In the discipline’s early days, the majority of cyber security training was done on the job. As the field became more structured, educational institutions started offering advanced cyber security degrees. This begs the question – which one is right for you?
There is a range of cyber security degrees available for those looking to improve their skills and boost their long-term career growth. If you’re interested in investing in this advanced education, then the inevitable question is: What’s the difference between cyber security and information assurance degrees?
Whichever cyber security degree you complete, you can be assured of a well-paying and interesting career where your skills will be in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for information security analysts will grow by 18 percent between 2014 and 2024, and their median pay in 2015was $90,120.
Cyber Crime: The Greatest Threat
This growth is not surprising when you consider British insurance company Lloyds of London has put the global cost of cyber crime at $400 billion per year.
IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty believes that: “Cyber crime, by definition, is the greatest threat to every profession, every industry, every company in the world.”
Defining Information Assurance
The first point to be clear on is that cyber security and information assurance are not the same – although they’re often used interchangeably. Thus, a Master’s in Cyber Security will have a somewhat different program of study from a Master’s in Information Assurance.
‘Information assurance’ is a relatively new term. Starting off as government jargon, it has spread to become a common term within the IT industry.
PC Magazine defines it as “The technical and managerial measures designed to ensure the confidentiality, possession or control, integrity, authenticity, availability, and utility of information and information systems.”
Information Assurance: A Broad Subject
While a Master’s in Information Assurance will have similar components to a Master’s in Cyber Security, it is essentially a much broader discipline.
The critical requirement of information assurance is that data is only available to authorized users and that information systems –digital and non-digital –will perform as required. In the event of a breach, information assurance professionals are responsible for implementing the disaster recovery responses they’ve planned for.
As such, an advanced information assurance degree will focus on macro-level concepts. Concepts such as strategy, policy, training, risk management, and legal compliance.
Put another way, practitioners may have a working knowledge of cryptography and data analysis. However, they’ll also need to be able to manage paper records or a library of data on CDs.
Defending Against Cyber Attacks
On the other hand, cyber security is all about preventing and defending against cyber attacks.
Cyber security personnel are responsible for defending an organization’s network, servers, PCs, and other devices against attack. If it’s connected to a network that’s connected to the internet, then it’s a potential cyber security problem.
Needless to say, someone contemplating a career in cyber security should have very strong technical skills. Which can be bolstered by the right advanced education.
When deciding which path take, ask yourself: Do you like preventing crime or investigating it? Cyber security professionals prevent cyber crime and protect organizations from hackers. Information assurance professionals investigate breaches and implement disaster recovery to mitigate the effects of large-scale cyber crime.
Both cyber security and information assurance careers are relatively new. Which means most professionals chart their own career path and determine the direction they want to pursue.
Whichever path you choose, you’re assured of an interesting and rewarding career. The first step of your journey starts here with a Master’s degree from an accredited university.