Information security is an effort companies undertake to protect enterprise information from cyberattacks and security breaches. Without it, an organization is vulnerable to phishing, malware, viruses, ransomware, and other kinds of attacks that may result in the theft, tampering, or deletion of confidential information.
The cost of a single incident can run, on average, $4.24 million. In addition to the financial burden, such events can also disrupt operations, damage the company’s reputation, and cause compliance-related problems.
What Is Information Security?
Information Security (infosec) is a set of information technology practices, methodologies, and tools that allow security professionals to protect the organization’s data assets from information security risks.
An information security program aims to prevent unauthorized users from accessing, modifying, manipulating, or destroying enterprise information, thus maintaining its “CIA triad”- Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.
Infosec aims to protect all kinds of enterprise data, including:
- Intellectual property
- Business secrets
- Customer data
- Personal data
- Healthcare information
- Credit cards
- Financial data
- Other types of private information
Information security is often confused with cybersecurity, although the two concepts differ. Cybersecurity includes network security, application security, cloud security, and so forth. It protects enterprise assets from threats originating from or via the Internet.
Information security management is broader and includes physical security in addition to digital security. A cybersecurity program is a subset of your information security strategy.
Top 7 Threats to Information Security
Viruses and Worms
A virus is a piece of malicious code that can auto-replicate and spread from one infected system to another, usually without the knowledge or permission of a user or system administrator.
Like a virus, a worm is also a self-replicating program. Unlike a virus, however, it spreads without copying itself to a host program and without any human interaction. Both viruses and worms can damage or destroy an organization’s data, network, or systems.
Malware is a destructive program that bypasses enterprise security systems,such as firewalls, to infect enterprise networks. It allows a malicious actor to infect, explore, or steal information. Malware comes in many variants, including:
- Remote administration tools (RATs)
Attackers may attack information security (and IT security in general) with malware through many channels, including:
- Email attachments
- File servers
- File sharing software
- Peer to peer (P2P) file sharing
- Exploit kits
- Remote systems
Ransomware is a type of malware that allows an attacker to encrypt data or lock users out of their systems. The attacker demands a ransom payment from the victim before restoring access to the data. In 2019 more than 200,000 U.S firms experienced ransomware attacks. By 2020, such attacks had increased to 145.2 million cases worldwide.
In a phishing scam, a threat actor tricks victims into revealing confidential or sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial data.
Most phishing scams start with fake emails that appear to be from legitimate sources. The email includes a malicious link or attachment. When the victim clicks on the link, he or she is directed to the fake website, where the victim is fooled into giving up sensitive data. Sometimes opening an attachment installs malware on the victim’s system that can harvest sensitive data for the attacker.
Drive-By Download Attacks
In drive-by download attacks, malicious code gets downloaded from a website to a user’s system via a browser without the user’s permission or knowledge. Simply accessing or browsing an infected website can start the download, allowing cybercriminals to steal sensitive information from the victim’s device.
Careless and malicious insiders are both serious information security threats. According to one survey, negligent insiders account for 62 percent of insider security incidents and cost organizations an average of $4.58 million per incident.
Insider credential thieves are another problem since they steal credentials and valuable enterprise data. Insiders can be serious information security threats, since they can:
- Exfiltrate sensitive data
- Sell company data for financial gain
- Steal intellectual property or trade secrets for corporate espionage
- Expose information on the dark web to embarrass the firm or damage its reputation
- Send emails or files to the wrong recipient, leading to data theft or abuse
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
In an APT attack, an attacker penetrates the enterprise network and remains there undetected for an extended period. The attacker’s goal is not to cause immediate damage but to monitor network activity and steal information.
Principles of Information Security
There are three basic principles of information security:
Together, these principles are known as the CIA Triad. For maximum effectiveness, every infosec program must implement these principles and adhere to the respective recommendations.
This first principle is meant to prevent the unauthorized access or disclosure of enterprise information, while assuring that only authorized users have access. Confidentiality is said to be compromised when someone who doesn’t have the proper authorization is able to access the organization’s data and then damage, compromise, or delete it.
Data integrity is about maintaining the accuracy, trustworthiness, consistency, and reliability of data. This means that the data should not be compromised or incorrectly modified (either inadvertently or maliciously) by someone without the proper authority.
Availability means that information is easily accessible to authorized users whenever they need it, thus minimizing interruptions or downtime.
The CIA Triad forms the basis of the information security paradigm. The three principles inform and affect one another, and determine the strength and efficacy of an organization’s infosec program.
That said, other principles also govern infosec and enhance its effectiveness, too.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines non-repudiation as assurance that the sender of information “is provided with proof of delivery and the recipient is provided with proof of the sender’s identity, so neither can later deny having processed the information.”
The non-repudiation principle is vital in infosec since it can hold people accountable for their actions that may affect the organization’s information. Such accountability can deter bad behaviors or activities that put enterprise data at risk.
Risk management is a critical component of infosec because it allows organizations to identify risks to information and then protect it, without hampering access or productivity. Risk management also helps a company to determine the level of risk it is willing to tolerate and then implement safeguards to reduce this risk.
Data classification categorizes data according to type, sensitivity, and impact in case it is ever compromised or stolen. Data can be classified to improve access control and determine how long it should be retained.
Data classification also helps organizations understand the value of their data, identify whether it is at risk, and implement the proper information security controls and security measures to mitigate these risks. Classification also simplifies compliance with relevant industry or legal mandates, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS.
There are different ways of classifying data. One is by sensitivity level:
- High sensitivity
- Medium sensitivity
- Low sensitivity
Another is by access:
Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR)
Business continuity and disaster recovery are also essential security principles in infosec. Proper business continuity planning enables organizations to minimize downtime and maintain business-critical functions during and after an interruption (such as a cyberattack or natural disaster).
A disaster recovery plan helps assure that in the event of a disaster, the company can regain use of its critical information systems and IT infrastructure as soon as possible. It assures that data remains available, unchanged, and reduces the risk of data loss. Data backups and redundant systems are two common BC/DR strategies in infosec.
A formal change management process is also a crucial principle in infosec. When data and system changes are not managed properly, it may lead to outages that affect availability, prevent authorized users from accessing the data they need, or adversely impact data security.
Make ZenGRC Part of Your Information Security Plans
Power your organization’s infosec program with ZenGRC, an integrated platform that helps you manage risk and vulnerabilities across your business.
ZenGRC is a single source of truth to ensure your organization is aligned. Policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find in the document repository. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards give visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.
Meet information privacy requirements, streamline third-party risk management, and quickly identify and respond to incidents. With ZenGRC, you can do all this to protect data integrity, safeguard your business, and minimize loss events. You can even plan for worst-case scenarios and potential threats to boost your business continuity and disaster recovery program.
To see how ZenGRC can guide your organization to infosec confidence, schedule a free demo.