Information security is the effort companies undertake to protect their enterprise data information from security breaches. Without information security, an organization is vulnerable to phishing, malware, viruses, ransomware, and other attacks that may result in the theft, tampering, or deletion of confidential information.

The average cost of a single incident can run $4.45 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, but 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 and digital security. A cybersecurity program is a subset of your information security strategy.

Principles of Information Security

There are three basic principles of information security:

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

Together, these principles are known as the CIA Triad. Every infosec program must follow these principles for maximum effectiveness.


This first principle is meant to prevent the unauthorized access or disclosure of enterprise information; it seeks to assure that only authorized users have access to data. The confidentiality principle is considered to be compromised when someone who doesn’t have the proper authorization is able to access your organization’s data and then damage, compromise, or delete it.


Data integrity is about maintaining the data’s accuracy, trustworthiness, consistency, and reliability. This means that the data should not be compromised or improperly modified (either inadvertently or maliciously) by someone without the proper authority.


Availability means that information is easily accessible to authorized users whenever needed, minimizing interruptions or downtime.

The CIA Triad is the foundation of information security. These three principles inform and affect one another, determining the strength and efficacy of your infosec program.

That said, other principles also govern infosec and enhance its effectiveness.


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 holds people accountable for actions they take that might affect the organization’s information. Such accountability can deter bad behaviors that put enterprise data at risk.

Risk management

Risk management allows organizations to identify risks to information, then protect that information without hampering access or productivity. Risk management also helps a company determine the level of risk it is willing to tolerate and implement safeguards to reduce this risk.

Data classification

Data classification categorizes data according to type, sensitivity, and impact in case it is 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 various regulatory mandates an organization might have, 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:

  • Public
  • Internal-only
  • Confidential
  • Restricted

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 the company regain use of its critical information systems and IT infrastructure as soon as possible after a disaster. It assures that data remains available and unchanged, which reduces the risk of data loss. Data backups and redundant systems are two common BC/DR strategies in infosec.

Change management

A formal change management process is also crucial for infosec. When data and system changes are not managed properly, that can lead to outages that affect availability, prevent authorized users from accessing the data they need, or otherwise harm security.

What Are the Seven Ps of Information Security Management?

The following are the seven Ps of information security management:

  1. Policy. Policy involves defining and establishing information security policies that guide an organization’s overall approach to protecting its information assets. Policies outline rules, responsibilities, and acceptable behavior related to information security.
  2. Program. Program refers to the strategic plan and management system to implement and monitor information security policies and practices. It includes risk assessments, security awareness training, incident response planning, and compliance monitoring.
  3. People. People create awareness among employees about security risks and best practices, establishing roles and responsibilities, and ensuring that individuals are accountable for their actions regarding information security.
  4. Processes. Processes focus on the procedures and workflows that support information security. It includes access control, incident response, change management, and vulnerability assessments.
  5. Protection. Protection refers to the technical and physical measures to safeguard information assets. This includes implementing firewalls, encryption, access controls, antivirus software, and other security technologies.
  6. Projects. Projects involve managing information security initiatives and improvements, such as system upgrades, security enhancements, and the implementation of new security solutions.
  7. Partnerships. Partnerships emphasize the importance of collaborating with external partners, such as vendors, suppliers, and other organizations. It assures that information security is taken into account in third-party relationships and that partners adhere to necessary security standards.

Top Seven Threats to Information Security

1. Viruses and worms

A virus is 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.

2. Malware

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:

  • Adware
  • Malvertising
  • Botnet
  • Remote administration tools (RATs)
  • Rootkits
  • Spyware

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

3. Ransomware

Ransomware is 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. The number of ransomware attacks worldwide stands at a staggering 493.33 million as of 2023, and the average ransom demand is $4.7 million. This is one of the biggest cyber risks today.

4. Phishing scams

In a phishing scam, hackers trick 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, they are 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.

5. Drive-by download attacks

In drive-by download attacks, malicious code is 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 downloading, allowing cybercriminals to steal sensitive information from the victim’s device.

6. Insider threats

Careless and malicious insiders are both serious information security threats. Organizations have experienced a substantial surge in the cost of credential theft, soaring by 65 percent, from $2.79 million in 2020 to a staggering $4.6 million today. Moreover, incidents that took over 90 days to contain have proven to be even more

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

7. Advanced persistent threats (APTs)

In an APT attack, an attacker penetrates the enterprise network and remains undetected for an extended period. The attacker’s goal is not to cause immediate damage, but to monitor network activity and steal information. These attackers are often organized crime, terrorist groups, or state-sponsored hackers.

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 assure that your organization’s infosec efforts are all 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.

From the Back Office to the Boardroom:
The Changing Role of the Security Executive