Information Assurance vs Cybersecurity: Differences Explained

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Apr 04, 2024

Information Assurance vs Cybersecurity

Information assurance and cybersecurity are terms that find their way into every general discussion about data protection. Both disciplines protect information from being misused, destroyed, modified, or lost. However, the two terms have some significant differences that security teams and founders must note. Understanding the nuances of both disciplines is crucial for organizations to build a comprehensive strategy and justify their investment in security. 

Read on to learn about information assurance vs cybersecurity and how to choose the best solution for your business.

What is information assurance?

Information assurance is the practice of safeguarding information assets to minimize threats and ensure that the systems are functioning reliably and securely and that the information is accessible to authorized users.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines information assurance as:

“Measures that protect and defend information and information systems by ensuring their availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and non-repudiation.”

The 5 pillars of information assurance:

  • Availability: Make information systems accessible to authorized users when required and remove any downtime or any other productivity impediment. 
  • Integrity: Maintain the accuracy and completeness of information and minimize any unsanctioned modification or deletion.
  • Authentication: Verify user identities through authentication mechanisms such as biometrics, multi-factor authentication, etc, to ensure only the right people have access to the right information.
  • Confidentiality: Safeguard sensitive information from unauthorized users using measures such as encryption and access controls.
  • Non-repudiation: Ensure that users cannot deny the action completed on information systems they have access to by having mechanisms in place to verify the actions.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting data, devices, networks, or any digital assets from unauthorized access, cyberattacks, and data breaches.  by implementing the necessary measures to minimize, identify, and respond to suspicious activities.

According to NIST, cybersecurity Is:

The ability to protect or defend the use of cyberspace from cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, systems, and networks. Some solutions include firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, access controls, etc.

NOTE: The end goal of both disciplines is protecting information and minimizing risks. But there’s also a difference in the focus, objectives, and other aspects you need to know. Let’s learn below.

Information Assurance and Cybersecurity: How are they different?

Information assurance and cybersecurity broadly differ in their focus and approach. Information assurance aims to manage information risks, digital or non-digital, and ensure its accessibility when needed. Cybersecurity is more focused on mitigating potential threats and implementing specific measures and controls.

 Let’s learn the key differences between the two in detail:

1. Earlier practice v/s newer discipline

Information assurance: A pre-digital era discipline with its roots going back to the days of paper-based records. It originally aimed at protecting physical assets such as documents and files to minimize unauthorized access. 

Cybersecurity: A newer field that has emerged because of the increasing use of Information Technology (IT), the Internet of Things (IoT),  and other rising cyberspace threats. 

It encompasses a range of technologies, processes, and practices designed to safeguard digital assets and mitigate risks to information security.

2. Differences in objectives and end goals

Information assurance: Information assurance ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. It also maintains data quality, data completeness, and mitigates accuracy risks.

Cybersecurity: The range includes protecting systems, networks, and data from cyber threats such as unauthorized access or data theft.

3. Scope

Information assurance: Usually broader in scope. Includes other disciplines such as business risk management, compliance, security architecture, and business continuity. Strategic aspects of people, processes, and technology also fall under its umbrella.

Cybersecurity: It is a subset of information assurance focusing on protecting digital assets from cyber threats. It includes measures for endpoint security, and network security, and covers other aspects to protect data and systems.

4. Approaches and technologies

Information assurance: Takes an all-inclusive approach– it comes with initiatives to ensure comprehensive protection of the information environment. 

Tools, technologies, or measures used for information assurance include access control systems, data quality management tools, compliance management software, data loss prevention tools, etc.

Cybersecurity: Has a more targeted approach toward minimization, detection, and response to threats. Tools and technologies include firewalls, antivirus, endpoint detection systems, vulnerability scanning tools, etc. 

Note: While cybersecurity measures will also be a part of information assurance measures, the latter additionally encompasses other initiatives such as data quality systems and physical protection such as paper shredders.

5. Difference in academic scope

While many institutions offer a combined degree for information assurance and cybersecurity, there are different topics included under each.

Information Assurance: Master’s degrees also include general business management, data analysis, cryptography, and strategic concepts with a broader focus on protecting the information environment. 

The job roles in the field of information assurance include information assurance analyst, information assurance engineer, information assurance specialist, and the likewise. 

Cybersecurity: The programs focus more on tactics to protect against threats and vulnerabilities. Job roles for cyber security professionals are diverse and multidisciplinary. These can include anything ranging from security architect, CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), network security admin, security analyst, and pen tester. 

Information assurance and cybersecurity- Are both needed? 

Yes, information and cybersecurity are two crucial disciplines and they need to co-exist. Not only do they complement each other, but a combination of both helps organizations effectively secure information assets. 

 Following are the benefits of employing both information assurance and cybersecurity as part of your organization’s data security:

  • Enhances an organization’s capabilities to identify and mitigate risks, thereby minimizing the impact of incidents.
  • Practices like backups, business continuity planning, vulnerability scans, incident response plans, etc., help improve business resilience and offer long-term benefits.
  • Simplifies compliance management, especially for stringent regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, ISO 27001, etc.
  • Minimizes threats, data loss, and risks of non-compliance repercussions and help organizations save costs over the years.
  • Demonstrates a solid commitment to protecting sensitive information and enhance the organization’s market perception.

On the lookout for a robust tool to protect information assets?

Implementing information assurance and cybersecurity requires creating or updating policies, arranging training programs, deploying necessary technological infrastructure, and making cultural changes. Compliance/GRC automation tools can help you simplify this journey.

Sprinto is a cybersecurity and compliance automation tool that helps you ensure the integrity, security, and availability of information and systems while enabling you to stay continuously compliant. 

Sprinto’s automated platform takes care of the following:

  • policy management
  • risk management
  • monitoring and reporting
  • automated evidence collection
  • training programs, and much more. 

Seamless integration with 200+ cloud services aids in granular monitoring of the information environment, and automated alerts keep you warned of deviations.

Improve your overall security posture while safeguarding your information assets. 

Ensure hassle-free compliance certification. Take a platform tour with an expert today. See Sprinto in action.

FAQs

What is the difference between information security and information assurance?

Information security is aimed at mitigating information risks. It helps minimize unauthorized access, data modification, destruction, etc, and is a part of information assurance. 

Information assurance is a broader concept with a strategic approach to protect the entire information environment. It includes information security measures such as firewalls, antivirus, etc, along with other measures like security audits, data quality management, information management policies, and more.

Why is it important to distinguish between cybersecurity and information assurance?

The differentiation between the two helps us understand various security aspects and adopt the right approach for the organization to ensure overall protection.

What do information assurance professionals take care of?

Their main role is to identify the right information that needs to be protected and implement methods to protect it. Apart from this, on a day-to-day basis, they also minimize threats and malicious attacks and conduct regular audits and assessments to pinpoint weaknesses and improve system processes.

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Payal is your friendly neighborhood compliance whiz! She turns perplexing compliance lingo into actionable advice about keeping your digital business safe and savvy. When she isn’t saving virtual worlds, she’s penning down poetic musings or lighting up local open mics. Cyber savvy by day, poet by night!

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