Modern businesses now store huge troves of their information, and they can choose from all kinds of security controls and other protection measures to keep that information safe from cybersecurity breaches, theft, and other threats. To organize all those choices into a coherent, disciplined program, executives must follow wise principles of information security management.
Vocabulary is important here. “Cybersecurity” focuses on digital data only. “Information security” (also known as “infosec” or data security) more broadly addresses all enterprise data, digital and physical. Specifically, information security is defined as maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (the CIA triad) of all digital and physical information within an organization.
To reduce information security risks such as data theft, information systems breaches, and unauthorized changes to information or digital systems, you must adopt measures and policies known as information security controls.
Information security focuses on the policies and practices an organization uses to identify and prevent unauthorized access to company information. An information security policy (ISP) establishes rules and processes for employees. It sets a standard for the acceptable use of the organization’s information technology, including networks and applications, so the organization can protect confidentiality, integrity, and data availability.
Information security is an extensive topic that revolves around three objectives, known as “the CIA triad” or the fundamentals of information security.
The CIA Triad: How to Classify Information Management
The CIA triad stands for the three lenses through which information security can be viewed. Those CIA principles are confidentiality, integrity, and availability — but what does all that mean, exactly?
Confidentiality is privacy. This principle helps companies to limit access to corporate information to authorized users only. For example, medical records should be available to physicians and nurses, but usually not to other employees such as administrative staff.
Encryption and strict access control are typical measures to protect confidentiality. (Even with encryption, however, confidentiality can still be compromised.) All employees in an organization must be aware of their responsibilities in maintaining the confidentiality of the information they can access.
Integrity means keeping the data or information in your system reliable and accurate. It also applies to storing paper documents in a safe and dry location to avoid damage.
A hacker may try to make unauthorized modifications to data stored on a system. For example, a hacker could attempt to change prices or product descriptions on an e-commerce website.
Corrupting data integrity isn’t limited only to malicious attacks; sometimes it happens accidentally when users make mistakes. An employee could make a typographical error when entering a customer’s order or updating an employee file. Organizations must have controls in place to verify data entry and an audit trail to ensure accountability.
Availability is access to information at any necessary time. Businesses need reliable systems to maintain continuous operations. Customers expect access to account information whenever they want it. This principle also applies to paper documents. If physical files are stored at an off-site location, businesses need to be able to retrieve them within a reasonable amount of time.
One risk to data availability is the interruption of an authorized user’s access to information. For example, hackers could launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against a website, leaving the site unavailable to routine users and transactions.
Like confidentiality and integrity, availability disruptions can also occur without ill intentions. Power outages and natural disasters can result in downtime that affects the availability of information systems.
Key Components of Information Security Management
ISO/IEC 27001 is a popular international standard for information security, published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), collaborating with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
The goal of ISO 27001 is to preserve an organization’s information’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Achieving ISO 27001 certification is accomplished by performing a risk assessment and determining what has to be done to avoid such problems (such as risk mitigation).
ISO 27001 is based on a risk management process: finding out where the risks are, and then addressing them by implementing security controls or safeguards. Some of the main components of information security management (ISM) are explained below.
Information Security Policies
Information security policies provide rules and guidelines for employees. They define how information is stored and managed within an organization. A security policy is tailored to your company’s specific needs and is modified as your business and security requirements evolve.
Information Security Organization
If you want to have robust information security, you need the staff to manage it. It is essential to define these roles and responsibilities, even if they are integrated into your IT or compliance departments. This will assure that your organization has the proper focus on protecting the organization’s data.
This component covers the organization’s assets inside and outside the corporate IT network, including the exchange of sensitive information.
Physical and Environmental Security
Physical security procedures are necessary to protect paper documents and computer hardware from damage, loss, or illegal access. While many businesses are embracing digital transformation and storing sensitive data on secure, off-site cloud networks, the security of the physical devices used to access that data must also be considered.
Communications and Operations Management
Day-to-day IT operations and maintenance, such as service provisioning and problem management, should follow IT security policies and ISMS (information security management system) controls.
Security policies and access controls must be both strict and practical. User authentication and restrictions must protect data while allowing people access to perform their jobs effectively. Individual duties and responsibilities should be clearly defined, along with the requirements for data access.
Information Security and Incident Management
Identify and resolve IT issues in a manner that minimizes the impact on end-users. Advanced technology solutions may be necessary to identify insightful incident metrics and to mitigate potential problems in complex network infrastructure environments.
Business Continuity Management
Avoid business process disruptions wherever possible. Ideally, any critical situation should be immediately followed by disaster recovery and damage minimization procedures.
Cryptography and Encryption
Cryptography techniques are essential controls to protect sensitive digital information. Your IT department should investigate various cryptography concepts to assure that the organization is taking full advantage of these technologies, including encryption, digital signatures, and other security-related algorithms.
Third-party suppliers and business partners may need access to your network and sensitive customer data. Adopt solid security controls with your suppliers to assure they do not create vulnerabilities in your network security. Mitigate potential risks through IT security policies and contractual obligations.
ZenGRC is Your Information Security Solution
As the pace of innovation in information technology continues to increase, many tools can help you manage your business and data security.
Criminals use malware, phishing, spyware, ransomware, cyber fraud, and social engineering to exploit unknown vulnerabilities and obtain sensitive information.
ZenGRC’s governance, risk management, and compliance software is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform. It is a single source of truth for document storage, workflow management, and insightful reporting. It helps you identify high-risk areas before they manifest.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, ZenGRC allows you to develop a comprehensive security program, benchmark with similar companies, and identify your coverage gaps. Your compliance and cybersecurity professionals will be empowered to focus on solutions that prevent cyberattacks, facilitate information protection, and drive compliance.
Worry-free risk management is the Zen way! For more information on how ZenGRC can be your information security solution, contact us for a demo.