IT vs CyberSecurity: Understanding the Distinct Roles in the Digital Age


While IT and cybersecurity teams may seem similar to the untrained eye, these two departments play vastly different roles within an organisation and have vastly different skillsets and priorities.

As the threat landscape evolved and the need for cybersecurity increased, many companies decided to invest in in-house skills in order to protect their organisation. A fast-growing sector and ever increasing demands for specialised skills have then led to the creation of dedicated Cyber Security departments, distinct from their IT counterparts.

But what exactly sets these two critical facets of modern business apart? A recent collaborative LinkedIn article delved into this question, highlighting the common conflicts between Cyber Security and IT teams.

The Priorities: Divergence and Convergence

The main priorities of IT teams typically centre around enhancing user experience, boosting productivity, cost reduction, and improving performance. In stark contrast, Cyber Security teams are more focused on security and control. These differing priorities can lead to friction, especially when changes to IT environments, systems, or processes are proposed. This challenge is further exacerbated when the budget is shared across these departments.

Linkedin user Jim Desmond, VP Chief Security Officer at Asurion, draws an interesting analogy to illustrate this difference. He compares the IT team to a city's water department and the Cyber Security team to the fire department. While both use water, their methods and purposes are vastly different. The water department focuses on the day-to-day management of water supply, whereas the fire department uses water as a resource in case of an emergency..

The Roles: Builders vs Guardians

Adding to this perspective, Cyber Security professional Evan Morgan likens the IT department to builders and the Cyber Security team to guardians. The IT department is responsible for creating and maintaining the technological infrastructure – a critical role in any modern business. On the other hand, the Cyber Security team is tasked with protecting this infrastructure from external threats and internal vulnerabilities.

Conflict and Collaboration

These differing roles and priorities can naturally lead to conflict. IT teams, driven by the need to deliver efficient and effective technological solutions, may view security measures as hurdles that slow down processes or add complexity. Conversely, Cyber Security teams may perceive the rapid changes and innovations of IT as potential security risks that need to be carefully evaluated and mitigated.

This conflict, however, is not insurmountable. It can, in fact, be a source of strength if managed correctly. The key lies in fostering a culture of collaboration and understanding. By acknowledging and respecting each other’s priorities and expertise, IT and Cyber Security teams can work together to find balanced solutions that address both performance and security concerns.

Evolving Landscape and Future Directions

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the roles of IT and Cyber Security will undoubtedly continue to change and adapt. The increasing prevalence of cyber threats and the ever-growing complexity of technological infrastructures mean that both departments will need to stay ahead of the curve. This requires continuous learning, adaptation, and most importantly, collaboration.