Understanding the differences between IT Security and CyberSecurity

One of the most ask questions by colleges is if there is a difference between IT Security and CyberSecurity?

Many people assume they are just alternating terms for the having a form of security on electronic devices. Others believe that they cannot work as separate entities, that they become useless if not combined.

Cybersecurity and IT security do share similarities; they do also create maximum protection and efficiency when combined.  Despite similarities, there are key differences that distinguish the two.

IT security

IT security can be referred to as information security or data security. IT security is utilised to ensure the protection and safety of all information created and available to an organisation. The security process is inclusive of all electronics along with physical data.

IT security allows processes and procedures to be in place to ensure that all information is protected. This prevents unauthorised access, misuse, destruction or disruption of data.

The primary purpose is to ensure that information remains of high integrity, confidential and accessible. This is essential, to ensure that the quality of information is not diminished, along with ensuring that personal or valuable information remains confidential and only available to those authorised.

Physical data is often easier to protect in locked filing cabinets, but electronic data requires greater protection

IT security incorporates various forms of technology and methods to protect all information and information systems. Physical data is often easier to protect in locked filing cabinets, but electronic data requires greater protection.

This can include passwords to access specific files, ensuring all personnel use password protection for all electronic devices along with establishing secure individual and company networks.

IT security procedures allow data to be protected while ensuring the quality and integrity of the information. Incorporating security measures for information and information systems reduces the risk of unauthorised access or misuse of confidential information.


Cybersecurity’s primary purpose is to protect electronic data from unauthorised access gained through cyberspace. Unauthorised access can be referred to as cyber-attacks; they are any form of unauthorised access to a company’s data that corrupts or damages the integrity of the data.

Cybersecurity ensures that all confidential, valuable or vulnerable information cannot be downloaded, shared or utilised by an unknown third party.

Cybersecurity limits and prevents this threat or attack of unauthorised access to a company’s information. It allows the necessary precautions to be in place to ensure the safety of all electronic data.  Cyber threats go beyond securing valuable data, they can influence operations, inhibit actions and have control over networks.

Hacking or corruption of data not only affects the quality of the data but can be expensive and time-consuming to correct. There are also the risks of what a third party can achieve by holding this information, especially if it is financial or highly confidential.

Hacking and unauthorised access of networks can occur for many reasons. Cyber threats include downloading files from websites or apps that contain viruses.  Having weak or easily guessed passwords or storing data in one place, such as the cloud without backups.

Cyber Threats to Business, Phishing, Malware, Viruses

Cyber criminals can use social engineering or other forms of manipulation to get users to open, download, or run malicious items. These programs are hard to detect once in installed which makes them a large threat to control systems and any sensitive data.

Poor Passwords

Study after study has shown that a significant portion of the professional population still uses ‘Password’ or some close variant as their password on workstations. Passwords that are eight characters long and don’t have a mix of uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers offer little to no protection and can be cracked within a day.

Personal Devices

Our mobiles are attached to us most of the day, and unfortunately, they can be hijacked or piggy-backed to gain access to sensitive data. Company procedures may not be built out to protect data, as they underestimate the risk our devices pose.

Unsafe Cloud Usage

Everything is in the cloud as many businesses move from standard to hybrid and online cloud setups. It is safer than you think, but unsafe usage on the part of the end user can nullify any protection in place.

Outdated software

The unpatched and outdated software may not be capable of supporting the robust security measures implemented to protect your system. Any software unpatched and running without security puts your data at risk.

Team Members

If your staff don’t know how to pick out a dodgy looking email or are intentionally trying to steal or expose information, the people with direct access to your equipment and data are your weakest link.

Completing a Security Risk Assessment

Completing a security risk assessment can outline your current standing and highlight any parts of your business’s security that need attention moving forward. Perform checks regularly. As digital threats are ever-evolving, your risk assessment should answer the following questions;

  • Do you have up to date security software installed?
  • Who has access to data and across what equipment?
  • Is your data safely encrypted?
  • Do you regularly update your software to patch known security issues?
  • Are employees thoroughly trained on your security policies and best practices?
  • Do you dispose of unwanted computing equipment appropriately?

Protecting your computing hardware and business network should begin with the following best practices;

  • Stick to sites that use secure HTTPS connections
  • Educate staff around fraudulent emails and sites
  • Turn on two-step verification for your accounts
  • Install antivirus and anti-malware programs on all company devices
  • Create policy around safe Internet access and usage by staff
  • Install a password manager and use it to create unique passwords for every use
  • Regularly update and patch your software
  • Look into using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi is invisible to outsiders, encrypted, and secure
  • Educate and train employees to have a security mindset
  • Backup everything in a separate location
  • Review company security policy
  • Run Penetration Testing & Vulnerability Scanning
  • Restrict user access

IT and cybersecurity go hand in hand; both are essential in protecting the information of your company.  Both security systems should be incorporated into your organisation to ensure that all channels being used are secure and protected against any threat, corruption or misuse. To summarise, below is a table highlighting some key differences between the two security systems.

IT and cybersecurity must be embraced as a daily business issue for businesses to truly mature. It’s worth conducting a security risk assessment and identifying cyber threats to business.

Best practice IT security and cybersecurity will protect your business and personal information, allow employees to work safely and productively, and inspire confidence in your business among your customers.

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