Data Security vs Cyber Security: Know The Difference?

Some individuals confuse cyber security and data security, unaware of their differences. Although both forms of security offer protection against damage to data and computer systems, their differences are quite distinct.

What is the difference between data security and cyber security? Data Security protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information. By using techniques like encryption and access controls to ensure only those people authorized to see the data, can see the data. Cyber security is about protecting the organizations assets including information from cyber threats, crime and attacks.

Data security is part of cyber security as the information protected through data security is an asset that cyber security on the whole vies to protect to ensure the organization is protected.

With data security involving the protection of valuable information from getting into the wrong hands, that is to those who are not authorized to use it.

Although both data and cyber security generally have similar purposes, they have many more differences that distinguish one from the other. The remainder of this article will review data security and cyber security and their key differences in function, practice, and technologies used.
10 Differences Between Data Security and Cyber Security

The following are some of the key differences between data security and cyber security:

1. Meaning

Data security involves securing gathered data—usually in the form of files or accounts stored on a particular network. Access controls and regulatory measures are put in place to minimize the data’s exposure to risk.

Cyber security, on the other hand, focuses on the whole organizations systems and services, with the primary aim to secure all internet-accessing platforms, including mobile devices, personal computers, public or private networks, data servers, and more. 

2. Purpose

Data security is data-oriented; it aims to achieve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Therefore, it is not so concerned about a cyber attacker, but rather on the storage facility of the data holder.

If you are a company that stores vital information about people, projects, or other classified details, data security is what you need. With data security, trained IT personnel can help set up a hierarchical system of access based on the level of sensitivity of the information.

Cyber security, however, is focused on protecting internet users against attacks from cybercriminals. Its purpose is to nullify the various strategies in which a cyber attacker might want to use to gain access to data or the device storing it. In other words, cyber security pays more attention to the vulnerability of any device that accesses the internet.

3. Technicality

Data security requires trained personnel experienced in data storage, to be able to configure the systems and services used to store data in a secure way. The complexity of some of the systems and services storing data is high especially with SQL databases, No-SQL databases to data lakes.

The responsibility of separating information based on it’s sensitivity and usefulness is paramount and these data professionals are skilled in doing this.

Data security also requires time-to-time risk assessments and data auditing because the compromise of data is harder to detect than cyber-attacks that manifest almost immediately.

Cyber security does not require personnel management most times, except during setup. When the right measures are put in place—such as a device has its firewall installed, or an end-encryption is enabled—the device is more or less secured. In addition, unlike data security, cyber security measures can involve using software that only needs to be installed.

4. Access Restriction

With data security, access to information is restricted to authorized personnel only. This means the data stored is available only to those in need of it. The purpose of this is to minimize the inordinate use of classified information. This protects the confidentiality of the information as part of the confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA) triad. 

Data security could also use cryptographic protocols to mask the stored data by encrypting the data. However, access to such encrypted data is again limited to authorized personnel. This means data security uses two levels of protection in which both physical and electronic access are restricted.

The approach cyber security uses is somewhat similar but differs in that the restriction is towards any third party. By use of end-user protection, encryptions and scanning software, access to the device through the internet is blocked.

5. Regulation

Due to the mode of operation of most organizations, in which personal data is collected from customers and clients and used to render services, the best interest of the public must be sought after.

For that reason, standards for data security are set by regulatory bodies and international organizations. Their main purpose is to ensure that companies and firms respect the privacy of individuals and that data gathered isn’t used for illicit purposes. In general, data security regulations are much more premeditated and strict than cyber security regulations.

Cyber security applies more to individuals and seldomly corporate bodies; it also doesn’t focus on information gathered. Therefore, cyber security regulations are limited to agencies in charge of protection against cyber-crimes.

6. Analysis

For data security to come into play, the information gathered needs to be analyzed periodically to keep more sensitive data out of harm’s way. Data analysis also serves to detect the more vulnerable data, thereby helping set up working plans for maximum security.

For cyber security, little to no analysis of user-specific data is necessary. Only patterns and strategies of attackers are studied and used to create proactive measures to counter cyber-attacks.

The advent of cyber security protection software came about from the analysis of previous malware use, SQL injections, or phishing instances. In contrast, the analysis involved in data protection is on the user end, where data gathered is audited to detect any breaches or to prevent the occurrence of one.

7. Assessment

For any technology security protocol, assessments need to be carried out as often as possible. This is the best way to resolve past occurrences of a breach and restructure for better protection.

With data security assessment, the hunt is for the exposed sensitive data. This is a form of offensive risk assessment to minimize data exposure. The priority of a data security check is to be able to set up a more concrete blockade commiserate with each vulnerable data set.

However, with cyber security, assessment is done in relation to the security measures deployed. This includes checking password strengths, spam mail content, software vulnerability, and the use of insecure connections. Being able to verify the safety of the device environment assures a level of security.

8. Permission

Cyber security revolves around how permissions are granted to outside individuals for access to one’s private internet behavior. The aim of protection software like antivirus software and other system updates is to disallow files and programs coming from the internet to gain access to the device without the owner’s consent.

Interestingly, cyber attackers have evolved in their cunningness to make malicious activities seem like authentic ones. But, in like manner, protection software and website protocols have been developed to red-flag suspicious activities. Such developments include the spam feature of emails.

For data security, permission can also be restricted using advanced programs developed from previous vulnerabilities detected or breach occurrences.

Also, permission for data accesses, most times, need to be physical as advanced data storage is done on physical servers away from the internet. This means data security has lesser worries when it comes to permission requests.

9. Classification

Segmentation and classification of data are one of the bedrocks of data security. The more compartmentalized data is, the more secure they are. With proper classification, data holders are able to determine the appropriate measures for each class of data.

Cyber security does not need any strict classification to work. Rather, a general lookout is employed in securing the device upon which information can be accessed. Instead, what cyber security software might classify are potential threats.

10. Segregation

In data security, some data sets are quarantined, while others are just outright purged to eliminate all possibility of a breach. Based on the sensitivity of data security, most times, as a measure, IT security experts look to minimize data stored to the barest minimum. For the data needed more often, they are kept away in secure locations on secured servers.

Cyber security does not look to segregate user information, but rather keeps it all together secured and away from intruding malicious activities. Hence, for cyber security to work on segregated data, they should run on different systems or devices, and would, at the least, be protected by cyber protection software.

Data Security: Best Practices

As previously mentioned, data security is the shielding of data from contamination and against the reach of unlicensed custody for the duration of its existence. Worldwide, organizations are vehemently carrying out data protection measures to ensure the security of vital assets. 

Keeping your data secure is easier said than done, but with a few tips, it can be achievable. The following may come across as a walk in the park at first glance, but if you make one misstep, the consequences could be rippling.

  • Isolating Susceptible Data: Highly important and sensitive data should be kept separately and away from known data locations. (e.g., Susceptible and sensitive information should be stored in unassuming areas or files.)
  • Observe Data Privacy: This is a unique area of data security focused on the guidelines and restrictions given to a person to ascertain the appropriate treatment of data in your care.
  • Train Your Employees: Every firm must aim to train its workers about the importance of data security. They should know that their company and employment are at the mercy of the company’s vital data. This will keep them alert against any impending security threat.
  • Be Knowledgeable About the Data: Being knowledgeable about your data, its location, function, and the employee in charge of it provides insight on the best security practices to employ in the protection of said data. After all, it is near impossible for a doctor to treat a patient without knowing his ailment.
  • Keep a Rundown of Your Workers: It is vital to keep a list of your employees to ascertain who has the right to what data. This could minimize any confusion in the event of a data breach, and knowing where a lost item was last seen is usually the first step in finding or recovering it.
  • Watch Out for In-House Threats: Often, you may spend a copious amount of time worrying about impending data threats from outsiders, while meanwhile, you have the enemy within. In a situation where the company’s data security is watertight, outsiders may need insider information to be able to breach your data security, so observe every employee.
  • Always Check Data Status: Every time you resume the day’s work, make it a goal to go over the available data and make sure it is intact before adding new information. This will allow you to notice any misdemeanors with the data, and lets you know if anyone has tampered or tried to tamper with it.
  • Always Keep Your Information Locked Up: Your system or your filing cabinet should always be under lock (password) and key (literal padlock and key in the case of file cabinets) when you are not using them. Sometimes individuals tend to be careless and lose their data due to leaving their systems and file cabinets unlocked.
  • Destroy Unimportant Data Before Discarding: In the instances in which information needs to be thrown out, make sure to destroy it. It may no longer have relevance, but you have to make sure it can’t be recycled and used to the detriment of your firm in the near future. After all, a blunt knife can still penetrate objects with the right amount of exacted force.

Cyber security Best Practices

Cyber security is the collection of measures utilized in securing programs, networks, and data against invasion, contamination, or unlicensed reach. It is basically the protection of information technology.

Calling cyber security vital would be an understatement as several delicate firms like medical and financial bodies work to preserve classified data that are too delicate to get into the wrong hands, lest the aftermath would be colossal.

Up to this point, we have a clear picture of what cyber security is. Let us take a look at some ways a firm can ascertain and make cyber security easier.

  • Consistently Update Software: Software developers find loopholes and bugs in their software and fix them in updated versions. Therefore, having the latest version of your software saves you from being vulnerable and easy prey for hackers.
  • Avoid Shady Emails and Pop-Up Messages: Often, you may get emails and pop-up messages from unknown sources while working. These messages usually require you to fill in your personal or account details or offer your firm an offer, gift, or reward. These usually function as attractively placed traps by hackers and should be avoided.
  • Avoid Unknown Sites and Sources: While on your system, you should be mindful of the sites you download files, apps, and software from because, like the aforementioned emails and pop up messages, they may also be traps from hackers. All it takes is just one click to compromise your data.
  • Shutdown Your Devices When Not in Use: Often, individuals will leave their systems unattended, maybe to take a lunch break or to leave work for the day. This leaves your data at its most vulnerable because an unauthorized person may gain access to your workspace and transfer important data to a flash or any external device. If you have to leave, shut the system down or take it with you.
  • Use a Trusted Anti-Virus Software: Anti-virus software has frequently been the savior of electronic data. Installing reliable antivirus software from a trusted source is quite useful in guaranteeing cyber security.
  • Remember All Data is Vulnerable to Hackers: You should know that everyone and all data is always in danger of hackers; having this knowledge at the back of your mind will always keep you on your toes.
  • Always Keep Your Data Backed Up: Having your data backed up will enable you to recover any of your information in the event that your system gets compromised. You can always reformat, reinstall, and eventually recover them as long as you consistently back them up.

Technologies for Data and Cyber security

A final difference between data security and cyber security is the technologies used to employ them.

Data Security Technology

Innovations put in place to ensure data security include: Data Real-Time Notifications, Data Auditing, Minimization of Data, Data Risk Management, and Clearing Old Data.

  1. Data Real-Time Notifications: It may take a firm up to six months before it can confirm a data break-in, and they may get this knowledge from outsiders or clients as opposed to getting it from within. A firm will be able to know if their data has been compromised by observing data process and red flags in real-time[1] with notifications.
  2. Data Auditing: Having essential auditing tools can provide IT admins the necessary transparency they require in preventing potential break-ins of data.
  3. Minimization of Data: The thought of having a business you have painstakingly built over the years, getting its credibility tarnished due to data break-in, is quite scary. Firms need to employ data minimization so they can reduce the risk.
  4. Data Risk Management: Firms can protect their most sensitive information via Data Risk Management. This helps them provide recurring and dependable ways to prevent and tackle security threats. 

Cyber security Technology

Innovations put in place to ensure cyber security include: Advanced Breach Detection, Behavior Analytics, the cloud and SAML, and VDN.

  1. Advanced Breach Detection: This creation copulates behavioral analytics and machine learning to stop break-ins and get a hold of the culprit. This technology follows the little trails of cyber terrorists to reach them.
  2. The Cloud and SAML: Problems encountered by cloud apps are not in the jurisdiction of conventional security rules and regulations. However, this innovation can tackle such problems.
  3. Virtual Dispersive Networking: Virtual dispersive networking (VDN) tackles cyber terrorists by separating a unit of data into multiple pieces, keeping the cyber-terrorist busy with trying to piece his intended target together. This is effective because, before, the hacker would be able to piece two parts of the information together and gather enough information before the firm would be notified.


Data is the heart of any firm. It is the foundation on which a business is built and the tool that determines the success of any brand or firm. Data security and cyber security are practices meant to curb and prevent any security threat to a firm’s information. While they do have their differences, they both essentially protect information against outsider and insider risks.


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