Cybersecurity vs data security vs data privacy vs physical security

2 minute read
Jan 5, 2022
Cybersecurity, data privacy, and data security icons in a circle around a shield with a lock in the center on a green background

The terms cybersecurity, data security, and data privacy sometimes get used interchangeably. There are some key differences to note as companies become familiar with standards and frameworks. 

 Also, when considering compliance, physically securing personnel and equipment is often not thought of, but almost every standard and framework has physical security requirements.

There are hundreds of formal definitions of how to describe the terms in question, and there is technically a lot of overlap depending on the systems and data, but we like to keep things simple – here’s how we think about them.

Cybersecurity – Digitally securing systems from unauthorized access.

Data security – Digitally protecting data against unauthorized access.

Data privacy – Authorized collection, sharing, and usage of data.

Physical security - Physically securing systems and personnel


Cybersecurity encompasses all of the systems - including both hardware and software.  The primary goal is to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber-attacks.  This is everything but the data.

  • Routers, firewalls, wireless, IoT devices, and network switches
  • Threat monitoring, employee training and background checks

Data security

Data security's primary goal is to secure the data from unauthorized access and accidental or intentional loss and modification.  This is the data on systems that bad actors are trying to expose.

  • Data encryption and masking
  • Data archiving, backup, erasing, and retention

Data privacy

Data privacy's primary goal is to ensure that data is being accessed, shared, and used within the rules and regulations the business follows.

  • Data classification systems
  • Governance and legislation

Physical security

Physical security's primary goal is to ensure that the facilities, equipment, and its workers are physically safe and secure.

  • Door locks, gates, cameras, alarms, key access, and visitor management
  • Fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire extinguishers

Sean Worden's headshot

Written by Sean Worden

Sean is OpReady's Founder and CEO. He holds a BS in IT and many cybersecurity certifications. He has over a decade of real-world software development, compliance, cybersecurity, and federal contracting experience. Connect with Sean on LinkedIn!

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