Cybersecurity and IT security are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but you might be surprised to learn that they actually refer to different things. True, both terms are related to the security and safeguarding of sensitive information, but there are some important distinctions between the two that need to be understood.
Think of cybersecurity as a subset of IT security – in other words, cybersecurity is just one process that falls under the broad umbrella of IT security. IT Security is the overarching process that covers how ALL company data is handled, both physical and electronic. In contrast, cybersecurity focuses only on protecting ONLINE data.
In practice, these two functions are generally quite similar and will have quite a bit of overlap – A server room storing sensitive company information still needs physical access controls to keep it secure. Despite this, however, many regulatory agencies will require that organizations have distinct cybersecurity and IT security policies. Consequently, it might be useful to understand how the two concepts differ:
IT Security Defined:
IT security is the process of designing and implementing measures aimed at protecting company data – This includes data in all of its forms, whether electronic and physical, and will often provide guidelines for how it should be collected, managed, stored, and protected. Generally very broad in scope, it is the first step towards safeguarding company information from outsiders, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that data is confidential, accessible, and of high quality.
Cybersecurity is a subset of IT security that refers to the protection of company data from threats that occur online. This includes any digital information, and will usually involve a combination of network risk management, password management, data encryption, and data security policies. Having an effective cybersecurity strategy in place has become especially crucial as we see a growing reliance on digital and cloud-based environments.
Key Differences between IT Security and Cybersecurity
IT Security is generally much broader in scope and encompasses any form of information, both electronic and physical, while Cybersecurity focuses on the electronic portion of this information. Cybersecurity policy will typically focus specifically on policies and procedures aimed at protecting data from online hacking.
IT Security has the overarching goal of keeping information confidential, accessible, and high quality. Since this encompasses both physical and electronic data, it will also include guidelines for how data is collected, handled, and stored, along with who is granted access.
In contrast, Cybersecurity policy is typically more of a preventative and risk management strategy rather than an active set of guidelines that must be adhered to. Therefore, the policy will focus on how risk is assessed, analyzed, and managed, including things like password protection, data encryption, and network security.