Two terms the security world uses all the time are “information assurance” and “cybersecurity.” These terms do overlap, and many people use them interchangeably – but in reality, each one refers to a specific concept in information security. They’re not the same, and we shouldn’t conflate them so casually.

In this blog post we’ll explore the relationship between information assurance and cybersecurity, consider the key differences between them, and how each idea supports the other toward the larger goal of effective security.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting information assets – computer systems, servers, mobile devices, and data – from unauthorized access. The term can be divided into a few common categories, such as network security, application security, cloud security, and operational security. Cybersecurity focuses on:

  • Reducing vulnerabilities in a computer network
  • Conducting regular IT security audits and risk assessments to identify potential cyber threats and common cybersecurity incidents
  • Implementing firewall rules that prevent attacks such as ransomware and phishing
  • Monitoring network activity for signs of intrusion or suspicious behavior
  • Developing and regularly testing an incident response plan to respond to cybersecurity incidents quickly
  • Implementing software updates and patches to fix known vulnerabilities
  • Developing authentication methods that prevent the entry of hackers or other malicious actors
  • Using software to identify, eliminate, or prevent the execution of malware on computer systems and other related activities and maintain the protection of information

Cybersecurity has gained importance over the years with the explosion of cybercrime worldwide. More than 53 million U.S. citizens were affected by cybercrime in the first half of 2022 alone. In the 12 months from July 2020 through June 2021, the United States suffered the highest number of cyberattacks globally, accounting for 46 percent of all attacks worldwide.

What Is Information Assurance?

The National Information Assurance Glossary defines information assurance (IA) as “measures that protect and defend information and information systems by ensuring their availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation.”

The terms cybersecurity and information assurance are often confused; even cybersecurity experts don’t fully agree on whether information assurance is a subset of cybersecurity or vice versa.

Overall, however, information assurance encompasses a wider range of issues than information security. The focus of information security is on protection or prevention, while the focus of information assurance is on the integration of protection, detection, and reaction.

So How Do Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Differ?

Even though cybersecurity and information assurance overlap in several ways, several key differences exist.

First, cybersecurity is a relatively young discipline that emerged in recent decades with developments in information technology and the widespread use of computers. Information assurance was around long before the advent of digital data and computer systems, even back to the world of paper-based data and reports.

Second, cybersecurity focuses on managing cyber risks, protecting digital data, and safeguarding functional systems. Information assurance focuses on protecting both physical and digital information and assets.

While information assurance has been around for many years, the development of digital technologies has caused the importance of cybersecurity to soar. As more and more sensitive information is stored and processed electronically, the need for effective cybersecurity measures has become paramount.

Both information assurance and cybersecurity employ similar approaches and technologies, including educating employees, using antivirus software, setting up firewall rules, and using other advanced technologies.

On the other hand, they each have specific tools to achieve their objectives. For example, information assurance uses paper shredders or other physical means of protecting or destroying information, while cybersecurity uses penetration testing or bug bounty initiatives.

Finally, while cybersecurity focuses primarily on protecting against potential cybersecurity threats that may emerge from cyberspace or endpoint communication, information assurance takes a more comprehensive approach by considering the potential for unauthorized access in the physical realm.

Do You Need Both Information Assurance and Cybersecurity?

Yes, you do. Both information assurance and cybersecurity are crucial for organizations to protect their digital assets and assure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their data.

IA and cybersecurity help organizations secure confidential information from unauthorized access and theft, maintain the availability of systems and data for business continuity, fulfill regulatory requirements for data protection, preserve the integrity of data to prevent unauthorized changes or manipulation, and avoid damage to reputation and loss of customer trust.

In short, information assurance and cybersecurity are interrelated; they complement each other to provide a comprehensive approach to securing information systems. You can’t achieve the full potential of one without investing in the other.

Protect Your Information With the ZenGRC Platform

Organizations worldwide are working to strengthen digital trust with their customers, prospects, and partners. This has led to increased focus and allocation of resources towards security and regulatory compliance by IT and security departments.

ZenGRC is a risk management and regulatory compliance platform that supports a number of quality management frameworks. The platform provides an integrated experience that allows you to track quality and risk across your entire company, ensuring the best and safest experience for your customers.

Schedule a demo to see how the ZenGRC Platform can improve your company’s overall cybersecurity posture.