What is the CIA Security Triad? Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability Explained

CIA Triad - Blog

The CIA triad stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. This security model has been designed to guide policies to be used for information security within businesses and companies. This model does not have anything to do with the Central Intelligence Agency. The model can also be referred to as the AIC triad, which starts with availability, integrity, and confidentiality.

The elements of the CIA triad are fundamental for cybersecurity needs. Confidentiality refers to rules that limit access to information, availability is the guarantee that information will be available by the authorised people reliably, and integrity is the assurance that information is accurate and trustworthy.

The components of the CIA triad complement and balance each other since no security team can ensure 100% fulfilment of each.

The CIA Triad in Information Security

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the ability to keep something secret. This is a term that we use every day. In technology and business, confidentiality is also a key aspect. Your business may use encryption or VPNs which are tools that contribute to confidentiality since you don’t want anyone to intercept your communications. Confidentiality is used to maintain privacy.

In an enterprise environment, confidentiality is said to be breached when an unwanted or unauthorised user gains access to information and at times, changes it. Your company has many assets that require to be treated with confidentiality. Many of these assets are intangible and they make your company stand out from its competitors. Competition from rivals is usually a reason why confidentiality may be compromised.

Confidentiality can be breached when attackers gain unpermitted access or when they carry out reconnaissance, scan computer systems, and even privilege escalation attacks. Business owners must note that confidentiality can also be breached through human carelessness, insider threats or errors. Such errors may leave passwords or physical equipment exposed.

To mitigate attacks misusing confidentiality, companies should implement strong access controls, deploy data labelling and classification and encrypt data processes for information in transit. Training for staff with access to data is the most critical aspect in ensuring confidentiality.

Integrity

Integrity means that something should be precise, accurate, and factual. Integrity involves maintaining trust. Businesses use computer systems for different purposes, the information and results generated should be trustworthy.

When you secure your information systems against attackers or any cybersecurity threats, you are protecting the integrity of your company data among other important aspects. Hackers or malicious individuals may make changes to your data on purpose.

Some of your staff may also cause changes due to human error ruining the integrity of your data, the results, and your computer systems. Integrity may be also compromised through an attack vector.

Such attacks vectors may include modifying configuration files, tampering with intrusion detection systems, changing system logs, or even having inadequate information security policies. Measures that ensure integrity include digital certificates, digital signatures, data encryption, version control, access controls and strong authentication mechanisms.

Availability

Resources should be available and accessible to authorised individuals when they need them. Availability is widely used in technology and it support business operations and the services your company offers. In information security, it means that authorised users have access to information systems when required. If a user has no access to a certain resource, availability has been limited. If another user cannot get access to a resource yet they have privileged permissions. there is no availability.

A common and well-known threat to availability is a denial of service attack targeting a web-based application or service. This makes the system completely unreachable.

There are several measures to protect against this attack including fault tolerance for hardware that has the server, ensuring redundancy, performing regular software patches, backups, system upgrades, and having a working disaster recovery plan.

Why the CIA Triad Is Important

The CIA triad is important in information technology because it helps business owners understand the security control mechanisms and security measures in their organisation. Security professionals use this model to understand and mitigate risks your business may face.

The CIA triad governs security in business services, software, and marketplace entities. Security professionals and business owners use the CIA triad to investigate if a particular security tool makes information secure, ensures data integrity, and if it will not limit the availability of data when needed by authorized users.

A security tool may require an elaborated login process through authentication. This ensures limited data access and in the long run confidentiality. However, some people who have the right to access the data may have limited or restricted access, this limits availability.

Business owners and stakeholders should keep the CIA triad in mind while establishing or implementing any information security policy or regulation. This will assist the information security team make better decisions of which element to prioritise in a specific data set and the overall company.

Best Practices When Implementing the CIA Triad

To implement the CIA triad, businesses should follow a certain set of best practices. Some of the best practices according to each element include;

Confidentiality element;

  1. Businesses should protect data using two factor authentication.
  2. All business data should be handled according to the business’ required privacy policies.
  3. All-access control lists and files permissions should be kept up to date.

Integrity element;

  1. Companies should use backup and recovery software.
  2. Business owners should ensure their employees are well informed about regulatory and compliance requirements to minimise human error.
  3. Companies should implement access control, security control, version control, checksums, and data logs.

Availability element;

  1. Businesses should use network and server monitoring systems for network security.
  2. Businesses should also implement and use preventative measures like failover, RAID, and redundancy. This will ensure business applications and systems remain updated and available. Businesses should also do regular system upgrades to protect sensitive data.
  3. Businesses should have a data recovery and business continuity plan in case of data loss. Data loss can be a result of a server crash, non-human caused events, power outages, hardware issues, and other factors.

Beyond the CIA Triad

According to information security experts, the CIA triad does not cover everything. There is another method that covers;

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Possession and control
  3. Integrity
  4. Authenticity
  5. Availability
  6. Utility.
  7. Non-repudiation

Although the triad doesn’t cover everything, it is a great tool for planning your information security strategies and policy since the three elements integrate the most crucial aspects.

Businesses should follow the CIA triad elements while going through the risk management process to ensure they are protected against any data breach. They can also hire information security professionals like Kaesim Cybersecurity to guide them through different cybersecurity models and to assist them in building their information security program.

Security programs ensure all individuals are trained on how to maintain the CIA triad given that users unintentionally cause the majority of cyber attacks. You should hold user training regularly in your business to ensure security controls in place are working.

How cyber-secure is your business? Find out with our free cybersecurity health check.

It’s a 30-minute Zoom call that walks through a checklist to assess your current cybersecurity levels and provide a short report with some advice and recommendations.

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