thinking of pursuing a career that is dedicated to safeguarding technology for companies and individuals. It can be difficult for students to know exactly which type of degree they should earn, as an information technology degree and a cybersecurity degree are quite similar. However, there are some differences to be aware of.

A Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree will give you a broad set of skills relating to networks, business cohesion, application security and researching cybercrimes. It will also train you on topics pertaining to computer programming and improving security within databases.7

In contrast, a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity takes a narrower focus. You’ll take a deep dive into specialized topics, such as risk assessment, incident analysis and digital forensic investigations. Since it’s helpful to have both an in-depth and broad skill set, which degree should you choose?

If you have the option to do so, it may be best to select a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity degree. This will give you the best of both worlds — a broad focus on information technology in general combined with a close look at cybersecurity.

As cybersecurity becomes increasingly important in a modernized world, those holding a cybersecurity degree may compete for top technology job opportunities. You can become a cybersecurity specialist when you graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity degree from Grand Canyon University. Emerge with a solid foundation of knowledge in key areas including digital forensic investigations, security architecture and secure system administration.

Learn more about joining the dynamic and supportive learning community at GCU by completing the "get started" form on this page.

 

Retrieved From:

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, How To Become an Information Security Analyst in September 2022.

2 Cybersecurity Insiders, 8 Essential Characteristics of a Successful Cybersecurity Professional in September 2022.

3 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Computer and Information Systems Managers as of May 2021, retrieved on Oct. 11, 2022. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Computer and Information Systems Managers. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also on individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.

4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Information Security Analysts as of May 2021, retrieved on Oct. 11, 2022. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Computer and Information Systems Managers. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also on individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.

5 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Computer Systems Analysts as of May 2021, retrieved on Oct. 11, 2022. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Computer and Information Systems Managers. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also on individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.

6 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Computer Network Architects as of May 2021, retrieved on Oct. 11, 2022. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Computer and Information Systems Managers. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also on individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.

7 U.S. News, Online Bachelor’s Degree In Information Systems Security in October 2022.


Approved by Associate Professor for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology on Nov. 1, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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