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What’s the Difference Between a Security Incident and an Event?

Digital lock icons lined up on a computer screen with the words Privacy, Security and Identity.

Last updated Mar 1, 2024.

What Is the Difference Between a Security Event and a Security Incident?

There’s often confusion around the terms “security event” and “security incident”. Cybersecurity professionals use these terms to describe potential data breaches, but what is the real difference between the two, and which one poses the most threat to your organization?

Security Events Happen Daily

A security event is described as any occurrence during which private company data or records may have been exposed.

For example, if an employee enters sensitive information into a ChatGPT prompt, you may have a security event on your hands whether you know it or not. (This is one reason we recommend Microsoft Copilot over ChatGPT.)

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The key when it comes to events is that data-only might have been exposed. As you might expect, security events happen frequently. Some organizations, depending on their size and notoriety, experience hundreds of events per day in the form of phishing emails, brute force attacks, employee negligence, etc.

A security event is an observable occurrence that could affect your information security. An event can be something as small as receiving a phishing attempt email. Each time that happens, it counts as an event. It’s important to understand that an event does not have to be an issue and reducing security events can be as simple as updating your firewall.

Businesses will face many of these events, and good security practices deal with most of these so that they go unnoticed or are not acted upon.

Security monitoring services, while they vary widely in scope according to the company’s abilities, generally include the documentation of and investigation into these events.

Security Incidents Are Events That Produce Consequences

It’s when an event results in a data breach or privacy breach that the event is then deemed a security incident.

For example, a delay in patching a security weakness in vital company software would be an event. It would only be deemed an incident after your security monitoring team confirmed a resulting data breach by hackers who capitalized on the weakness.

What Happens After a Security Incident?

Upon discovering an incident, your IT department or managed security vendor would initiate an incident response and remediation protocol, taking fast action to contain data and downtime losses using their various tools and skills.

How Many Security Events Do You Have Each Month?

While some events, such as those produced by social engineering attempts, are common to all industries, others may be more or less common at your company. Invite a highly qualified security consultant to assess your security practices and reveal any gaps you may have before those gaps result in a security incident.

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It’s important for an organization to have its own threshold for defining if something is an incident or an event. Without set parameters, your organization can lose valuable time deciding how and when to escalate and take action, or worse, fall victim to a data breach. Cybersecurity is a process of continuous improvement, not a destination at which your organization can suddenly arrive. Just as cyber threats continue to evolve, so must your cybersecurity strategy.

If you’d like help in determining the best cybersecurity services to protect your organization, or if you’d like more information about the solutions discussed above, give us a call today at (877) 367-9348 or schedule a meeting at your convenience.

Corsica Technologies
Corsica provides personalized service and a virtual CIO (vCIO) who serves as a strategic advisor. When it comes to the complex integration of solutions for IT and cybersecurity, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We offer cybersecurity solutions, managed services, digital transformation, resale services, and one-off technology projects. Corsica unifies any combination of these services into a complete, seamless solution.

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