Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
It’s easy to confuse information security and cybersecurity, as the two areas overlap in many ways. In fact, cybersecurity is a subset of information security. However, the fields are not quite the same, with each featuring distinct specialties and requiring different skill sets.
Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between information security and cybersecurity.
Information Security vs. Cybersecurity
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recognizes information security and cybersecurity as separate career areas. That said, there is certainly an overlap between the two. Below are the key definitions and distinctions of each.
What Is Information Security?
To some degree, nearly everyone wants their personal information to be secure, meaning it can only be accessed and used by authorized individuals. This is the goal of information security (infosec).
According to the NIST, infosec involves the protection of information and information systems against unauthorized use. The field aims to provide availability, integrity and confidentiality.
One way to understand infosec as compared to cybersecurity is to view the field as an umbrella term that includes all data, not just data stored within cyberspace. This demonstrates how cybersecurity is a type of information security, but the two fields are not identical.
Information security teams create and implement policies and systems to protect information. For large organizations, strict security systems are required to protect customers.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Living in the 21st century means much of data is stored in computer systems and networks. This is the case for nearly every industry, and the information must be protected to a high degree. Information security professionals with a cybersecurity focus are responsible for securing this data.
The NIST defines cybersecurity as protecting, preventing damage to and restoring electronic communications services and systems. This includes the information stored in these systems, which cybersecurity professionals work to protect.
Cybersecurity covers everything that has to do with electronic systems and communications. Within the field of cybersecurity are subcategories that entail further specialization. These include cloud, network, and critical infrastructure security.
The Biggest Differences
Confusion between information security and cybersecurity can occur since much of the information we want to store, protect and transmit exists in cyberspace. While cybersecurity is a part of information security, certain aspects of information security are not included within the realm of cybersecurity.
Information security is an overarching term for creating and maintaining systems and policies to protect any information—digital, physical or intellectual, not just data in cyberspace.
An information security expert may develop the means of data access by authorized individuals or establish security measures to keep information safe. Cybersecurity, on the other hand, focuses on protecting information from cyberattacks such as ransomware and spyware.
How Information Security and Cybersecurity Overlap
Information security and cybersecurity overlap in many ways. In addition to having similar security practices, these fields also require similar education and skills.
Shared Security Practices
The most significant overlap between infosec and cybersecurity is that they use the CIA (confidentiality, integrity and availability of information) triad model to develop security policies.
The first of the triad is confidentiality, ensuring that information is only accessed and modifiable by authorized users. From a consumer perspective, for example, we expect online retailers to store and protect our data such as credit card information, home addresses and other personal information.
Second, the integrity of information ensures that it has not been tampered with and is entirely reliable. Continuing with the online retailer example, the data transmitted between the retailer and your bank must be secure. Otherwise, there may be a discrepancy between the actual cost of your goods and the amount you paid.
Finally, availability of information means that the data is available when you need it. For example, if you need to know how much money you have in your bank account, you must be able to access that information.
Related Education and Skills
At a minimum, many careers in infosec and cybersecurity require a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology or a related field. These degrees prepare you with foundational knowledge and skills to help you land a job as an analyst, engineer, specialist or tester.
These careers also call for familiarity with technologies such as database user interface and query software, network monitoring software, virus protection and web platform development.
Many information security and cybersecurity careers use similar or interchangeable language in their job descriptions. This is because employers often want infosec professionals with a broad array of security skills, including those in cybersecurity.
Information Security Roles
Information Security Analyst
- Career Overview: With so much of our valuable information stored on computers, information security analysts often perform similar tasks to cybersecurity analysts. These professionals are responsible for planning, implementing, upgrading and monitoring security measures to protect computer networks and information. They may also create and share reports about security metrics and data breaches.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $74,000, according to Payscale
Information Security Specialist
- Career Overview: An information security specialist’s role is similar to that of an information security analyst. While day-to-day duties may vary depending on the specific position, these professionals are part of teams that develop and implement information risk management frameworks, standards and policies. They also participate in risk assessments and assist users in accessing databases.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $76,000, according to Payscale
IT Security Consultant
- Career Overview: As an IT security consultant, you use your infosec experience to assess and recommend improvements to an organization’s information security. Your responsibilities may include supporting, implementing and following up on data privacy improvements, identity access management systems, cybersecurity management and operations.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $82,000, according to Payscale
- Career Overview: Cybersecurity analysts focus on protecting data from cyberattacks. These professionals perform threat and incident detection and respond to data breaches. Depending on the employer, cybersecurity analysts may develop cybersecurity awareness training and forensic analysis of information systems.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $77,000, according to Payscale.
- Career Overview: A cybersecurity engineer’s role is expansive, overseeing the development of cybersecurity procedures and policies. This job includes building and maintaining firewalls to ensure secure transmission of information, developing security controls to protect digital files and monitoring and responding to security breaches. If you’re wondering how to become a cybersecurity engineer, start with a bachelor’s degree or cybersecurity bootcamp.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $98,000, according to Payscale
- Career Overview: Penetration testers are effectively hackers, but with good intentions: to improve information protection practices. Through simulated internal and external cyberattacks, these professionals breach and exploit systems and gain access to sensitive information to identify vulnerabilities. They then design and suggest security solutions to address said vulnerabilities. They also find system weaknesses and suggest improvements to bolster defenses against malicious attacks.
- Average Annual Salary: Over $88,000, according to Payscale
Frequently Asked Questions About Information Security vs. Cybersecurity
Is there a difference between cybersecurity and information security?
Yes. Cybersecurity focuses entirely on computer and web-related security. In contrast, information security covers all forms of securing information. Cybersecurity is a type of information security.
Is cybersecurity a subset of information security?
Yes. Information security involves the protection of data across all mediums, and cybersecurity hones in on the protection of data stored in cyberspace.