What Is InfoSec? Definition + Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what InfoSec is and how to pursue InfoSec professionally with this guide.

[Featured Image] An information security analyst in a blue collared shirt works at a desktop computer displaying code.

What is InfoSec?

InfoSec stands for information security. It refers to the practices, systems, and processes that protect sensitive information from risks and vulnerabilities. Information security is essential to data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Data must be secured in three states:

1. At rest: Data not currently being used or accessed, such as data stored on a hard drive or server.

2. In transit: Data in the transmission process from one location to another. This could be over a network or the internet.

3. In use: Data being accessed or used by an individual or system.

Types of InfoSec

InfoSec has several subcategories. InfoSec professionals may choose to specialize in certain areas. Here are a few common subsets of InfoSec you may come across as you continue to research InfoSec and InfoSec jobs:

  • Information security management. InfoSec professionals are responsible for establishing organizational systems and processes that protect information from security issues inside and outside the organization. ISO27001 is the international standard for information security. It is concerned with all aspects of information security, including managing files, databases, applications, websites, laptops, desktops, and mobile devices.

  • Application security. Securing applications encompasses hardware, software, and procedural methods to safeguard applications against external threats. Examples include code signing, code verifying, input validation, high-level authentication, code improvement, and software monitoring.

  • Cloud security. Cloud security protects data and resources stored in or accessed through a cloud computing environment. Cloud security includes measures to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks on cloud resources. You’ll protect data confidentiality, integrity, availability, and compliance in your cloud environments.

  • Cryptography/algorithmic encoding. Cryptography secures communication in a situation where third parties could intercept your data. You may use cryptographic mathematical algorithms to encode and decode data. These measures can help protect information from unauthorized access and ensure that data remains unchanged during transmission.

  • Infrastructure security. Infrastructure security protects a computer system's physical and logical components. Infrastructure security protects your non-computing physical infrastructures, such as buildings, telecommunications networks, and power grids, from damage or destruction.

  • Incident response. Incident response describes the identification, containment, eradication, and recovery from a security incident. InfoSec processes included in incident response include incident handling, forensics, and business continuity planning. InfoSec professionals in this role work to prevent incidents from happening and respond if they do occur.

  • Vulnerability management/risk assessment. Vulnerability management identifies, understands, and mitigates weak points in systems and processes. It includes processes like vulnerability assessment, vulnerability mitigation, and threat modeling.

InfoSec vs. cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a subset of InfoSec. Both focus on security and technology, however, InfoSec is more data-centric. InfoSec interventions focus on protecting information.  Cybersecurity more broadly emphasizes cyber threat detection and ensuring robust security for technological systems. 


Is InfoSec worth it to businesses?

The importance of InfoSec has grown over time due to the increased threat of security breaches and greater levels of data collection overall. The development of new technologies has also pushed InfoSec to the forefront. As technology advances, the need for improved threat prevention strategies grows. Implementing robust information security practices can make it more difficult for unauthorized users to access and misuse data. Here are a couple of additional reasons that InfoSec is critical:

  • InfoSec compliance. You must protect sensitive information to comply with specific standards, regulations, and laws.

  • Financial loss and brand image issues. Damage repair for a data breach include reputation management in addition to costly information recovery efforts.

Common information security threats

Organizations face numerous information and data threats every day. Routine risk assessments to mitigate them are vital. The motivations behind an InfoSec attack may include financial gain, theft of sensitive information, or to cause harm and disruption. The next few sections outline common InfoSec threats to be aware of.

Intellectual property theft

Intellectual property theft is the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted material, trade secrets, or other proprietary information. This occurs through cybercrime, espionage, or malicious behavior from employees (authorized users within an organization misusing company information).


Malware attacks are a type of cyberattack that targets vulnerabilities in your software to gain access to systems or data. Common software attacks include SQL injection, buffer overflow, denial of service (DoS), and cross-site scripting.

Identity theft

Identity theft occurs when personally identifiable information is accessed and used to commit fraud or other crimes. This can happen when someone steals physical identity documents, such as a driver's license or passport. Identity theft also happens digitally when someone obtains personal information online through phishing or other methods. If your company holds personal information, you must safeguard it to protect users from identity theft.

Social engineering

Social engineering is deception and manipulation. It aims to convince you or someone else to divulge confidential information or perform a specific action. People in your company may receive a social engineering attack on the phone, through email scams, or in person. The goal of social engineering is typically to gain access to your systems or data. However, it can also be weaponized to extort your company for financial gain or other motivations.

Information theft and equipment theft

Many companies are affected by the theft of physical equipment, such as computers or servers, or digital information, such as confidential files or customer data. Your company might be targeted for financial gain, for the antagonists to gain a competitive advantage, or to cause harm to your organization.


Sabotage is any deliberate action to damage or destroy your equipment, systems, data, or facilities. People inside or connected with your company may have malicious intent, or outside attackers may gain access to your organization's systems.

InfoSec jobs

Information security professionals protect data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. They engage in InfoSec process management using information security standards and InfoSec frameworks, protocols, and controls. These practices help organizations address security vulnerabilities regularly (typically on a weekly or monthly schedule).

What is it like to work in InfoSec?

A career in information security is exciting and varied, with many specializations. Technical roles may involve working with security technologies to protect networks and systems, while non-technical roles may focus on developing policies and procedures or conducting risk assessments. Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential in all aspects of the field, as they are needed to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities and to develop effective mitigation strategies.

InfoSec career paths

InfoSec is a vast and ever-growing field with many different career paths you can choose. As you gain InfoSec experience, you may diversify into new areas or even move into consulting. Here are a few specializations InfoSec professionals pursue:

  • Engineering and architecture: Information security engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining secure systems. As a security engineer, you’ll work closely with other experts to ensure security is built into the design from the ground up.

  • Incident response: When a security incident occurs, it is your job as part of the incident response team to contain and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. This may involve working with law enforcement or other external partners.

  • Management and administration: Information security managers and administrators are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures to protect data and systems. In this type of role, you’ll oversee and facilitate the work of the InfoSec staff and coordinate responses to incidents.

  • Consulting: As an information security consultant, you help organizations assess their risks and develop mitigation plans. You may also provide expert advice during an incident investigation.

  • Testing and hacking: Security testers use various tools and techniques to identify system vulnerabilities. As a penetration tester, for example, you’ll identify and exploit security weaknesses and work with developers to minimize vulnerable access points before attackers can exploit them.

Read more: 5 Cybersecurity Career Paths (and How to Get Started)

Job outlook for information security professionals

The job outlook for InfoSec professionals is positive, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting a 32 percent growth in information security analyst jobs between 2022 and 2032 [1]. This growth is partly fueled by the growing network of internet-connected devices (known as the "Internet of Things"). These conditions create more opportunities for cyberattacks and increase the urgency to protect personal and commercial data. 

How much do InfoSec professionals make?

The list below outlines job titles in the infoSec field with corresponding annual salaries. All salary information was sourced from Glassdoor in December 2023. 

  • Information security analyst: $114,733

  • Information security engineer: $127,908

  • Information security manager: $167,020

  • Information security officer: $156,498

  • Security architect: $156,780

  • Security consultant: $109,878 

  • Security administrator: $88,968 

  • Network security specialist: $123,201

  • Cybersecurity engineer: $117,948

  • Penetration tester: $111,794 

  • Digital forensic examiner: $121,880

How to pursue InfoSec professionally

The best way to get a job in InfoSec depends on the specific required qualifications and experience for the job role that interests you. Research the types of jobs in the information security field and identify careers that align with your interests. Take note of the job application criteria to build your resume qualifications and competencies to align with the roles. The sections below outline common qualifications and InfoSec skills for aspiring professionals. 

Education requirements

Fifty-four percent of information security professionals have a bachelor's degree, 21 percent have a master's degree, and 21 percent have an associate degree [2]. However, some companies may accept relevant certifications in place of a degree. Common degrees for InfoSec workers include computer science, information systems, business, systems engineering, and IT.

Read more: Cybersecurity Degrees and Alternatives: Your Guide

Essential InfoSec skills

While there isn't a specific set of skills to work in InfoSec, you need to develop a portfolio of skills that match the jobs that interest you. Here are some core InfoSec skills that many of the jobs in InfoSec require:

  • Understanding of networking and common network protocols

  • Familiarity with various operating systems

  • Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities

  • Strong communication skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Familiarity with authentication infrastructure and authentication methods

  • Logic

Additionally, since the field of InfoSec is constantly changing, it is essential to adapt and learn new things quickly.

InfoSec certifications

Various certifications can help you to build your information security career. Some standard InfoSec training certificates to consider include the following:

  • The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

  • CompTIA Security+

These certifications can help you to specialize in a particular area of information security and make your resume more attractive to employers.

Read more: 10 Popular Cybersecurity Certifications [Updated]

Entry-level roles

Various roles can lead to InfoSec and cybersecurity jobs. These positions often provide on-the-job training that can give you the skills you need to move into InfoSec eventually. Some examples with annual salaries* include:

*Note: All salary information was sourced from Glassdoor in December 2023.

Take the next step in your career

If you’re interested in starting a career in cybersecurity, consider the Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate on Coursera. This program is designed ​​to help individuals with no previous experience find their first job in the field of cybersecurity, all at their own pace. The courses cover topics such as security models, tools that are used to access and address threats, networks, and more. 

Or, consider InfoSec Institute's Introduction to Cybersecurity Foundations course for a shorter introduction to core cybersecurity concepts. In just two hours, you'll better understand risk management, operating systems, and cybersecurity measures.

If you'd like to progress towards a degree while earning a Professional Certificate from an industry leader in technology, the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate may be most suitable for your goals. Starting at the beginner level and working up to more advanced concepts, this course series is ideal for all experience levels. By the end, you'll have familiarized yourself with compliance standards such as HIPAA and practiced using industry-standard tools.

Article sources


BLS. “Information security analysts: job outlook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm.” Accessed December 14, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.