Software Security Vs Cyber Security? (Know The Difference)

In the 21st century, big data is massive and needs to be protected. In order to provide this protection, software security and cyber security are complex entities that are currently flourishing in the modern technology sprint. Security experts must understand the purpose as well as the shortcomings of each technology to continue developing digital environments that can be trusted. If you are someone that uses digital technology, it would be to your benefit to understand how these intricate subjects are more involved in our daily life than you may realize.  

10 differences between software security vs. cyber security are:

  1. One is Within the Other
  2. One Term is Debated to be Fake
  3. What They Protect
  4. How They’re Set-Up
  5. How They Protect You
  6. How Versatile They Are
  7. The Risks Involved
  8. How Risks Are Minimized
  9. Who Manages Them
  10. How They are Evolving

To keep cyber-exploitation at bay, professionals in the security, coding, and I.T. world practice cyber security to protect the confidentiality and integrity of our digital information.

Use this guide to break down these topics, as well as gaining an understanding of their relation to information security, network security, and I.T. security. By the end, you will have a clarified perfective on data-access and the resources we all have at our fingertips!

10 Differences Between Software Security vs. Cyber security

Both software security and cyber security are vital facets of our current digital marketplace. To understand them to their basic cores:

Software Security– Is not even found in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary because it is not considered an officially recognized term. Software Security is an engineered software that protects a program from malicious attack or hacking. As a relatively new entity, the security deflects ramifications against its software security such as:

  • Bugs
  • Buffer overflows
  • Design flaws
  • Malicious intruders
  • hackers
  • Improper digital handling 

The types of software security that you will see commonly are:

  • Antivirus software
  • Firewall security
  • Antispyware software
  • Spyware removal software
  • Encryption software
  • Virus protection software

Cyber security[1] – As defined by Merriam Webster’s as a legitimate term, encompasses: “measures taken to protect a computer or computer system (as on the Internet) against unauthorized access or attack.”

This may sound similar to software security, but the main difference is that software is connected to a device, while cyber entails the entire internet or big data.

Cyber security is also known as:

  • Computer security
  • Information security

And protects against:

  • Malicious practices and processes
  • Dangerous networks
  • Data attacks
  • Unauthorized access

Cyber security also can entail:

  • Ensuring confidentiality and server availability
  • Protecting and securing data
  • Securing the networks that store that data
  • Protecting the information technology (which is information and communications technology)
  • Discovering threats
  • Removing or modifying unwarranted data

Essentially, cyber is related to anything large-scale within the world of data collection, integration, and security. Software security is predominantly focused on securing a single device or placing a security code within a computer network.

Difference # 1 – One is Within the Other

Breaking down the core differences between these complicated notions, the first and most important difference is that – one exists within the field of the other.

By examining the definitions, you will gather thatcyber security is related to a larger-scale network, sometimes referring to the entire cybernetic interweb or digital marketplace. In contrast, software security is a smaller piece of that puzzle, (such as an antivirus protection program being installed within that cyber security).

Cyber security can include but is not limited to all:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Information
  • Networks
  • Applications
  • Physical security
  • Access codes
  • Authentication methods
  • Security processes that create a user
  • Security processes that back-up a user

The software is only one small aspect of its scope. The security of your computer is constantly storing and communicating messages in the code of data to itself.

Software is a small digital file that usually is uploaded to one computer or system at a time. However, cyber can mean nearly anything, which is why the concept is so confusingly broad to people. You can think of this as ‘anything with the word ‘cyber’ in its terminology, is related to a computer. Consider terms such as:

  • Cyber stalking
  • Cyberbullying
  • Cyber theft
  • Cyber-sex, etc.

There are countless terms and concepts involving cybernetic frameworks, whereas there is very little regarding software. Essentially, there is much more scope and adaptability within the term ‘cyber,’ than there is in the term, ‘software.’   

Difference #2 – One Term is Debated to be ‘Fake’

Some argue that cyber security is not an authentic term, but rather, a slang that was created to encompass all of these digital complexities.

Many claim that ‘cyber’ is a generic term that evolved from pop-culture, and they consider this term to be:

  • Vague
  • Undefined
  • A ‘catch-all’
  • Non-inclusive
  • Too broad

Since cyber security is in the dictionary while software security is not, and the NIST (U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology[2]) recognizes the entity of ‘cyber security framework,’ this settles much of that debate.

Although the scope of cyber security is sometimes too large for people to quantify or describe clearly, it is still the only recognized security by the Webster’s dictionary and the U.S. NIST, while software security is not even officially defined.

Cyber security is in fact a legitimate and officially recognized term, which yes, might be very broad when compared to software security.

I.T. professionals in the industry for 20+ years are arguing with the opinion of basically, ‘I don’t love the term ‘cyber,’ but I don’t attempt to fight it anymore.’ With this air of surrender, most find peace in accepting that cyber security is most related to information security.

If it assists you in understanding the broadness of cyber security, you can think of it as the umbrella under which software security lies.

Difference #3 – What They Protect

With so many threats to the digital marketplace, there are billions of security protocols and implementations in order.

Another critical difference between the worlds of software security and cyber security are the domains over which they reign.

The domain of cyber security will protect everything within this ‘cyber realm,’ which may include:

  • Software
  • Data
  • Code
  • Devices
  • Technology
  • Hardware
  • Information (digital and analog). This can include things such as:
    • Social media profiles
    • Personal information
    • The integrity of your information
    • Confidentiality of your information
    • Governmental databases such as:
      • Forensics
      • Investigations
      • Business consistency
      • Physical security

While the domain of software security will only protect the system or mechanism it is attached to. 

The software will protect:

  • The computer it’s attached to
  • The integrity of your files
  • The confidentiality of your files

Software security accomplishes this by:

  • Creating regular audits
  • Release control and vulnerability testing
  • Implementing safe coding practices
  • Code analysis

What Gets Targeted for Attacks

With cyber threats increasing with the rapid growth of our online presence, those with encrypted files and private information should be very wary about selecting the proper security for their needs.

As stated by Cybint Solution’s 2019 piece on 15 Alarming Cyber security Facts & Stats[3]:

“Since 2013, there are approximately 3,809,448 records stolen from breaches every day. 158,727 per hour, 2,645 per minute, and 44 every second of everyday reports Cyber security Ventures.”

It was also discovered that:

  • A hacker attacks about every 40 seconds
  • Nearly half of all cyber-attacks target small businesses instead of more giant corporations that have more intricate security databases and protection. Small businesses and those without a team of cyber-analytic specialists will be the most at risk – essentially, normal people that store things on their personal computers.
  • In 2018, more than half a billion personal records were stolen by hackers, which was a 126%[4] jump since the prior year.

The most common types of software attacks:

  • Viruses
  • Bugs
  • Cookies
  • Eavesdropping attack
  • Password attack
  • Malware attack
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack
  • Social engineering attacks
  • Drive-by attack
  • Phishing and spear-phishing attacks
  • Birthday attack
  • TCP/IP hijacking
  • Wardiailing
  • Denial of Service (DoS)
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
  • Spoofing
  • Buffer Overflow
  • Dumpster diving attacks

Keeping in mind that software attacks fall into the category of cyber-attacks, as a smaller niche underneath the larger umbrella of cyber security –

The most common types of cyber-attacks:

  • Ransomware attacks
  • Drive-by attacks
  • SQL injection
  • Trojan horses
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Brute-force attacks
  • Dictionary network attacks
  • Phishing & Spearfishing attacks
  • Whale fishing attacks
  • Insider threats
  • Man-in-the-Middle attacks (MITM
  • A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)-powered attacks

Understanding These Attacks

To break this down a step further, the main attacks that you receive on your computer (for cyber or software security hacks) will fall into the three main categories of:

  • Confidentiality Attacks – These are dangerous hacks indeed, targeting your personal information and often the identification information that must be kept private, such as:
    • Bank account information
    • Credit card information
    • Personal identification information, etc.

This gets traded and sold on the dark web so that multiple sources can utilize your identity for their own personal gain.

  • Availability Attacks – As a cyber attack that is targeted at blocking your ‘availability’ to use that program or software, an availability attack will hide someone’s personal data from them, often requesting a fee or ‘ransom,’ for that person to have back their once available data. This is typically accomplished by a cyber-criminal that utilizes the process of:
  • Infiltrating your network
  • Gains access from authorized parties for critical data
  • Steals that data right from under their nose
  • Then, requests a ransom to have that data returned safely.

This has occurred with major corporations and billion-dollar companies that inevitably end up paying the ransom or fee because they simply want their data back and see no other solution. If you’ve established yourself as possessing this breed of vulnerability, you should hire a professional security expert to enhance your security system and avoid any future overhauls.

  • Integrity Attacks – An integrity attack is often referred to as, ‘a leak,’ because a cyber-criminal will discover your sensitive or private information and then expose your data as a form of sabotage. Often, this is private data that could ruin the ‘integrity’ of that corporation if it ever got out.

Imagine a credit card company that had all of its clients’ data leaked. Trust would be lost with that organization, and their integrity would be compromised as well; hence, the name ‘integrity attack.’

Separating Attacks from Threats

It is also essential to distinguish these attacks from their threats, which, of course, have their own distinct terminology attached.

It is vital to understand the types of attacks (confidentiality, availability, and integrity), so that you may better understand the threats they embody.

A few of the main cyber threats encompassed above can be broken down into the main classification of:

  • Malware – Also known as ‘malicious software,’ this attacks your availability.

This can accomplish things such as:

  • Stealing your data
    • Damaging your computer (without you even being able to notice any differences or realizing it)
    • Sending spam emails to those in your contact list
    • Stealing your login information and cookies that are stored from logins
    • Crash your computer

The main types of malware are:

  • Viruses
    • Worms
    • Spyware
    • keyloggers
  • Ransomware – As another very dangerous threat, ransomware will again attack the availability you have to your computer and files. A ransomware cyber-criminal will attempt to extrapolate your data by encrypting your device and its data. After taking your digital information ‘hostage,’ so to speak, a ransom will then be demanded. If you do not pay the ransom, they can remove your access to the files, and they could be lost forever.

The most common styles of implanting ransomware are:

  • Lockers
    • Scareware
    • Crypto malware
  • Social Engineering – This type of threat attacks your confidentiality. As a more psychological means of torment, this threat is accomplished by tricking someone and the trap allows data to be stolen.

The main types of social engineering threats are:

  • Phishing (spear phishing, whale phishing, etc.)

Oftentimes, it is as simple as a misleading email that you open, and your computer’s data is immediately stolen.

  • APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) – The final form of threat is an attack placed on your integrity. In the case of APTs, an unauthorized entity will penetrate your network without even being noticed. As they move in silence, they can remain undetected in your system for a very long time, stealing data slowly and intentionally.

The main reason why APTs are difficult to pinpoint or catch is that they do not harm the network. Everything may appear in-tact; all while your data is being stolen.

Predominantly, APTs are not on the casual level of social engineering, but rather, targeted at the higher-ups of business and corporations. APTs will target sectors that possess very encrypted data and information of high value, for example:

  • Manufacturing data
    • National defense information
    • Finance industry data and stocks

Difference #4 – How They’re Set-Up

Firstly, software security will be in reference to programs that are protected by a source that is either purchased from a vendor or developed in-house.

Conversely, cyber security is often accomplished through out-sourcing and is not done in-house due to the significant scope and scale of what it contains.

The industry is evolving faster than many can keep pace with. In the past, attacks and threats were largely targeted at larger corporations. Still, as stated in the alarming statistics above, this number is gradually shifting to attack small business owners and ordinary people (with 43% of all cyber-attacks being placed on small business owners).

Since businesses aren’t the only ones being targeted anymore, different precautions are being taken in the installation of these security networks.

As JP Morgan[5] states:

“Organizations should never out-source their entire risk management program. As with any out-sourcing decision, you need to understand what needs to stay in-house due to its strategic importance to the business and availability of competent suppliers and what can safely be out-sourced.”

For both software security and cyber security, you can out-source your security or create it in-house; however, keep in mind the following:

  • You are trusting that source with your I.P. address, all of your data, your personal information, and valuable assets
  • Research your security provider and compare providers to understand who is truly securing your data.
  • Consider the type of data you have (personal, identification, financial, logins) or something larger, (such as credit card data for millions of people). The scale will dictate what kind of security provider you need and the type of cybernetic protection that your business requires.

Difference #5 – How They Protect You

Software security will protect you through the use of:

  • Antivirus protection
  • Antimalware
  • Antispyware
  • User management software
  • Data encryption software

While cyber security will often protect you through the use of these, along with:

  • Firewalls (in hardware, software, or even wireless routing boxes)
  • Web-scanning layers of protection
  • Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)
  • Behavior-Monitoring layers
  • Updates to significant browsers and search engines such as Google
  • Network-based restrictions
  • Online back-up systems

The best thing you can do for your computer and the integrity/confidentiality/protection of your data – Is to layer these protection methods.

Difference #6 – How Versatile They Are

To expand on the point that software only exists within the cyber realm, one is more versatile than the other. Since cyber security is a larger entity that protects more digital architecture, and is, therefore, more versatile than software security.

The types of software security are:

  • Anti-Malware – The best of which are:
    • Malware Bytes[6]
    • Kaspersky[7]
    • F-Secure[8]
    • Avast[9] (Free)
  • Anti-Spyware – The best of which are:
    • SpywareBlaster[10]
    • Spybot[11]
  • Antivirus software – The best of which are:
    • Norton Protection[12] (offers a 30-Day Free Trial)
    • McAfee Total Protection[13]
    • Trend Micro Maximum Security[14]

These will create protection against the basic software threat and attacks that we’ve covered above.

The main types of cyber security are:

  • Cloud Security – Based on software for the internet’s largest digital storage database, known as ‘the cloud.’ Cloud computing allows you to monitor and store your data on the internet instead of a physical hard-drive or storage device. Cloud security protects your internet-held data from on-premises attacks.

The best types of cloud security are:

  • Cloud Passage[15]
    • Fireeye[16]
    • McAfee Total Protection
  • Application Security – Combines the use of hardware and software for defense against any external attacks. Application security contains the concepts from software security of:
    • Firewalls
    • Encryptions
    • Antivirus protection
  • Network Security – Similar to password encryption and securing your infrastructure from steps such as 2-step authentication processes (such as when your credit card makes you confirm a code through email or text to identify yourself accurately).
  • Information Security – Often combined with the concept of cyber security, the two notions are very similar and interchangeable because both will protect your digital and physical data, including all information. 

You may also see forms of end-user educations that help cyber security systems to recognize their weakest links or threats, as well as data loss prevention, which is involved in retrieving stolen data and information.

To summarize the difference in their versatility – software will fall under the domain of cyber security and be less versatile.

Difference #7 – The Risks Involved

Since cyber security is over software security, the risks will be larger in breadth and size.

Some of the largest risks that can occur in both software security and cyber security are:

  • A malware program erasing your entire server and computer system
  • Someone breaking into your system and stealing files, personal data, identification documents, etc.

The risks for software security will look more like this:

  • Stolen identity
  • Stolen credit cards
  • Spam emails being sent to your contacts
  • Someone making unauthorized purchases using your private data

The risks for cyber security will look more like this:

  • Cybercrime – Usually for financial gain
  • Cyberattacks – Collecting your personal information and often done for political gain
  • Cyberterrorism – Designed for breaching systems for instigating fear within larger corporations and entities

Difference #8 – How Risks Are Minimized

For software security, these risks are minimized by:

  • Assessing the risk involved
  • Downloading the proper antimalware, antispyware, and antivirus software programs for protection
  • Protect your personal data
  • Create complex passwords
  • Encrypt your data
  • Set-up the 2-step authentication processes on your passwords

For cyber security, these risks are minimized by:

  • Doing all of the same things that you would do for software security risk-mitigation
  • Keeping your software up to date
  • Running updates on your antivirus/malware software
  • Changing the default usernames and passwords where you can
  • Installing a firewall
  • Only opening secure websites that are trusted
  • Listening to your antivirus/malware software when it tells you that a website is dangerous and not to proceed by entering it.
  • Not opening strange emails or attachments that are from unknown users, these typically have:
    • Misspelled words
    • Lots of emojis or capitalized letters
    • Strange phrasing that seems too excited (non-human, feels more like an A.I.)
  • Back-up for your files regularly to ensure that you have a secondary copy in case of attack

 If you were in the case of a natural disaster, you could minimize risks by:

  • Assembling a team of information technology experts
  • Creating a response-plan for short-term needs
  • Planning for different kinds of breaches (big and small)

Difference #9 – Who Manages Them

Since software security and cyber security are two different entities, they have different teams and companies that are focused on their implementation.

The most popular companies and people that are managing software security are:

  • Absolute[18] – An endpoint security platform that offers security and control over your business applications and device data. This company is worth more than $174 billion presently.
  • One Identity[19] – Protects and secures platforms such as Microsoft and Office 365.
  • Kaspersky (linked above)
  • Norton (linked above)
  • McAfee (linked above)

The most popular companies and people that are managing cyber security are:

  • Accenture[20] – Reduces cyber risk by offering an incident response, highly-advanced analytics, and a broad customer base. Accenture made over $1.2 billion in 2019.
  • Cisco[21] – Designed for business protection and large-scale security, Cisco is recognized as a top-quality cyber protection network.
  • Centrify[22] – Covering access for issues such as:
    • Credential management
    • Access requests
    • Multi-directory brokering
    • Shared account and password vaults, and more.
  • Mimecast[23] – As an email and cloud-based security platform, this is an integrated format that will protect your entire network. Functional for private or larger-scale business protection.
  • Transmit Security[24] – Protects larger trust models and utilizes identification management to keep your business protected at high-speed.

Difference #10 – How They’re Evolving  

Finally, (besides the scale, versatility, and implementation of these security practices) – The most substantial difference is the manner in which they are evolving.

With breaches increasing at a faster rate than ever, security experts have to advance their system at an equally rapid pace to keep up with the threats.

Software security is evolving by:

  • Updating its programs consistently
  • Enhancing the levels of protection
  • Spending more on security

Cyber security is evolving by:

  • Focusing on human-centric security from experts instead of A.I.s, which can be more easily tricked.
  • Concentrating on user behavior and analytics (to understand how end-users are incorporating the data into their lives).
  • Identifying anomalies and determining the most significant threats.
  • Catching threats before they become attacks and reducing detection times.

In Conclusion

With digital threats being a consistent aspect of your digital world, dangers are lurking around every corner and digital button. The scariest aspect is that this is used to target governments and large corporations, but now everyone and anyone can fall victim to these scams and hacks.

The key takeaways are that software and cyber security are:

  • Similar yet different
  • Go hand-in-hand, however, are unique
  • Software falls into the category of cyber security, but not vice-versa

Securing all things related to the cyber-realm takes a plethora of experts and programs to keep individuals and corporations safe from deception. Be sure to back up all of your data, keep your antivirus programs updated, and keep your data as private as possible to avoid unnecessary risks.


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