Information security definition
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. As knowledge has become one of the 21st century's most important assets, efforts to keep information secure have correspondingly become increasingly important.
The SANS Institute offers a somewhat more expansive definition:
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.
Information security vs. cybersecurity
Because information technology has become the accepted corporate buzzphrase that means, basically, "computers and related stuff," you will sometimes see information security and cybersecurity used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, cybersecurity is the broader practice of defending IT assets from attack, and information security is a specific discipline under the cybersecurity umbrella. Network security and application security are sister practices to infosec, focusing on networks and app code, respectively.
Obviously, there's some overlap here. You can't secure data transmitted across an insecure network or manipulated by a leaky application. As well, there is plenty of information that isn't stored electronically that also needs to be protected. Thus, the infosec pro's remit is necessarily broad.
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
Information security jobs
It's no secret that cybersecurity jobs are in high demand, and in 2019 information security was at the top of every CIO's hiring wishlist, according to Mondo's IT Security Guide. There are two major motivations: There have been many high-profile security breaches that have resulted in damage to corporate finances and reputation, and most companies are continuing to stockpile customer data and give more and more departments access to it, increasing their potential attack surface and making it more and more likely they'll be the next victim.
There are a variety of different job titles in the infosec world. The same job title can mean different things in different companies, and you should also keep in mind our caveat from up top: a lot of people use "information" just to mean "computer-y stuff," so some of these roles aren't restricted to just information security in the strict sense. But there are general conclusions one can draw.
Information security analyst: Duties and salary
Let's take a look at one such job: information security analyst, which is generally towards the entry level of an infosec career path. CSO's Christina Wood describes the job as follows:
Security analysts typically deal with information protection (data loss protection [DLP] and data classification) and threat protection, which includes security information and event management (SIEM), user and entity behavior analytics [UEBA], intrusion detection system/intrusion prevention system (IDS/IPS), and penetration testing. Key duties include managing security measures and controls, monitoring security access, doing internal and external security audits, analyzing security breaches, recommending tools and processes, installing software, teaching security awareness, and coordinating security with outside vendors.
Information security analysts are definitely one of those infosec roles where there aren't enough candidates to meet the demand for them: in 2017 and 2018, there were more than 100,000 information security analyst jobs that were unfilled in the United States. This means that infosec analyst is a lucrative gig: the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the median salary at $95,510 (PayScale.com has it a bit lower, at $71,398).
Information security training and courses
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)
Many of the online courses listed by Tripwire are designed to prepare you for these certification exams. Best of luck in your exploration!
- Data and Information Security
Josh Fruhlinger is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles.
Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.
7 hot cybersecurity trends (and 2 going cold)
What are the 3 Principles of Information Security? The basic tenets of information security are confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every element of the information security program must be designed to implement one or more of these principles. Together they are called the CIA Triad.What is information security definition? ›
The term 'information security' means protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide integrity, confidentiality, and availability.What are the job roles in information security? ›
Those are the top cyber security jobs in India today, but plenty of other roles exist and go unfilled, including information risk auditors, firewalls, and security device development professionals, security analysts, intrusion detection specialists, computer security incident responders, cryptologists, and ...What are the 3 principles of information security? ›
When we discuss data and information, we must consider the CIA triad. The CIA triad refers to an information security model made up of the three main components: confidentiality, integrity and availability.What are the 5 principles of information security? ›
- Confidentiality: The degree of confidentiality determines the secrecy of the information. ...
- Authentication: Authentication is the mechanism to identify the user or system or the entity. ...
- Integrity: ...
- Non-Repudiation: ...
- Access control: ...
- Network Security.
- Cloud Security.
- Application Security.
- Internet of Things Security.
1. the state of being or feeling secure; freedom from fear, anxiety, danger, doubt, etc.; state or sense of safety or certainty. 2. something that gives or assures safety, tranquillity, certainty, etc.; protection; safeguard.What is information security give examples? ›
Logical controls (also called technical controls) use software and data to monitor and control access to information and computing systems. Passwords, network and host-based firewalls, network intrusion detection systems, access control lists, and data encryption are examples of logical controls.Is information security a good career? ›
You'll be doing something good
Besides protecting organizations, information security professionals are the ones who help protect critical infrastructure as well as the privacy of the everyday consumer. If you've always wanted to be in a respectable and valuable profession, this one fits the bill.
Cyber Security Specialists are responsible for discovering vulnerabilities and risks in networks, software systems and data centers with ongoing vulnerability scans, monitoring network data, and ensuring hardware and software applications are updated.What is the main job of network security? ›
The network security job is to protect the network from threats and bugs that could attack the system and also from the existing dangers. Most importantly, they must make sure that the networking systems can bounce back or withstand any type of mishaps such as natural disasters and hacker attacks.Why do we need information security? ›
Protecting the data that the organization collect and use:
The values of the data motivated the attackers to steal or corrupts the data. This is essential for the integrity and the values of the organization's data. Information security ensures the protection of both data in motion as well as data in rest.
- Confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
- Prevention, detection, and response.
- People controls, process controls, and technology controls.
- Network security, PC security, and mainframe security.
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency.
- Purpose limitation.
- Data minimisation.
- Storage limitation.
- Integrity and confidentiality (security)
- Risk management regime. ...
- Secure configuration. ...
- Network security. ...
- Managing user privileges. ...
- User education and awareness. ...
- Incident management. ...
- Malware prevention. ...
There are three primary areas or classifications of security controls. These include management security, operational security, and physical security controls.What are the 14 principles of security management? ›
- Data in transit protection. User data which is transitioning between networks should be protected against any interference.
- Asset protection and resilience. ...
- Separation between users. ...
- Governance framework. ...
- Operational security. ...
- Personnel security. ...
- Secure development. ...
- Supply chain security.
- Factual. Factual information is information that solely deals with facts. ...
- Analytical. Analytical information is the interpretation of factual information. ...
- Subjective. Subjective information is information from only one point of view. ...
The risk to organizational operations (including mission, functions, image, reputation), organizational assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation due to the potential for unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of information and/or systems.
The original meaning of "security," which dates back to the mid-15th century, was property pledged to guarantee some debt or promise of the owner. Starting in the 17th century, the word came to be used for a document evidencing a debt, and eventually for any document representing a financial investment.What are types of security? ›
The four types of security are debt, equity, derivative, and hybrid securities. Holders of equity securities (e.g., shares) can benefit from capital gains by selling stocks.What is security short form? ›
SEC. (redirected from security)Who is responsible for information security? ›
While it is the responsibility of the Data Custodian to develop and implement operational procedures, it is the Data Owner's responsibility to review and approve these standards and procedures.What are the two types of information security? ›
Encryption ensures the integrity of data being transferred, while application security controls protect against dangerous downloads on the user's end.Is information security hard to study? ›
No, cybersecurity isn't hard. Although there may be difficult concepts, like cryptography or areas that require more technical knowledge, cybersecurity is one of the few fields in the tech world that doesn't require a strong technical background.Is security a stressful job? ›
The job of defending against increasingly advanced threats on a daily and hourly basis is causing more problems than ever as 46% of respondents felt their stress had measurably increased over the last 12 months.What should I study for information security? ›
- Basic Data Analysis.
- Basic Scripting or Introductory Programming.
- Cyber Defense.
- Cyber Threats.
- Fundamental Security Design Principles.
- Information Assurance Fundamentals.
- Intro to Cryptography.
- IT Systems Components.
Cyber security professionals, or information security analysts, have a wide range of responsibilities, but the crux of their job is to protect online data from being compromised.What is the first job in cyber security? ›
Security analysis is considered an entry-level cybersecurity job, often requiring a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Most companies seek analysts with one to five years of on-the-job experience in systems administration.
Job security is a sense of knowing that your job is safe from being cut. It's an assurance that you will be able to work in your current employment for the foreseeable future. Job security comes with a feeling of protection against things like layoffs, economic downfalls, and other factors that could impact employment.What are the six principles of information security management? ›
- Security beyond Firewall. Network security used to be achieved by scanning network traffic on various OSI layers. ...
- Advanced Access Management. ...
- Enhanced Application Security. ...
- Trusted Attack Simulation. ...
- Data Encryption. ...
- Compliance Business Framework.
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency. ...
- Purpose limitation. ...
- Data minimisation. ...
- Accuracy. ...
- Storage limitation. ...
- Integrity and confidentiality.
Reducing the risk of data breaches and attacks in IT systems. Applying security controls to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information. Preventing disruption of services, e.g., denial-of-service attacks. Protecting IT systems and networks from exploitation by outsiders.What is information security with example? ›
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.What are the four functions of security? ›
- Security practices out-of-the-box. Security practices are broad in scope and vary by nature. ...
- Compliance assessment and monitoring. ...
- Document management. ...
- Project management.
|Principle 2 – purposes||Principle (b) – purpose limitation|
|Principle 3 – adequacy||Principle (c) – data minimisation|
|Principle 4 – accuracy||Principle (d) – accuracy|
|Principle 5 - retention||Principle (e) – storage limitation|
- Open and Transparent Management of Personal Information. ...
- Anonymity and Pseudonymity. ...
- Collection of Solicited Personal Information. ...
- Dealing with Unsolicited Personal Information. ...
- Notification of the Collection of Personal Information. ...
- Use or Disclosure of Personal Information.