Cybersecurity vs. Information Security: What’s the Difference?

March 22, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


Cybersecurity and information security are similar terms, so it’s easy to assume they mean the same thing. You’ll even see professional blogs use them interchangeably, but they’re not the same. The distinction between cybersecurity vs. information security is a fine one but an important one to make.

Both information security and cybersecurity are important for businesses today. Learning the difference between them can help you understand what you need and stay safe against all threats.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Let’s start with the most familiar part of the cybersecurity vs. information security dynamic. Cybersecurity is the protection of digital data and assets against threats like malware, phishing and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

The key word here is “digital.” While cybersecurity involves some physical protections, like limiting in-person access to data centers, it centers around digital information. That extends to the electronic systems that gather and use that data like computers, internet of things (IoT) endpoints, websites and servers.

Application security, network security and cloud security all fall under the umbrella of cybersecurity. An easy way to think of it is that if it protects against a cyberattack, it’s cybersecurity. Because the world relies so heavily on digital data and systems today, this category is probably the first that comes to mind when you hear the word “security.”

What Is Information Security?

Information security, which you’ll sometimes see shortened to “infosec,” is similar but broader. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines it as the protection of information and information systems from unauthorized access and use. According to the NIST, these protections ensure three things: confidentiality, integrity and availability.

If you think that that’s what cybersecurity does, you’re right. Cybersecurity is a part of information security, but infosec also involves analog information and systems, whereas cybersecurity is all about the digital.

Information security also includes things like protecting your mail, which some criminals look through for personal information, and keeping sensitive paper documents out of sight. Covering a keypad as you enter a PIN or keeping your social security card in a safe place are also examples of infosec.

Cybersecurity vs. Information Security: Similarities and Differences

It’s easy to confuse cybersecurity and infosec because there’s so much overlap between them. Both center around protecting data and the systems that gather, use and store it. Both also require some of the same steps, like assessing vulnerabilities and restricting access privileges.

The biggest difference in cybersecurity vs. information security is the size of their scope. Infosec protects information and information systems in all their forms, while cybersecurity focuses on digital data and related systems. When in doubt, ask whether something is about electronic information or systems. If it is, it’s a cybersecurity matter. If not, it’s infosec.

Think of the dynamic as rectangles and squares. Just as all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all cybersecurity is infosec, but not all infosec is cybersecurity.

Data is the world’s most valuable resource, so protecting it in all its forms is essential. Information security is the baseline for that protection, with cybersecurity focusing on electronic information systems, which are often the most common and at-risk.

Cybersecurity and InfoSec Are Related But Different

The cybersecurity vs. information security dynamic can be tricky to understand because the two are so similar. However, once you know the differences and how they relate to each other, you can approach each effectively.

Good cybersecurity starts with infosec, and reliable infosec needs cybersecurity to be effective. While the two are hard to separate, it’s important to understand these similarities and differences.