Information Security Management Principles
Last updated on 06th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog
Information security, sometimes abbreviated to infosec, is a set of practices intended to keep data secure from unauthorized access or alterations, both when it’s being stored and when it’s being transmitted from one machine or physical location to another. You might sometimes see it referred to as data security. Information security refers to the processes and methodologies which are designed and implemented to protect print, electronic, or any other form of confidential, private and sensitive information or data from unauthorized access, use, misuse, disclosure, destruction, modification, or disruption. As knowledge has become one of the 21st century’s most important assets, efforts to keep information secure have correspondingly become increasingly important.
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Information security principles
The basic components of information security are most often summed up by the so-called CIA triad: confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
- Confidentiality is perhaps the element of the triad that most immediately comes to mind when you think of information security. Data is confidential when only those people who are authorized to access it can do so; to ensure confidentiality, you need to be able to identify who is trying to access data and block attempts by those without authorization. Passwords, encryption, authentication, and defense against penetration attacks are all techniques designed to ensure confidentiality.
- Integrity means maintaining data in its correct state and preventing it from being improperly modified, either by accident or maliciously. Many of the techniques that ensure confidentiality will also protect data integrity—after all, a hacker can’t change data they can’t access—but there are other tools that help provide a defense of integrity in depth: checksums can help you verify data integrity, for instance, and version control software and frequent backups can help you restore data to a correct state if need be. Integrity also covers the concept of non-repudiation: you must be able to prove that you’ve maintained the integrity of your data, especially in legal contexts.
- Availability is the mirror image of confidentiality: while you need to make sure that your data can’t be accessed by unauthorized users, you also need to ensure that it can be accessed by those who have the proper permissions. Ensuring data availability means matching network and computing resources to the volume of data access you expect and implementing a good backup policy for disaster recovery purposes.
In an ideal world, your data should always be kept confidential, in its correct state, and available; in practice, of course, you often need to make choices about which information security principles to emphasize, and that requires assessing your data. If you’re storing sensitive medical information, for instance, you’ll focus on confidentiality, whereas a financial institution might emphasize data integrity to ensure that nobody’s bank account is credited or debited incorrectly.
Information security policy
The means by which these principles are applied to an organization take the form of a security policy. This isn’t a piece of security hardware or software; rather, it’s a document that an enterprise draws up, based on its own specific needs and quirks, to establish what data needs to be protected and in what ways. These policies guide the organization’s decisions around procuring cybersecurity tools, and also mandate employee behavior and responsibilities.
Among other things, your company’s information security policy should include:
- A statement describing the purpose of the infosec program and your overall objectives
- Definitions of key terms used in the document to ensure shared understanding
- An access control policy, determining who has access to what data and how they can establish their rights
- A password policy
- A data support and operations plan to ensure that data is always available to those who need it
- Employee roles and responsibilities when it comes to safeguarding data, including who is ultimately responsible for information security
One important thing to keep in mind is that, in a world where many companies outsource some computer services or store data in the cloud, your security policy needs to cover more than just the assets you own. You need to know how you’ll deal with everything from personally identifying information stored on AWS instances to third-party contractors who need to be able to authenticate to access sensitive corporate info.
Information security measures
As should be clear by now, just about all the technical measures associated with cybersecurity touch on information security to a certain degree, but there it is worthwhile to think about infosec measures in a big-picture way:
- Technical measures include the hardware and software that protects data — everything from encryption to firewalls
- Organizational measures include the creation of an internal unit dedicated to information security, along with making infosec part of the duties of some staff in every department
- Human measures include providing awareness training for users on proper infosec practices
- Physical measures include controlling access to the office locations and, especially, data centers
How does one get a job in information security? An undergraduate degree in computer science certainly doesn’t hurt, although it’s by no means the only way in; tech remains an industry where, for instance, participation in open source projects or hacking collectives can serve as a valuable calling card.
Still, infosec is becoming increasingly professionalized, which means that institutions are offering more by way of formal credentials. Many universities now offer graduate degrees focusing on information security. These programs may be best suited for those already in the field looking to expand their knowledge and prove that they have what it takes to climb the ladder.
At the other end of the spectrum are free and low-cost online courses in infosec, many of them fairly narrowly focused. The world of online education is something of a wild west; Tripwire breaks down eleven highly regarded providers offering information security courses that may be worth your time and effort.
Information security certifications
If you’re already in the field and are looking to stay up-to-date on the latest developments—both for your own sake and as a signal to potential employers—you might want to look into an information security certification. Among the top certifications for information security analysts are:
- Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
- Certified Cyber Professional (CCP)
- Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- GCHQ Certified Training (GCT)
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