When you start to look into data security for your small business, there’s a lot to learn. Information security, cybersecurity, and network security may sound interchangeable, but they are three distinct practices that build upon each other. So, what are the differences between information security, cybersecurity, and network security?
Information security (InfoSec) protects physical/digital data, while Cybersecurity protects data/systems in internet-connected environments, and Network security protects networks & online data.
Scroll down to learn more about information security, cybersecurity, and network security. I name the types of threats that each practice protects against. And I include explanations of information security basics such as governance frameworks and the CIA triad.
The Information Security Pyramid
InfoSec is a broad term for all the practices a business undertakes in order to prevent unauthorized access, use, modification, or destruction of physical and digital data.
The InfoSec Umbrella includes:
- Requiring badge swipes on entry
- Storing paper files in locked filing cabinets or secure offsite storage
- Password protecting hardware, software, and files
- Limiting access of employees to data within their job scope
Think of InfoSec as the foundation of your business’ data security strategy. It supports all kinds of methods, tools, and practices, including cybersecurity and network security. You need that solid foundation in order to support stable walls (cybersecurity). Those stable walls then support the roof (network security) of your business.
Potential Threats to InfoSec
The scope and definition of information security is incredibly broad. It should come as no surprise that the types of threats that its practices protect against are broad as well.
Software attacks, phishing, malware, IP theft, identity theft, theft of property or data, sabotage, or extortion of information are all threats that proper InfoSec practices can prevent.
- These all involve your digital data and different ways bad actors can gain access to it.
- They exploit weaknesses in applications you and other businesses use to get data.
- Phishing attacks exploit vulnerabilities in you and your staff, hoping you’ll accidentally give information that allows them access to your data.
The CIA Triad and InfoSec
Most experts use the CIA triad as a guide to structuring an information security plan. It’s a great starting point for small business owners to develop trainings, processes, and controls to preserve and protect their data.
The three points of the CIA triad are Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability:
- Confidentiality – Confirmation that data is not accessible to unauthorized people by methods like zero trust, data encryption, multi-factor authorization, etc.
- Integrity – The protection of information and systems from access or alteration by unauthorized people, maintaining its accuracy and trustworthiness. Some methods to protect data integrity include risk-based validation, regular archiving, and change tracing.
- Availability – Allowing only authorized users to access data appropriately, including maintaining all hardware and software and updating it when necessary.
Governance Frameworks for Beginners
Governance frameworks are how businesses can ensure that their information security strategies are in line with their mission statement, business objectives, and overall goals for the organization.
You can develop one from scratch, but it can be quite an undertaking for someone not well-versed in InfoSec. It’s very easy to leave out key protections if you don’t know what you don’t know.
Thankfully, there are a handful of frameworks available for business owners so that comprehensive protection is possible. These include NIST, BISMM, ISO/IEC 27001 2013 to CIS, and more, as listed on secureworks.com.
Cybersecurity is a key component to a successful information security plan. It involves the application of a series of processes and technologies that protect your computers, hard drives, servers, phones, and the network they’re on from attacks or exploitation.
Cybersecurity programs and professionals monitor all traffic on your network and devices, incoming and outgoing, to reduce the risk of cyber attacks and protect your business from unauthorized access and use of your systems and data.
Its focus is to look for gaps in your security and potential threats before they become a problem for you and your business and to promote good security practices among your staff.
Most cybersecurity strategies focus externally, on defensive measures against bad actors. Cybersecurity measures are like a barbed wire fence around a building, with only one access point that is monitored and passcode protected.
Commonplace CyberSecurity Threats
One of the biggest threats to an organization’s cybersecurity is malware. Malware is a broad term which can include:
- Ransomware – when data is encrypted by a hacker and then held for ransom
- Botnet software – when a computer is infected with malware and becomes part of a malicious network of computers controlled by a bad actor
- Remote access or regular Trojan viruses – Trojan viruses trick you into installing them willingly, then take over your computer for different purposes. Remote access Trojans operate the same, but hackers then gain and use remote access to your computer for various purposes
- Rootkits – enable an unauthorized user to gain control of a computer system without detection
- Bootkits – a form of malware which interrupts the process of your operating system booting up and carries out its objectives before your operating system even loads
- Spyware – malware that enables unauthorized users to monitor your activities without your knowledge
Other threats to cybersecurity to be aware of are:
- Backdoors – allow remote access to unauthorized users
- Formjacking – when malicious code is inserted into your online forms
- Cryptojacking – when cryptocurrency mining software is installed on your system surreptitiously
- DDoS attacks – attacks that flood your servers/systems/networks with traffic to knock them offline
- DNS attacks – attacks which compromise your domain name system to redirect traffic to malicious sites
Most of these threats are orchestrated via phishing. Phishing occurs when bad actors contact you or your employees and try to manipulate you into giving up sensitive information that they can use to gain access to your systems or network.
Employee awareness and education is therefore a key component of good cybersecurity, because the onus falls on each person to help protect the company.
The Risk These Threats Pose
The risks of poor cybersecurity are primarily monetary and reputational damage. Businesses who face successful cyberattacks can lose important and sensitive information, face large fines, and lose integrity and trust on a consumer level. (Just think about how much negative news surrounds when large businesses have data leaks – it’s never good for business)
Focusing on a risk-based approach to your company’s cybersecurity will make sure your efforts go where they’re needed. With frequent training and good cyber hygiene practices within your organization, you’ll be better protected than most companies.
Other facets of cybersecurity which we won’t be going in depth on in this article are critical infrastructure cybersecurity, cloud security, IoT (Internet of Things) security, and application security. To learn more about those, I recommend this article by ITGovernance!
What You Need to Know About Network Security
Network security is the practice of protecting files and directories in a computer network against misuse and unauthorized access. It is a small cog in the cybersecurity machine, so to speak.
The focus of network security is to protect data housed on your internal network and preserve a healthy IT infrastructure. Tools that assist with good network security are VPNs (virtual private networks), antivirus software, and firewalls.
While the focus of cybersecurity protections is external defense, network security is more of an internal strategy. Think of network security measures as motion sensing burglar alarms within the building from the cybersecurity analogy above.
Typical Threats to Network Security
Network security threats have less to do with human practices and more to do with infrastructural weaknesses, so there are substantially less threats in this subcategory. After all, human error is the number one reason for security breaches.
Be on the lookout for viruses that corrupt, steal, or destroy your data (especially Trojans), worms that can duplicate over and over within your computer and spread to others, rendering systems ineffective, and DDoS attacks that overwhelm your servers or network.
Recapping What You’ve Learned
The main takeaway is that information security, cybersecurity, and network security are not completely independent concepts – they build on each other, and work together to protect your business.
Information security is a broad term that encompasses all practices designed to protect your business’ data.
Cybersecurity is one component of information security that focuses on safeguarding your digital data, your network, and the technology you use by vigilantly monitoring for external threats.
And, last but not least, network security is a facet of cybersecurity that focuses on shoring up your network’s internal defenses against unauthorized access or misuse of your data.
All three are integral pieces of protecting your business’ network and building trust with your customers and employees that their personal information is secure and safe with you.
If you’re interested in instilling good cyber hygiene in your staff, good news! CloudNexus offers educational services for small to medium sized businesses. Click here to learn more.