Is It Cybersecurity or Cyber Security?

Currently, the job outlook for information security analysts is growing at one of the fastest rates for all occupations in the nation. The average job outlook growth across all occupations sits at 5% through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, positions for information security analysts will expand at an impressive rate of 32% over the next eight years, creating a need for more than 35,000 trained candidates.

This is just one of the exciting positions that educated professionals with a degree like the University of Nevada at Reno’s Online Cybersecurity, Master of Science program can pursue. Through this type of higher education degree program, students will gain in-depth knowledge and experience into a range of important cybersecurity and information security concepts, including the main buzzwords seen and used throughout the industry.

This brings us to one of the first questions many students and professionals with an interest in data security and threat protection ask themselves: Is cyber security one word or two?

Beyond that, is there a difference between cybersecurity and information security? Additionally, what importance do these concepts hold in the larger information technology sector?

Cybersecurity vs. cyber security: A definition

Before we get into the actual spelling, let’s lay the foundation with a definition of this concept.

According to Gartner’s Information Technology terms glossary, cybersecurity (spelled as one word) refers to the systems, technologies, processes, governing policies and human activity that an organization uses to safeguard its digital assets.

“Cybersecurity is optimized to levels that business leaders define, balancing the resources required with usability/manageability and the amount of risk offset,” Gartner’s glossary definition stated. “Subsets of cybersecurity include IT security, IoT security, information security and OT security.”

Cybersecurity is the overarching, umbrella term that includes everything from digital protections to the company’s internal data governance policies and employees’ digital activity.

Cybersecurity vs information security

Where Gartner defines information security as a subset of the larger category of cybersecurity, BitSight author Jake Olcott argued that cybersecurity focuses on threat prevention and risk management of digital data only. Information security, on the other hand, is specifically about ensuring “the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data,” including both digital assets and physical documents.

“Info security is concerned with making sure data in any form is kept secure and is a bit more broad than cybersecurity,” Olcott wrote. “Cybersecurity is all about protecting data that is found in electronic form (such as computers, servers, networks, mobile devices, etc.) from being compromised or attacked.”

The main difference here lies in the distinction between protecting the entirety of an organization’s information and data (information security), as opposed to just the data residing within digital systems (cybersecurity).

Cybersecurity: A brief history

According to our above definitions and industry experts, information security practices have been around a lot longer than cybersecurity protections. This is particularly true given the fact that enterprises had to secure their file cabinets and other paper documents long before these items were digitized.

The birth of cybersecurity didn’t take place until the very first computer virus came into existence in the early 1970s. Research website Cybersecurity Insiders created one of the first complete histories of cybersecurity practices, and traced the concept’s origins back to the Creeper virus. This malware affected computers connected to ARPANET, one of the earliest forms of the internet. Infected devices displayed the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can.”

While this virus didn’t have the sophisticated capabilities of today’s digital infections – it only displayed the on-screen message, and nothing more – this event spurred the initial awareness of the need for digital security measures to prevent these types of unauthorized access.

However, it wasn’t until more than a decade later in 1983 when the foundation for actual cybersecurity programs was formed. As Cybersecurity Insiders noted, this is the year when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was granted the first United States Patent for a “cryptographic communications system and method.” Researchers built on this patented cryptographic system to create modern cybersecurity protections like the now-standard Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption protocol.

Cybersecurity: One work or two? – The verdict

Now that we have a more in-depth understanding of what cybersecurity is, we can get back to our main question: Is it cyber security or cybersecurity?

According to online dictionaries like Gartner’s glossary, as well as the name of the Online Cybersecurity, Master of Science program here at the University of Nevada at Reno, cybersecurity is a single word. Other spelling and grammar authorities like the Associated Press as well as Merriam-Webster agree on the single word spelling.

It appears, however, that others sources disagree – author and cybersecurity expert Craig Ford reported that during an informal audience poll at the AusCERT 2019 conference, about 70% of attendees noted that they preferred the term as two words: cyber security.

Cyber defense solution provider Threat Warrior pointed out that the one vs. two word spelling difference may simply come down to regional preference – American authors tend to use cybersecurity as one word, whereas British professionals have been known to separate the word into two.

The main point, though, is that whether it is spelled as one word or two, cybersecurity vs. cyber security, the definition and spirit of the concept remain the same.

“But the definitions don’t really waver,” Threat Warrior pointed out. “Cybersecurity and cyber security have the same meaning. (And while you might catch ‘cyber-security’ here and there, it means the same and it is not a widely used or preferred derivative).”

Threat Warrior, along with several other sources, note that while the jury seems to still be out on cyber security or cybersecurity, the important thing is to select one spelling and remain consistent in its use.

This is the approach that the University of Nevada at Reno has taken with the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program. You’ll notice that throughout our website and program material, we use the one-word spelling of cybersecurity, in accordance with the Associated Press, Merriam-Webster and other authorities.
Digital lock on binary code background.

Cybersecurity and its importance today

In the current digital world, the need to secure the digital assets and systems that enable daily business operations is more critical than ever before:

  • Digital transformation is a top priority: Most organizations have already digitized their most pertinent data sets. They now use software systems, the cloud and other platforms to enable their operations. Companies are leveraging these digital assets to shift and improve the way they do business and/or deliver services, a process called “digital transformation.” Forbes reported that 70% of businesses currently have a digital transformation strategy defined, or are currently working on one. What’s more, 21% of enterprises said they’ve completed their digital transformation. However, as more focus and importance is placed upon these digital architectures, it is increasingly important to ensure that they are properly secured.
  • Threats continue to rise: In addition to more sensitive data being digitized and accessed through connected platforms, there are also a rising number of threats to these technological assets. G Data Software reportedly identified nearly 5 million new malware samples in 2019, including variants on existing, dangerous malware like the GandCrab ransomware family.

As businesses increasingly rely on digital data and technology systems, they’ll also need to deploy robust cybersecurity strategies, including encryption, risk management and prevention of unauthorized access. As the number of digital systems in place grows and continues to become more complex, organizations will need employees specifically trained in current cybersecurity and information security best practices to safeguard their physical and digital intellectual property and data.

The next step to a career in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a crucial factor for businesses in every industry today. The job outlook for cybersecurity professionals is growing much faster than the average for all occupations, and is not expected to slow anytime soon. Arguably, needs for trained professionals in cybersecurity will only increase as more businesses continue their digital transformation efforts and malicious actors create new attack strategies.

Those interested in the areas of cybersecurity and information security can further their knowledge and expertise, and prepare for exciting career opportunities with a degree like the University of Nevada at Reno’s Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity.

To learn more about our program and curriculum, check out our website and connect with one of our expert enrollment specialists today.

Recommended Readings:

Making the Most of your Cybersecurity Internship

Why is Cybersecurity Important?


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Information Security Analysts

Gartner – Information Technology Garner Glossary: Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Insiders – A Brief History of CybersecurityBitSight – Cybersecurity Vs. Information Security: Is There A Difference?

CSO – Cyber Security vs. Cybersecurity, Who cares?   

Threat Warrior – Cybersecurity: One Word or Two?

Merriam-Webster – Cybersecurity

Forbes – 100 Stats on Digital Transformation and Customer Experience

G Data – Malware Top 10 in 2019: Attacks every few seconds