Information Assurance vs Information Security

Information-Assurance-vs-Information-Security

 

If you’re considering a career in cybersecurity, you might have come across the terms information assurance and information security. While they sound similar, and the two concepts are certainly related, their scopes and perspectives are rather different.

In this article we’ll look at information assurance and information security in more detail and outline what sets them apart.


Information Security

Let’s start with information security. The primary focus here is to protect information from security breaches by safeguarding information and systems. This is achieved by using technologies like firewalls, encryption, access controls, and intrusion detection systems.

Example: Securing Online Banking Transactions

To understand how this works in practice, consider the practicalities of delivering online banking. In financial services, information security is crucial to protect customers' sensitive information and prevent unauthorised access or fraud.

This can be achieved by implementing the following:

  1. Authentication and Access Control
  2. Encryption
  3. Firewall and Intrusion Detection
  4. Regular Software Updates and Patching
  5. Secure Development Practices
  6. Employee Training
  7. Monitoring and Logging
  8. Incident Response Plan.

In this example, the information security measures listed above ensure customers can perform online transactions without exposing sensitive financial information. This is achieved through a combination of authentication, encryption, access controls, monitoring, and other security practices which creates a secure environment for the bank and its customers.


Information Assurance

Information assurance on the other hand takes a broader approach. Information security is just one component as the scope is widened to include management and risk assessment of information-related processes, systems, and operations. In terms of overall aims, the goal of information assurance is to ensure the reliability, accuracy, and availability of information. This is achieved through a combination of policies, procedures, and technical measures to address the quality and reliability of information as well as security.

Example: Investment Management Firm

Investment management firms handle sensitive financial data while executing trades and investment strategies on behalf of clients. In this scenario, information assurance involves ensuring the accuracy, availability, and security of financial information along with preparedness for potential operational difficulties through robust business continuity planning and ensuring all activities are compliant with relevant legislation.

This would usually include the following steps:

  1. Trade Execution and Accuracy
  2. Redundancy and Data Availability
  3. Regulatory Compliance
  4. Risk Management and Fraud Prevention
  5. Secure Communication and Data Exchange
  6. Insider Threat Prevention
  7. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
  8. Employee Training and Awareness
  9. Vendor Risk Management.

In this example, you can see how information assurance goes beyond data security to encompass accuracy, availability, regulatory compliance, risk management, and business continuity. Collectively these measures help ensure reliable and trustworthy management of financial data and operations for the firm and its customers.


Conclusion

The terms Information assurance and information security are often used interchangeably and are easily confused. To avoid any mix up, the best way to think about the difference between them is that information security is a subset of information assurance. Information security is purely concerned with protecting data and systems, while information assurance is holistic, encompassing additional elements like risk management, business continuity, disaster recovery, compliance, and the overall trustworthiness of the information environment.

Put simply:

Information Security: Focuses purely on protecting information from security breaches. Nothing more, nothing less.

Information Assurance: Expands the scope to a holistic management of information where information security is just one part.

 

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