Cyber Security vs Computer Security: Do you Know the Difference?

People often assume that cyber security and computer security are just alternating terms. However, this is not true. While both these terms are used interchangeably when talking about protecting and improving the efficiency of the IT infrastructure, there are few key differences between the two.

Are you pondering the differences between cyber security and computer security? Computer security deals with securing endpoints like computers, laptops, servers, virtual machines and IaaS with antivirus, malware protection to vulnerability management. Whilst Cyber security deals with protecting information, keeping it safe and secure from unauthorized access like from hackers.

There are ten significant differences between cyber security and computer security.

CharacteristicCyber SecurityComputer Security
DefinitionProtects the integrity of devices, networks, data, and programs from any kind of attack, unauthorized access, and damage from cyber space. Protects the confidentiality, accessibility, and integrity of data and networks using software and hardware technologies.
GoalTo ensure electronic data is not attacked, stolen, or compromised by cyber thieves.To ensure integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data within an organization.
Type of SecurityCritical infrastructure security, cloud security, data loss prevention, end-user education, etc.Firewalls, email security, anti-virus, and anti-malware software, access control, application security, mobile device security, etc.
DomainProtects an organization from any form of digital attacks originating from cyber space.Protects an organization’s IT infrastructure from within
Key ResponsibilitiesTo serve as subject matter experts on matters relating to cybercrimes.To monitor and upgrade security measures for all the systems of an organization.
DataProtects data transferred on public and private networksProtects data shared on a private network.
ScopeProvides security from external threatsProvides security from internal threats
Type of AttackSocial engineering, ATP, malware, etc.Trojan, viruses, DOS attacks, phishing, eavesdropping, password attack, etc.
EducationBachelor or master’s degree in Information TechnologyBachelor or master’s degree in Computer Science
SafetyProtects the company’s data on private as well as external networks.Guards the systems on a company’s network from illegal access.
Table 1: Computer Security vs Cyber Security

Now that you have a basic understanding of the differences between cyber security and computer security, the following sections will provide an in-depth analysis of the differences between the two and the roles each play in protecting an organization.

What Are the Key Differences Between Cyber Security and Computer Security?

The main difference between cyber security and computer security is that cyber security is used on a much larger scale than computer security. The following aspects of each will further explain the variations in each type of security and why both are essential for total security.

1. Definition

Cisco[1] defines cyber security as “the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks.” Conversely, Britannica[2] defines computer security as the “protection of computer systems and information from harm, theft, and unauthorized use.”

Cyber security is a subset of information security, whereas computer security is a subset of cyber security itself.

2. Goals

The main goal of cyber security[3] is to protect electronic data from any unauthorized access via cyber space. This unauthorized access is termed as a cyber attack and constitutes any illegitimate access to an individual’s or a company’s data. Any damage caused to the integrity of the data is also a form of cyber attack.

However, the main goal of computer security is to ensure the smooth flow of critical processes and allow employees to do their jobs by maintaining the confidentiality of information, protecting the data, and providing access to authorized users. It uses both software and hardware technologies to protect the systems against several threats and prevents them from entering or multiplying on it.

3.  Types of security

There are different types of cyber security. Given below is a brief description of the four most important types:

  • Critical infrastructure security[4] – This primarily deals with securing the physical systems such as water purification systems, electricity grids, traffic lights, shopping complexes, etc. from cyber-attacks.
  • Cloud security – This type of cyber security constitutes protecting and monitoring data stored in the cloud.
  • Data loss prevention – This entails creating processes and policies for preventing and recovering data loss in case of a cyber security breach.
  • End-user education[5] – This form of cyber security mainly involves informing the end-users about best practices to be followed for protecting themselves against cyber-attacks.

Computer security also has different types. Here is an overview of the four most important types:

  • Firewalls[6] – These act as a barrier between the internal and external networks. They are governed by a set of rules that allows or denies traffic.
  • Email security – It controls the messages sent and blocks any incoming attack, thereby preventing loss of data through emails.
  • Anti-malware and anti-virus software[7] – This software scans the system for malware and tracks the files to detect any anomalies. If found, it removes the malware and repairs the damage.
  • Access control – This deals with the level of access granted to every user and system on the network.

4. Domain

The domain of cyber security covers measures such as:

  • Proactive security monitoring
  • Threat analysis
  • Remote forensics
  • Attacks on storage centers, data, and devices located in cyber space

The domain of computer security covers measures like:

  • User authentication
  • Changing and managing passwords
  • Information sharing within an organization
  • Attacks on resources such as computers and routers

5. Key responsibilities

The key responsibilities of cyber security professionals[8] include developing, examining, and evaluating strategies to protect networks, systems, and data centers from cyber-attacks. People who have in-depth knowledge about cyber security risks and technologies that can help mitigate those risks are considered appropriate for this role.

On the other hand, the key responsibilities of computer security professionals include planning, designing, implementing, and troubleshooting an organization’s network security system. Such professionals must be multifaceted and have expertise in areas of information security, information science, and networks.

6. Data

Cyber security protects electronic data[9] transmitted across a public network such as the internet as well as the private network such as the local area network used for an organization. However, computer security is used for protecting data transmitted only on a private network.

7. Scope

External threats[10] that originate outside the firewall of an organization come under the scope of cyber security. Such threats usually enter the system by breaking the exterior defenses of a company’s IT infrastructure.

However, computer security deals mainly with internal threats. It usually refers to the risk of someone within the organization trying to access systems without authorization.

8.  Type of Attack

Frequent attacks faced in cyber security include:

  1. Social engineering – This is a tactic used by adversaries to psychologically trick people into revealing personal and sensitive information such as credit and debit card details, bank account details and sell them to others on the dark web.
  2. Advanced persistent threat[11] – The attacker gains access to sensitive information and leaks it in the public domain, thereby influencing the people against an organization or person.
  3. Ransomware – In such cases, a cybercriminal denies access to an authorized user from accessing their data until you pay a ransom.

Common attacks faced in computer security include:

  1. Denial of service attack[12] – In this form of attack, a legitimate user is denied access to the system resource by flooding the server with unnecessary traffic.
  2. Phishing[13] – Here, an attacker sets up a trap by sending an email with a bait. If users fall for this, then it can give the attacker access to sensitive information.
  3. Eavesdropping[14] – In such an attack, the attacker observes your online activities by monitoring your emails, search history, downloads, etc.
  4. Password attack[15] – The attacker tries to crack your password using techniques such as brute force, keylogging, shoulder surfing, etc.
  5. Trojan – In this case, a malicious program is inserted into a legitimate application. Once downloaded into a user’s system, it can hijack the camera, record passwords, and more.

9. Education

A cyber security professional[16] must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in information technology, programming, or related fields. Such people can apply for jobs in areas relating to IT security planning, risk management, ethical hacking, and more.

On the contrary, computer security professionals[17] require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science and expertise in dealing with activities relating to safeguarding the IT infrastructure of an organization. Such people can work as computer security engineers in areas relating to intrusion prevention, authentication protocols, incident response, and more

10. Safety

Cyber security safeguards the data and integrity of all the computing assets that belong to or connects to an organization’s network from any digital threats. However, computer security safeguards computers and the data present in them from malicious internal threats like unauthorized access, ill-usage, and hacking activities.


The internet has revolutionized the way businesses are conducted. They rely more on technology than ever before. With such advancements, the need for cyber security and computer security has increased exponentially. By understanding the difference between the two, businesses can secure themselves from all forms of threats and develop a bulletproof security management program.

[4] Critical Infrastructure (Security Guide)

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