Don't confuse information security with cyber security - the key differences to know

Published on: 17 Oct 2022

Cyber security is one of the fastest-growing sectors across any industry - not just IT. As more firms become data-dependent and the cost of breaches continues to grow, all businesses will be in need of professionals with the right skills to protect their critical systems.

This offers great opportunities for IT experts with the right skills, qualifications and experience to prosper in this sector. However, cyber security is a wide-ranging discipline with a lot of specialities, so it's important that you find an area that suits your interests and expertise.

One especially important part of cyber security is information security. This has become more crucial in recent years as the volume and variety of data stored on business' servers and devices has grown exponentially, and in the process has become much more valuable to hackers.

Therefore, a career specialising in information security can offer great prospects for the years to come.

The differences between information security, data security and cyber security

Often, information security, data security and cyber security are used interchangeably. But they each have their own distinct meaning and responsibilities. As such, if you're looking for information security jobs, it's essential you have a clear understanding of what this will involve and how it may differ from other, related cyber security positions.

So what are the key distinctions between the fields?

Cyber security is a more general term focusing on efforts to protect electronic systems. While this can include safeguarding digital data, it also means preventing unauthorised access to networks and other systems, blocking malware and identifying vulnerabilities.

Information security, on the other hand, is focused more closely on protecting the digital data that businesses possess. While there are cyber security elements involved in this, it also covers physical security to protect against both intentional and accidental exposure. Everything from strong password policies to tools that can remotely wipe data from a lost or stolen device may fall under this category.

Some people also make a distinction between the terms data security and information security. In this case, data security refers strictly to defences for data in storage, using tools such as encryption and access control to physically protect data. Information security, on the other hand, is a broader practice that encompasses end-to-end flows of information.

Why information security specialists matter

It's said that every business is now data-driven. Protecting digital assets from harm is therefore essential to the smooth running of any organisation. 

Attacks that target firms' data come in many forms. Some hackers may look to steal personal data to sell on to fraudsters, while others will seek to extort firms by demanding a ransom to prevent the publication of sensitive information such as trade secrets. 

The costs of failing to look after sensitive data are high. Apart from the reputational damage that may be done if private details are exposed, the loss of critical business information can make it impossible for a firm to function. In some cases, data breaches have led to companies shutting down completely.

Even if they are able to recover and regain any lost business, the Information Commissioner's Office has the authority to levy large fines - up to £17.5 million or four per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher. 

It isn’t afraid to use this power either. The biggest fine to date in the UK since the introduction of tougher data protection penalties was the £183 million fine imposed on British Airways for an incident that saw hackers intercept customer financial information - though this was later reduced due to the economic issues caused by Covid-19.

As such, having skilled and experienced information security specialists should be a must for any business looking to improve their cyber defences.

Find your next role in this field by browsing our latest information security jobs today.