IT Security Vs IT Compliance, What’s the Difference?

Over the last couple of decades, the information technology (IT) industry has seen a huge increase in the number of data breaches and other cyber security issues. As such, organizations have been looking for ways to better protect themselves. One way they’ve done this is by making sure their IT departments are compliant with relevant regulations and standards. But what does this mean exactly?

What is IT Compliance?

IT compliance refers to organizations adhering to a set of regulations and standards. These rules are usually established by a governing body such as the Federal Communications Commission or the Security and Exchange Commission. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that companies protect their data and customers’ information. This typically involves maintaining robust password policies, regularly patching systems, encrypting confidential data, etc.

What is IT Security?

In contrast, IT security focuses on preventing cyber-attacks and other malicious activities from occurring in the first place. It involves implementing measures such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Additionally, it requires organizations to continually monitor their networks for suspicious activity, train employees on best practices, and develop a plan for responding to incidents.

The Difference Between IT Security and Compliance

The main difference between IT security and compliance is that one focuses on preventing threats while the other is more focused on meeting regulations. While these two may seem unrelated, they are actually closely related. A company can’t be compliant if it hasn’t implemented proper security measures, and a secure system won’t be compliant if it doesn’t meet the standards set forth by governing bodies. Let’s look at a few examples.

In order to be compliant with HIPAA regulations, organizations must encrypt all confidential patient data and limit access to only authorized personnel. This requires utilizing proper encryption protocols such as AES 256-bit encryption. Additionally, organizations must also monitor their networks for any suspicious activity and respond accordingly if a breach is detected.

Organizations that process credit card payments must also adhere to PCI DSS standards which involve regularly patching systems, implementing strong authentication measures, and encrypting cardholder data when it’s in transit across public networks.

As you can see from the examples above, IT security and compliance are closely related and rely on each other in order to ensure an organization’s information is secure and meets any relevant regulations. Organizations should consider both when developing their security strategies to ensure they are adequately protected.

Who is Responsible for IT Security and Compliance?

It is the responsibility of both the information technology department and upper management to ensure that their organizations are secure and compliant. The IT team needs to implement the necessary security measures while senior leadership must provide oversight and support. Additionally, any new regulations or standards must be communicated in a timely manner so that the organization can remain compliant.

What happens if an Organization Fails to Meet IT Security and Compliance Standards?

If an organization fails to meet the necessary standards, they may face penalties or fines from governing bodies. This could include anything from monetary losses to being banned from operating in certain countries. Additionally, organizations that fail to meet standards may also suffer reputational damage which can have long-term consequences.


It is important for organizations to understand the difference between IT security and compliance as well as their responsibilities in both areas. Companies must ensure they are taking all necessary steps to protect their systems and remain compliant with any applicable regulations. Failing to do so could result in significant penalties or even reputational damage. By understanding the importance of both, organizations can be adequately prepared for any potential risks. 

Chris Turn

Chris Turn