Amid our increasingly connected world, digital security is becoming more critical and more complex. As growing quantities of data continue to move online, individuals along with businesses and institutions face greater potential risks from compromised security, and the scope of cyber threats is growing as well.
A staggering 422.1 million people fell victim to data compromise in 2022 alone, according to a recent report from the Identity Theft Resource Center. These realities underline the crucial role of cybersecurity and network security, and emphasize the growing need for security professionals to guard against an ever-expanding landscape of digital threats.
The Growing Demand for Data Security
In this type of environment, organizations are heightening their demands for individuals who have the skills, talent, and expertise to help safeguard sensitive data from advanced cyber-attacks and bolster protection across the network. Positions like computer network architects and information security analysts are increasingly in demand, growing at 4% and 35% respectively through 2026, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For individuals who want to work in these fields, the first step on this road is an important one, and involves becoming more familiar with key terminology and concepts in the science of information systems (IS). While cybersecurity and network security may sound similar ― and do overlap in certain areas ― there are differences that IS students and professionals should understand.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cyber-security (or cybersecurity) is a broad term that encompasses an array of practices and technology designed to protect various types of devices and networks from digital attacks, according to the definition of cybersecurity by Cisco. Needs for cybersecurity span across all sectors and industries of modern society, and the nature of threats is similarly broad. Possible attacks may include:
- Phishing, which includes a carefully crafted email or chat directed at a certain individual in a company. The email might include a malicious link or attachment that, when opened by the recipient, launches harmful code or directs the user to an infected website.
- Ransomware, which may start similarly to a phishing attack. Through social engineering, hackers learn about company employees and then target a recipient with an email or message addressed to them. Once opened, a malicious link or attachment executes the ransomware sample, which uses strong encryption to lock users out of their files, applications, and important data until a ransom is paid in untraceable bitcoin.
These are some of the most common attacks, but they only scratch the surface when it comes to the scope of cyberthreats that businesses face. Professionals in cybersecurity must guard against both common and emerging threats with practices like data backup, awareness training for staff members, and controlling software to detect and block potential attacks.
What Is Network Security?
Network security is similar to cybersecurity, but involves a somewhat narrower scope of systems and threats. Cisco defines network security as “The protection of the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse, or theft.” In other words, network security is the more specific set of methods that cybersecurity professionals use to manage an organization’s networks.
Network security encompasses key processes like:
- Access controls, or setting up usernames and passwords for authorized users, and potentially leveled-access privileges that enable only certain individuals to access highly sensitive data.
- Application security, to help safeguard important applications. This includes a patch management strategy to help ensure that when software vendors release a security update, it is applied as soon as possible.
The network represents one of an organization’s most valuable assets, and many essential daily processes would be impossible without a securely and smoothly operating network. This makes network security a critical priority for businesses in every industry sector, and therefore creates a variety of job opportunities for those trained in network security.
Difference Between Cybersecurity and Network Security
Although the terms cybersecurity and network security are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference that IS professionals must understand. Essentially, cybersecurity is the broader term that describes all types of measures taken to protect digital data, while network security is the subset of measures that focus on protecting an organization’s own network.
Cybersecurity and network security can each be thought of as more specific forms of information security, a discipline within the scientific field of information systems management.
What About Information Security?
Information security (or infosec) is another term used for digital security methods and roles. An information security analyst, for example, may be in charge of cyber and network security strategies for a business. Therefore, this is another term that IS professionals should know and understand how it relates to the definitions of cybersecurity vs. network security.
Information Security vs. Cybersecurity vs. Network Security
According to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), information security is: “The protection of information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide confidentiality, integrity, and availability.”
This means that information security has an even broader definition encompassing storage and usage of all kinds of information, whether digital or physical. No matter the type of data in question, however, there are three key pillars that go into any comprehensive strategy for information security.
The CIA Triad of Information Security
These three pillars of information security are commonly known as the CIA Triad, where CIA stands for:
- Confidentiality: Preventing sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure.
- Integrity: Maintaining the accuracy and consistency of data throughout its life cycle.
- Availability: Ensuring that data can be accessed and utilized readily by authorized parties.
Because these three principles should together inform any cybersecurity or network security strategy, infosec can be thought of as the more foundational discipline for protecting data. That’s why anyone studying information systems should learn the CIA Triad as a groundwork for further training in cybersecurity.
Careers in Information Systems and Security
The cybersecurity and network security industries have been operating with a talent shortage for a few years now, meaning that there simply aren’t enough individuals to fill open positions. In fact, a recent report by (ISC)² — another leading professional organization — claims that the profession must grow by 3.4 million workers to meet growing demand.
The same study states that 70% of organizations report a current shortage of cybersecurity professionals and that most of these respondents have plans to increase their number of roles. The exact titles and settings of these jobs will vary widely across the industries which they support, but some commonly available careers in information systems and security include:
- Information systems manager
- Information security analyst
- Cybersecurity specialist
- Penetration tester
- Computer systems administrator
- Chief information security officer
Gaining knowledge and expertise in information systems can support a particularly beneficial career path toward one of these or similar roles.
Learn More About Information, Network, and Cybersecurity
As digital threats continue to grow in number and complexity for all types of businesses, professionals with skills in information systems and security are becoming more critical than ever. Career projections from the BLS and others underscore the immediate value of education and training for entering this fast-growing job market.
A solid starting point is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, or a bachelor’s in another field of computer science. From there, those desiring a more specialized path to advanced careers in cybersecurity may consider a Master of Science in Management Information Systems. Either of these degree programs can help prepare students for employment in the fast-paced and ever-expanding business of information security.