What Is Information Security (InfoSec)?

In our current digital age, you can find almost anything with a click of a button or a stroke on a keyboard. With all kinds of information at your fingertips, though, it’s also easy for people to track your digital footprints and access your data, leaving you vulnerable to a number of cyber threats. That’s where information security comes in.

Information security, or infosec for short, is a rapidly developing and changing field dedicated to protecting information from unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. It encompasses everything from network and infrastructure security to access controls.

What does Info Security Mean?

Information security, or infosec, is the practice of protecting information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability. It involves physical and digital measures like encryption, firewalls, antivirus software, and user authentication to safeguard data and IT infrastructure.

Principles of Information Security

Information security can be broken down into three core principles, collectively known as the CIA triad: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The interplay between these database principles enables information security systems to address potential risks and threats effectively. The CIA triad also helps organizations strike a balance between security requirements and operational needs to achieve their business objectives while mitigating security risks.

In addition to the CIA Triad, there are other important aspects that shape the policies for information privacy, such as nonrepudiation and authentication.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is intended to keep sensitive information, personal data, and other valuable assets private, so they are not misused or cause harm. Policies are usually put in place to guarantee that only authorized individuals or systems have access to and can modify this information. Individuals and companies may also use encryption and access controls to keep information safe.

Integrity

Integrity guarantees that information remains credible, accurate, and consistent throughout its lifecycle. It prevents errors or malware from interfering with the data in order to establish credibility and trust with users. It can also boost performance and stability for data-driven organizations, making it especially valuable for various enterprises. Verifying user credentials and logging and auditing are some integral parts of maintaining data integrity.

Availability

Availability refers to the accessibility and functionality of an organization’s data, networks, and systems for authorized users. To restrain unauthorized parties from accessing data, information security systems guard against threats such as system malfunctions or cyberattacks. Backups and routine system maintenance are among some of the tools used to preserve data availability.

Non-repudiation

Non-repudiation ensures that someone cannot deny the authenticity or origin of a message, contract, or action. In other words, once a party has sent or received a message or completed a transaction, they cannot later deny their involvement in the process.

Non-repudiation is usually achieved through:

  • Digital Signatures: Digital signatures authenticate the identity of the sender by providing a unique identifier for each signer and creating a digital fingerprint that can be verified by anyone with access to the public key.
  • Timestamps: Timestamps provide evidence of the exact time when a message or transaction occurred.
  • Audit Trails: Audit trails document every step of a transaction or communication process. These records include details such as the identities of the parties involved, the actions taken, and the timestamps of each event.
  • Legal Frameworks and Agreements: Non-repudiation can also be enforced through legal contracts, agreements, or regulations. These documents establish the responsibilities and liabilities of each party involved in a transaction and outline the consequences of repudiating their actions.

These methods ultimately maintain the integrity and origin of the data and reduce the risk of fraud, disputes, and legal issues.

Authentication

Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of registered users, systems, or entities to mitigate the risk of data breaches. Users may create strong passwords or use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect their information. The more security methods are used, the safer the data is.

Some factors authentication methods use include:

  • Knowledge: Something only the user knows, like a password or PIN.
  • Possession: Something the user has, like a physical security token, a smart card, or a mobile device.
  • Inherence: A unique characteristic of the user, such as biometric characteristics like fingerprints, facial recognition, or voice recognition.
  • Location: This can be determined through IP addresses, GPS coordinates, or other location-aware technologies.
  • Time: Access is only granted during certain times or intervals.

Access control

Access control is a security measure that regulates and manages permissions to access restricted data and resources. It certifies that users or systems have the necessary credentials to access information. Access control systems will often audit and monitor login activity in case any security issues arise.

Here are some of the approaches these systems will take:

  • Discretionary Access Control (DAC): In DAC, access control decisions are based on the discretion of the resource owner. Each resource has an associated access control list (ACL) specifying which users or groups have permission to access it.
  • Mandatory Access Control (MAC): MAC is based on system-enforced policies set by the system administrator or security policy. Users do not have control over access permissions.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): RBAC assigns users permissions according to their roles or responsibilities. This simplifies access control management by reducing the number of individual permissions to manage.
  • Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC): ABAC evaluates various characteristics such as user attributes (e.g., role, department), resource attributes (e.g., sensitivity level), and environmental attributes (e.g., time of access, location) to make access control decisions. ABAC provides more granular control over access compared to traditional models.
  • Rule-Based Access Control (RBAC): RBAC uses rules or conditions to determine access permissions. These rules can be based on various factors such as user attributes, resource attributes, or contextual information.

Ethical and legal issues

Considering how vast data networks are, there are a number of ethical and legal issues that can arise over managing so much information. Failure to uphold data integrity and violating certain policies can breach trust and compromise data. Therefore, it is indispensable to develop legal principles and guidelines so individuals can adhere to responsible and secure digital practices.

When designing these frameworks, some important ethical values to consider are:

  • Respect for Privacy: Individual privacy should be prioritized as data is collected, stored, and used responsibly and transparently. Organizations should obtain explicit consent for data collection, use encryption to protect sensitive information, and minimize data retention.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Organizations should be open about their data practices and take accountability for any data breaches or security incidents that occur. This includes promptly notifying affected parties and authorities, conducting thorough investigations, and implementing measures to prevent future incidents.
  • Fairness and Equity: Information security systems should guarantee that access to technology and information is inclusive and available to everyone, and that security measures do not disproportionately affect particular groups or persons.
  • Social Responsibility: Organizations should consider the societal impact of their information security practices and strive to contribute positively to the community, such as supporting cybersecurity education and awareness initiatives or advocating for policies that protect digital rights and freedoms.

By implementing regulations that adequately address these concerns, companies can maintain user privacy and use information more fairly.

Risk and Change Management

Risk and change management involve recognizing, evaluating, and minimizing cybersecurity risks. Organizations may use risk management to detect any liabilities before safeguarding information. A company may also use this to decide how much risk it is willing to take and put the necessary precautions in place to mitigate risk.

On the other hand, change management ensures that security systems adapt to evolving risks, as improper data management and system changes can disrupt operations or potentially expose data. Together, risk and change management build companies’ resilience in the face of cybersecurity threats.

Data Classification

Data classification is the process of arranging data based on different criteria such as content, context, or user judgment. Classification usually begins with identifying sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial data, intellectual property, and any other information that could cause harm or damage if accessed by unauthorized parties.

Once sensitive data is identified, it is categorized based on its level of sensitivity and importance. Common classification categories include public, internal use only, confidential, and restricted. Each category is then assigned a corresponding label or tag to indicate its classification level. This then helps organizations manage and protect their data more effectively by applying appropriate security measures and controls.

Since data classification requires knowing a significant amount of background information, data discovery will often be performed to guarantee accuracy. Once data is secured, organizations then make sure it complies with standards and regulations.

Data classification also guides organizations in defining appropriate handling procedures for different types of data. This includes guidelines for data storage, transmission, sharing, and disposal. For example, highly sensitive data may require encrypted storage and strict access controls, while less sensitive data may have more relaxed handling procedures.

5 Components of Information Security

Information security can contain a broad range of infrastructure, but one thing that can be agreed on is that a robust information security framework needs to have a strong backbone in order to work. Let’s look at the five major elements that constitute this foundation.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment processes are intended to aggregate risk to decrease the chance of a cyberattack. It encourages companies to then implement preventative measures to uphold information safety. In the event that a breach does happen, risk management also enables organizations to do damage control.

Security Policies and Procedures

With all kinds of scams and cyber risks becoming more prevalent, it can be hard for individuals to know what to do in every given situation. Establishing comprehensive security policies and procedures gives organizations a way to outline expectations for employees and stakeholders and maintain secure practices to avert these threats.

Security Controls

Security controls entail a variety of technical, administrative, and physical functions and safeguards specifically aimed at protecting information systems from attack. They typically support risk management strategies and are key to upholding the CIA Triad by utilizing defensive mechanisms.

Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR)

Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) primarily deal with preserving functionality and recovery when an organization is faced with disruptions such as cyberattacks and hardware malfunctions. Business continuity aims to be as efficient as possible by implementing planning and strategies to minimize downtime and sustain critical operations.

In the wake of a digital crisis, a disaster recovery plan enables a business to quickly restore access to its IT infrastructure and information systems. Regular backups and secure storage mechanisms can ensure that data remains intact, preventing data loss or unauthorized access. Overall, disaster recovery enhances organizational resilience to mitigate any financial losses and continue to safeguard a company’s reputation and user trust.

Asset Management

Asset management is the constant, real-time identification of your organization’s IT assets, including information, hardware, software, and personnel. Having an inventory of your assets can help you allocate resources more efficiently and address possible risks or vulnerabilities in your information.

What Are the Seven P’s of Information Security Management?

Information security management involves having a system of policies and procedures in place to safeguard digital assets. When it comes to managing information, you should bear these seven P’s in mind.

  1. Preparedness. Information security management starts with being equipped to handle any threats that may arise. It is important to have the right resources, training, and systems to preserve data and manage assets.
  1. People. Employees should always be vigilant and prepared to identify and handle security risks. Given that the effectiveness of information security systems is largely dependent on the people who operate them, making sure that they are well-educated about information security practices is necessary to keep a company’s operations running smoothly.
  1. Policies. Policies set forth the guidelines and proper conduct for maintaining a strong information security system. Having a well-defined and strictly enforced policy is necessary for it to be effective.
  1. Protocol. A comprehensive, strategic framework should be used to enforce and oversee information security rules and procedures to add an extra layer of defense against cyber threats.
  1. Projects. Projects should keep information systems up-to-date with the latest security improvements and monitor various activities so data protection measures remain successful.
  1. Partnerships. Partnerships with third-party service providers and other organizations can further strengthen risk management and develop better cybersecurity strategies. A strong partnership should always uphold the safety of information and follow a strategic plan to maximize collaboration.
  1. Protection. Finally, all physical and technical programs and procedures are put in place to protect information assets.

Top Seven Threats to Information Security

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), over the last five years, the agency has reported 3.26 million total complaints of internet scams and $27.6b in total losses. Data can be compromised anywhere, anytime, so it is important to be aware of these common threats:

1. Malware

Malware is a broad category of malicious software that infiltrates systems, steals sensitive information, and harms the overall functionality of devices. Among many types of malware are:

  • Trojan horses. Trojan horses are computer programs that are seemingly harmless but conceal malicious code. Once a program is downloaded, the code is then activated and infects the device.
  • Spyware. Spywarecollects confidential data from installed software and then delivers that information to a third party for their own use.
  • Adware. Adware appears in pop-ups on websites or browsers to show unsolicited ads.
  • Viruses are particularly vicious programs designed to infect and spread across computer systems without a user’s or system administrator’s awareness or consent. They typically reside inside a host, such as a link or file, and are only activated when a user interacts with them.
  • Worms. Worms are stand-alone pieces of malware that spread without transferring themselves to a host software. They usually infiltrate security flaws accidentally left behind by developers to infect that system.

2. Unpatched software

Not keeping systems up-to-date with the latest security measures can be one of the biggest liabilities to a company if its data is breached. Attackers can easily exploit vulnerabilities and disrupt operations, which can then lead to lost productivity and revenue. As a result, having a weak software system can ultimately tarnish companies’ reputations and compromise user trust.

3. Ransomware

Ransomware attacks have cost governments and companies billions of dollars in financial losses and damages. Ransomware is a kind of malware that encrypts a user’s files and restricts access to their data and systems, rendering them inoperable. The perpetrator will then demand payment for their release; once the ransom is paid, the hostage files and systems are restored. If a user or organization fails to pay, their data will ultimately be deleted unless it has been backed up.

4. Social engineering

Social engineering manipulates users into revealing and potentially compromising information. These attacks can be highly effective as they often involve exploiting trust, authority, fear, or other emotions that influence human behavior.

Phishing scams are among the most common social engineering tactics and cyber threats today. They often involve using fake emails or websites that pose as reputable companies or sources to trick people into giving up their personal information or downloading malware onto their computers through links or attachments. Phishing emails and messages will typically appeal to their recipients’ urgency by claiming a certain action is needed and asking them to verify their credit card number or fill out a form with personal or financial data.

5. Drive-by download attacks

Drive-by download attacks occur when malware is automatically installed on a user’s device without their knowledge or consent. Attackers often exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers or plugins and quietly gain access to a user’s personal data without making them open a link or directly download malicious software. The inconspicuous nature of these websites and pop-ups, as well as the relative ease with which viruses can then infect a device, makes these attacks especially dangerous.

6. Insider threats

Insider threats come from individuals within an organization. These individuals can be malicious actors who misuse their access to compromise security or negligent employees who unintentionally leak sensitive information or introduce vulnerabilities. Since it can be difficult to distinguish insider threats from regular users, data can be especially vulnerable if secure policies and procedures aren’t put in place.

7. Advanced persistent threats (APTs)

As defined by the NIST, advanced persistent threats (APTs) are well-funded and organized groups “that [possess] sophisticated levels of expertise and significant resources which allow [them] to create opportunities to achieve [their] objectives by using multiple attack vectors.” APTs aim to gain prolonged access to a network to exfiltrate information and spy on organizations continuously. Once an advanced threat gains a foothold in a security system, keeping your data safe can become harder.

Active vs Passive Attacks

Malicious attacks can come in many sizes and forms but are usually divided into two main categories: active attacks and passive attacks.

Active Attack

An active attack consists of deliberate actions to disrupt or gain unauthorized access to systems or data. Active attackers will try to directly manipulate the data or introduce infected programs to interfere with a system’s operations, which can cause serious harm and undermine data integrity and availability.

Examples include:

  • Denial-of-Service (DoS): Overwhelming a server with excessive traffic or resource requests to hinder its availability and prevent users from accessing it.
  • Man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attacks: Intercepting and manipulating communication between two parties, potentially altering the information as it is exchanged.

Unfortunately, once an active attack occurs, organizations have little to no control over their data and services and can have difficulty in dislodging an attacker. That’s why having strong preventive measures in place ensures these attacks don’t happen in the first place and mitigates any effects from them.

Countermeasures:

  • Firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems
  • Regular software updates and patches
  • Encryption

Passive Attack

In contrast, a passive attack tends to fly more under the radar and attempts to gather sensitive information or intelligence without the knowledge of any parties involved. This can put attackers in a position to access unauthorized data to use for their own purposes, thereby putting the data’s confidentiality at risk.

Examples include:

  • Eavesdropping: Monitoring network traffic to intercept sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords.
  • Traffic Analysis: Analyzing patterns in communication to gain insights into activities or relationships without necessarily capturing the content of the communication.

Since attackers avoid leaving traces of their tampering with data, passive attacks can easily go undetected for a long period of time. However, passive attacks are easier to prevent when you take steps to guard your information more closely.

Countermeasures:

  • Encryption
  • Regularly monitoring network traffic for suspicious activity

Information Security and Data Protection Law

Information security is subject to several regulations and statutes designed to protect users and organizations. As information advances, however, stronger legal frameworks and greater protections are needed to safeguard information. Many companies can still collect, share, and sell user data unregulated, and growing cybercrime rates pose major threats to information systems. The U.S. has already established some important federal laws regarding data privacy and protection, such as:

  • Privacy Act of 1974. The Privacy Act of 1974 sets forth guidelines that prohibitfederal agencies from disclosing information without express consent other than when a few exceptions apply. Individuals can also request their information and are protected from privacy violations. However, the execution of these policies often differs at the state level.
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act specifically mandates that financial institutions be transparent about their information-sharing practices to consumers. The law also requires these organizations to protect user data and notify users of data collection and usage policies. Users then have the right to opt out of their information being shared with third parties.
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Enacted in 1998, COPPA restricts the personal information companies can collect on children under the age of thirteen and requires these businesses to protect the privacy of that data. The law also states that parents can manage their children’s data.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (2018). The California Consumer Privacy Act is a relatively new data privacy law. Under the CCPA, consumers can request access to data collected by businesses and/or have it deleted. A significant portion of the act also gives users more transparency on what personal information a business collects and who they may sell it to. In 2023, the California Privacy Rights Act went into effect and extended user protections on disclosing sensitive information.

Information Security with KelynTech

KelynTech is committed to defending your data from attacks. When it comes to information security, we uphold the highest standards to preserve your data’s value. Partnering with leading cloud storage providers enables us to solve your technical and management problems and give you the best of what our KMDS services have to offer.

Our safe storage solutions ensure that your information is stored securely. With powerful servers well-equipped to manage your data, we can provide immediate access to backed-up data. All of our software is also updated with the newest features and improvements to keep your systems secure. Whatever your security needs are, KelynTech will make sure your organization is prepared to handle anything that comes its way.