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Understanding Information Security: Definitions, Principles, and Fundamental Objectives

Information is the most important asset of any business entity. It has become imperative for companies to safeguard their information and do their mighty best to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The challenges for business in securing the information come from the ever-growing interconnected environment, exposing it to the outer world with a wide range of risks. The last few years have also witnessed a rise in malicious code, computer hacking, and denial-of-service attacks, which have become more common. As such, for businesses, implementing, maintaining, and updating security has become a major challenge to which they need to overcome in order to safeguard their future. And they can achieve this by understanding Information Security.

Security Boulevard defines Information Security as, “The practice of preventing unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, inspection, recording or destruction of information.” This information can take many forms; it can be either electronic or physical.

Information Security underpins the following important roles;

  • Protect the data that a business collects
  • Protect the business’ ability to operate
  • Protect the application used by the business
  • Protect the technology used by the business

With the implementation of Information Security, businesses protect the information by preventing, detecting, and responding to threats. While Senior Management and IT are responsible for a big business, in smaller businesses, the duties fell onto security, data and compliance, and IT/Information Security Managers. Safeguarding the information also includes enhancing awareness among the staff via training and initiatives. Businesses also need to revisit their Information Security policies and re-check them at regular intervals to meet the right compliance.

Information Security vs. Cybersecurity

The terms Information security and Cybersecurity are often used interchangeably. However, Information Security is a part of a much broader which is known as Cybersecurity. While cybersecurity is a broader practice of defending IT assets from attacks, Information Security is an umbrella term under cybersecurity safeguarding information. The other umbrella terms associated with cybersecurity are Network Security and Application Security which deal with network and app code, respectively.

Principles: The CIA Triad

CIA triad or CIA security model refers to the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability in the Information Security world. Each of these attributes represents a fundamental objective of Information Security. The objectives ensure that the information stays only flows to authorized parties, prevent modification or unauthorized use, and assure that it can be used by the assured parties.

Confidentiality

As per the Federal Code 44 U.S.C., Sec. 3542, Confidentiality is defined as “preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information.” As such, this objective protects information from unauthorized use and misuse. It is enforced with safeguards that call for a wide range of access controls and protection alongside monitoring, training, and testing.

Integrity

Integrity refers to the way information flows through systems, processes without intentional or accidental disclosure or modification. It means maintaining data in its original state and preventing it from being modified, either by accident or maliciously. Confidentiality and Integrity run side by side as a hacker can’t change data that he/she can’t read. Checksum, Software/file version/date modified, and regular backups are some of the basic examples of saving the integrity of the information.

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Availability

Reflecting the opposite side of Confidentiality, Availability ensures that the information can be accessed by authorized users. It is the most vulnerable than the rest of the Triad’s components. The loss herein includes the loss of accessibility due to human error, hardware failure, malicious software, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Safeguards that address availability include access controls, monitoring, data redundancy, resilient systems, virtualization, server clustering, environmental controls, continuity of operations planning, and incident response preparedness.

Other than that, Information Security includes three more objectives:

Non-repudiation

It means that the involved parties cannot deny the validity of something. As a legal term, Non-repudiation refers to a service, which asks for proof of the origin of the data and its integrity. It makes it difficult to deny the emergence of data alongside its authenticity/integrity.

Authenticity

It involves verifying the authenticity of the users and that data reaching the endpoint is from a trusted source. It ensures that the information flown is received from a trusted source via a valid transmission and helps to reduce instances of fraud by way of misrepresentation.

Accountability

The phrase means that any kind of information generated must have a way to trace its actions. It refers to having specific responsibilities for information assurance for every individual working with an information system. The person in charge of information security should perform periodic checks to be certain that the policy is being followed. Individuals must be aware of what is expected of them and guide continual improvement.

Threats and Responses

There are several different types of threats to confidential and private information, including malware and phishing, identity theft, and theft of ransomware. Multiple security measures are enforced and structured as part of a deep protection strategy in order to discourage attackers and mitigate vulnerabilities at different stages. Security groups should have a response incident plan (IRP) in place to prepare for a security violation. This should allow them to limit and contain the damage, remove the cause, and enforce updated defense controls.

Processes and policies on information security usually include data protection against unauthorized access, use, duplication, or destruction, through physical and digital interventions. These can cover key encryption, intrusion detection systems in the network, password policies, and regulatory conformity. A safety audit may be performed in accordance with specified standards to determine the organization’s capacity to maintain safe structures.

To summarize, Information Security is a set of strategies necessary to detect, prevent, record, and counter digital and non-digital information threats. It includes safeguarding the information assets and how it is transferred or is stored. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability make sure that the information is within and used by the authorized personnel. Businesses can safeguard their information assets by multiple security measures, having a response incident plan, and meeting the standards of processes and policies compliance.

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