IT vs Cybersecurity: Breaking Down the Differences

Read this blog to build an understanding of the differences between IT vs cybersecurity and how they work together.

Blog Post

6 minutes

Jun 14, 2023

There is a lot of technology involved in owning and operating a business at any scale these days. However, each piece of hardware and software is also a potential point of access for malicious actors, meaning businesses need to start thinking about cybersecurity which goes above and beyond the fundamental security established through IT. By looking at IT vs cybersecurity we can build an understanding of the differences and see how they work together to protect your network.  

The difference between IT and cybersecurity is sometimes hard to conceptualize because the two fields have so much in common and they overlap in their purpose: protecting sensitive data and information while blocking out unauthorized personnel.  

One way to look at IT vs cybersecurity is that cybersecurity lives on top of IT security. When using a bank to keep our financial assets safe, for example, think about the main vault as IT security and the security deposit boxes and alarm systems as cybersecurity. While the vault, lockboxes, and alarm systems are all designed to protect your assets, they function in various ways and the lockboxes and alarm systems live on top of and enhance the vault that is already in place.

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

– William James – 

Keep this framework in mind as we further explore how IT and cybersecurity differ from one another. 

 For more on this topic, listen to experts from Impact and our partner DOT Security in this deep dive webinar, The Difference Between IT vs Cybersecurity Standards exploring how the two fields relate and work together.

The Differences Between IT and Cybersecurity

There are several ways to distinguish IT security from cybersecurity. The first thing to remember is that IT security practices are the foundation on which cybersecurity practices are built.  

In practice, this means IT security handles certain standard security practices that work to protect the network on a first-defense basis. IT security includes setting up firewalls, installing next-gen antivirus software, using multi-factor-authentication (MFA), configuring the network properly, configuring cloud services, and installing and maintaining physical hardware like servers.  

Altogether this is essential in protecting your network and the various pools of sensitive information housed there. Putting up these first walls of defense also allows you to upgrade your security efforts by fortifying your network with cybersecurity services.  

While IT security is critical, it’s far from impenetrable and is more passive than its cybersecurity counterpart. Where IT security is mostly designed to keep malicious users out, cybersecurity specifically aims to identify threats before they strike, find malicious or suspicious activity on the network, minimize the duration of an attack, and minimize the total damage of an attack.  

To define this further, cybersecurity is responsible for:

  • Threat hunting and detection: 
    Through 24/7 network monitoring, cybersecurity professionals are able to identify and neutralize threats quickly and efficiently.
  • Threat response:
    After calling out a threat, cybersecurity teams actively respond through a variety of proactive defense tactics that work to isolate and eliminate attacks or malicious activity.
  • Industry compliance:
    More and more industries are adopting some sort of standardized approach to cybersecurity practices. The efforts to standardize cybersecurity aim at protecting sensitive consumer information.
  • Risk audits and penetration testing: 
    Risk audits and penetration testing are used by cybersecurity professionals to identify gaps and weak points in the existing network. This gives a cybersecurity team a really strong overview of the networks security as it stands, and provides insight into how it should be properly fortified.
  • Incident response plans: 
    Incident response plans are often designed by a vCISO (virtual Chief Information Security Officer). It’s a plan of action to employ in the event of a specific but hypothetical cyberattack situation. By covering something like a ransomware attack through an incident response plan with your vCISO, you’ll prepare yourself and your team in the case of an actual attack. 

This should demonstrate how cybersecurity practices live on top of and enhance IT security measures in a complimentary way.

a red circle and a blue circle intersecting

Why You Need Both

The rate at which technology is advancing undeniably makes it imperative to embrace a digital-first mindset. This is true when it comes to delivering a top-notch user experience and is just as true when it comes to protecting sensitive employee, consumer, and business information.   

To protect the business and gain the best chance of avoiding major loss due to cyberattacks, organizations need to invest in a comprehensive security strategy that interlaces IT and cybersecurity practices. While IT security and cybersecurity differ in the way they approach security, they’re fundamentally tied to one another. Without the right hardware and software in place, cybersecurity specialists have nothing to monitor, on the other hand the most sophisticated technology out there isn’t much help if it’s vulnerable to corruption.  

By making security a top priority throughout the organization you can win the trust of employees and consumers alike while making yourself a much harder target for malicious actors on the internet. It’s worth noting that having more security surrounding your network might deter malicious users from attacking in the first place as they often look for the path of least resistance. Therefore, having a stronger security system in place might make them seek weaker prey elsewhere.

Choose Security: Protect Your Network

As with any aspect of company culture, having authentic buy-in from leadership is simply essential when instilling a culture of security. If organizational decision-makers don’t see the benefits of implementing cybersecurity practices on top of their IT security practices, it can drive misalignment between the cybersecurity team’s directives and the rest of the organization.  

Aligning the cybersecurity team with internal leadership is the best way to ensure that security is being taken seriously and approached with a future-proof best practices mindset. With most organizations never recovering from a cyberattack in the event one occurs; organizational leaders should be jumping at the chance to protect themselves with the most modern defenses available.

Final Thoughts on IT vs Cybersecurity 

While IT security practices and cybersecurity practices work in concert to protect your network and defend the sensitive information living there, the two fields provide different fundamental services. IT security is essential to laying a foundation of network security while cybersecurity creates proactive strategies to keep your digital assets safe.  

You can’t have cybersecurity without proper fundamental IT security in place, and ultimately you need both in today’s digital market landscape.   

For a closer look at the precise differences between the two, listen to experts from Impact and our cybersecurity partner DOT Security in this webinar, The Difference Between IT vs Cybersecurity Standards. 


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