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Information Assurance vs. Information Security


In the modern world, digital information is an important asset that is under constant threat of theft, exploitation, and unexpected loss. Professionals who specialize in either information assurance or information security are experienced in delivering services that can protect against digital threats. Although both specialties guard computer systems and digital networks, the techniques taught and practiced in each discipline are often different. Understanding the following similarities and differences in information assurance vs. information security will help students determine if a degree combining the two fields will offer them desirable career prospects.

What Is Information Assurance?

Information assurance is a field that safeguards the integrity of data used by individuals or organizations. To this end, occupations related to information assurance often involve managing the risks associated with using, processing, storing, and transferring data. This is a complex task, because information assurance applies to data in both digital and physical forms, with the physical form considered any electronic device used to store data. The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines information assurance as any measures that protect and defend information and information systems by ensuring their availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and non-repudiation. These measures include providing for restoration of information systems by incorporating protection, detection, and reaction capabilities.

What Is Information Security?

Information security is the practice of preventing illicit access to private information. From a practical standpoint, information security focuses heavily on the development and implementation of tools and techniques for keeping data safe. This ranges from creating network security infrastructures to designing defensive software applications that ward off threats. The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines information security as any efforts to protect information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.

Information security strategies target three key metrics: the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of information systems. Protecting the integrity of information entails guarding against unauthorized alteration or destruction of data. Preserving confidentiality of information involves restricting access to private personal or proprietary information. Finally, maintaining the availability of information systems requires ensuring that information can be reliably accessed by authorized personnel. Each of these processes is covered in-depth through information security classes, allowing professionals to develop the ability to craft comprehensive cyber security strategies.

How They Are Similar

In many regards, information assurance can be described as an offshoot of information security, as both fields involve safeguarding digitally stored information. At a deeper level, professionals in both fields use physical, technical, and administrative means to achieve their objectives.

For instance, information assurance and information security professionals both seek the most secure physical data infrastructure possible to protect an organization’s information. They both leverage advanced technical safeguards, such as cutting-edge firewalls. An assessment of information assurance vs. information security also reveals a similarity in the threats they face. Both fields are concerned with privacy issues and fraud, malicious hackers, and the strategic defense and recovery of information systems before and after catastrophic events.

Core Function Differences

Information assurance is a broader discipline that combines information security with the business aspects of information management. Information assurance work typically involves implementing organization-wide standards that aim to minimize the risk of a company being harmed by cyber threats. To achieve this, an information assurance team may do something like overhauling login authentication systems or performing routine backups of important company data. Thus, information assurance professionals are more concerned with addressing the overall risk to an organization’s information, rather than dealing with an individual, exterior threats.

Information security is a more hands-on discipline. It prioritizes developing tools, technologies, and other countermeasures that can be used to protect information, especially from exterior threats. The subtle difference between the two fields means earning a degree featuring both disciplines can offer students a well-rounded skill set, which can potentially help graduates qualify for senior positions in the information security and assurance industries.

Skills That Can Benefit Professionals in Both Fields

In a curriculum that teaches information security and assurance, students can benefit from skills that are applicable in both disciplines:

  • Investigation. Using their investigative skills, professionals can find vulnerabilities before criminals exploit them. That way, professionals can plan a course of action to manage any associated risks.
  • Risk Management. This means knowing when and how risks may become problematic and being able to determine the best way to limit the impact of a risk.
  • Proficiency with Technology. Computer systems can be extremely complex, but building a significant level of comfort with using related technologies can simplify the process. As digital technology continues to evolve, professionals in IT fields will also need to channel their technological proficiency into quickly adapting to new tools and techniques as they are introduced to the industry.
  • Leadership. When faced with a significant information security risk, professionals in both fields may need to rely on their co-workers to eliminate the risk. Skillful leadership can unite team members to achieve remarkable goals.

Information assurance and information security were once under a single umbrella. Today, the distinct differences in information assurance vs. information security highlight the idea that the two fields deserve to be studied as their own independent subjects; yet finding lucrative work in both fields should not require the completion of two separate degrees. The duality of a Master of Science in Cybersecurity program allows graduates to enter the job market with a flexible skill set that can be adapted to fit many rewarding careers in the information security and assurance industries.

Learn More

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

At Norwich University, we extend a tradition of values-based education, where structured, disciplined, and rigorous studies create a challenging and rewarding experience. Online programs, such as the Master of Science in Cybersecurity, have made our comprehensive curriculum available to more students than ever before.

Norwich University has been designated as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Through your program, you can choose from five concentrations that are uniquely designed to provide an in-depth examination of policies, procedures, and overall structure of an information assurance program.

Recommended Reading

Career Outlook: Information Security Analyst
Career Outlook: Computer Network Architect
The Evolution of Information Assurance


Information Security Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Information Assurance, NSA
Glossary of Key Information Security Terms, NIST

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