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What Is Information Security? Beginner's Guide to Systems and Information

October 12, 2022
Inkit Team

Information security, or InfoSec, deals with securing your company's sensitive data and information physically and electronically. 

In today’s era, when data breaches are becoming common day by day, you need to have information security in place to ensure an unauthorized person doesn’t access your data or exploit it. Negligence in this regard could not only damage your company’s reputation, but it’ll also result in hefty fines. 

According to UpGuard, organizations with an employee range between 500 and 1,000 had the smallest average data breach cost at $2.63M. While the most common and most expensive type of record lost was customer personally identifiable information (PII). An average cost per customer PII record was $180.

Infographic on the costs per employee headcount after a data breach

Below, you’ll learn what InfoSec is, how businesses use it, what are some of the biggest consequences of data breaches, and what are the best information security practices. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is Information Security (InfoSec) And Why Does It Matter?
  • What’s The Difference Between Information Security And Cyber Security?
  • What Are The 6 Major Types Of Information Security?
  • Examples Of Information Security In The Real World
  • 3 Information Security Best Practices To Avoid Data Breaches

What Is Information Security (InfoSec) And Why Does It Matter?

Over the past 10 years, more than 100,000 records have been stolen in over 300 data breaches

These stats highlight the importance of having information security within the organizations to ensure that no sensitive information gets out in a data breach.

But what is information security, exactly?

Information security, also known as InfoSec, involves the identification, control, and protection of sensitive information through various on-site and online tools so that it doesn’t get stolen or exploited.

Here are some other objectives aside from making sure your sensitive information doesn’t get out.

What are the objectives of information security?

There are multiple objectives to having an information security plan in an organization, the biggest ones includes: 

  • Creating an effective strategy for information security. 
  • Defining security objectives for future security activities and decision-making.
  • Establishing quality metrics for information security function outcomes.
  • Estimating cost and risks.
  • Securing setting application, infrastructure, and physical access to the information.
  • Implementing an information security management system (ISMS).
  • Identifying and understanding company information security capability and outcomes

For more information security objectives, see our full guide on data security standards

What are the 3 main principles of InfoSec?

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability are the three main principles of InfoSec, together termed as the CIA Triad.

Here’s what each term means:

  • Confidentiality: Confidentiality measures incorporate ways to ensure that the personal and confidential business information stays private and is only accessible to those who are authorized to access it for organizational functions. This is also related to setting up user roles so that only people with a specific role can access or edit certain sensitive information. 
  • Integrity: Integrity involves measures to safeguard the accuracy and reliability of the data. 
  • Availability: Availability is about protecting the system’s ability to make the data available to a user when they need it. It’s all about technology infrastructure.

What’s The Difference Between Information Security And Cyber Security?

Information security is often confused with cyber security because of the close nature of both forms of security. Even though they sound almost identical to each other, there is one major difference. 

So, what’s the difference between information security and cyber security?

  • Information security, or InfoSec, deals with identifying, controlling, and securing a business's sensitive information through a number of sources, both online and offline. 
  • Cyber security, meanwhile, involves digital data protection.

For example, information security involves protecting servers from physical access in addition to electronic access, whereas, cyber security only deals with handling electronic attacks. 

But even then, there are a few different types of information security.

Let’s take a look.

What Are The 6 Major Types Of Information Security?

Generally speaking, there are six major types of information security

They are as follows:

  • Applications Security: This type of InfoSec covers software security vulnerabilities in application programming interfaces (APIs) and web and mobile apps. 
  • Cloud Security: Cloud security deals with information in companies and third-party cloud applications.
  • Cryptography: Cryptography covers safe data encryption and decryption. 
  • Infrastructure Security: Infrastructure security deals with the information infrastructure, such as data centers, desktops, mobile devices, servers, and internal and external networks.
  • Incidence Response: Incidence response is responsible for monitoring, investigating, and mitigating potential malicious attacks.
  • Vulnerability Management: Vulnerability management incorporates scanning of the overall system to identify weak points and prioritizing remediation. 

Though, to make the most out of this section, let’s take a look at some real-life examples of information security to see what it truly looks like in practice.

Examples Of Information Security In The Real World

Companies throughout the world implement different strategies to establish information security. 

Two of the main ways are through chief information security officers (CISOs) and a security operations center (SOC).

Let’s define what these terms mean in the context of InfoSec.

What is a CISO?

Chief information security officers or CISOs are individuals responsible for a company’s information security. 

CISOs could be either stand-alone or they could be doing the work alongside their duties as the vice president (VP) of security or the chief security officer (CSO). Their main responsibilities include:

  • Security operations.
  • Cyber risk and intelligence.
  • Data loss and fraud prevention.
  • Security architecture.
  • Identification and assessment management.
  • Program management.
  • Investigations and forensics.
  • Governance.
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What is Security Operations Centre (SOC)?

Security operations centre (SOC) comprises tools and team members responsible for continuous monitoring and protection of an organization’s information security. 

There are three main models of SOCs:

  • Internal SOC – Internal SOC is a team operating from within the organization to provide the highest level of control and security.
  • Virtual SOC – A Virtual SOC is a third-party company providing information security services.
  • Hybrid SOC – Hybrid SOCs are a combination of internal and virtual SOCs.

As you might have guessed, the main objective of information security is to protect sensitive information and systems that support the organization's operations.

Now, let’s take a look at what happens if that objective is not met and a data breach occurs.

What Are The Consequences Of Data Breaches?

Data breaches are becoming fairly common as the malicious aspect of the IT develops. According to Purplesec, cybercrime has gone up by 600% since COVID and it is estimated that worldwide, cyber crimes will cost $10.5T annually by 2025.

These data breaches have consequences that could not only dent your company’s reputation but can also result in millions of dollars of loss in business and fines. 

This is primarily because of the increased emphasis on data privacy pf customers through different laws applicable in various jurisdictions throughout the world. 

Though, of course, it depends on the specific type of sensitive information and industry regulations.

A few of the main data privacy laws and the consequences of their breach are as follows:

According to UpGuard, human error is the main facilitator of phishing attacks, social engineering, and most data breaches. Fortunately, organizations with security automation technologies were able to reduce data breach costs by up to 80%.

infographic on the cost per data breach depending on the security deployment level

Let’s take a look at some other ways you can reduce the chances of a data breach in the first place.

3 Information Security Best Practices To Avoid Data Breaches

There are various ways in which you can secure your organization’s information. 

Some of the best practices to avoid data breaches with robust information security are as follows.

Document and understand the local technical environment

In order to ensure that you have an efficient and secure system in place to safeguard your information security, you need to make sure that you understand and document the local technical environment and existing safeguards in place. 

You can start by creating and maintaining documents providing details of all the physical systems, hosting functions, and databases that support your organization’s operations. 

One of the key aspects of securing information is to educate and explain to the technicians all the details of the various systems and applications under their command. They need to understand how the systems or data have been deployed, what are the interconnections, and how they communicate. 

The following areas of the technical environment are the most essential in terms of documentation and understanding:

  • Web, file, and mail servers.
  • Operating systems.
  • Computer systems by IP and name (DNS and NetBIOS).
  • Application and software.
  • Antivirus protocols.
  • Local departmental applications.
  • Database Management Systems (DBMS).
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) services.
  • Network Address Translation (NAT) devices.
  • Wireless and public access points, terminals, and workstations.
  • Proxies.
  • Email.

It’s important to have all the important information security documentation in one place you can refer to and update as needed. For higher efficiency, document control management can also help here.

Establish a system to mitigate security vulnerabilities

After documenting and understanding the system, the next step is to establish a system for the mitigation of security vulnerabilities

Here’s an overview of how you could do that:

  • Provide the required resources to your technicians so that they are able to establish the most secure system possible within your company’s budget.
  • Implement vendor-supplied fixes to protect against system compromise.
  • Utilize secure and advanced technical tools to scan systems for security vulnerabilities.
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software throughout your system.
  • Get rid of extra or unwanted hardware and software, and replace insecure ones with better alternatives
  • Encrypt sensitive data (this is specifically applicable during data transference via online sources).
  • Establish and follow a baseline procedure for user accounts, passwords, and sharing sensitive documents. 
  • Establish a mitigation protocol to counter an attack and handle the system.
  • Stay updated with technology to improve the security system.
  • Routinely analyze and maintain system logs, and ensure that there’s an adequate system backup. 

Establish appropriate physical safeguards and access controls

Protecting sensitive business information isn’t just about safeguarding against unauthorized electronic access to systems. It also involves securing the physical system and all the other accessible physical sources of information, for instance, printed documents. 

Here’s what you can do to ensure that your systems and infrastructure are physically secure:

  • Establish a physical security policy, both for physical data and electronic information hardware.
  • Based on the policy, create a thorough, physical security system for your company’s physical information. 
  • Only allow authorized personnel to access the servers.
  • Implement climate control for all critical servers.
  • Have a log entry and exit system.
  • Install video monitoring devices or motion sensors depending upon the sensitivity of the data. If it’s electronic files, you can implement a document log system.

Another way to decrease the chances of data leaks is to implement user access permission settings

Essentially, with this, you can assign certain roles to certain employees, through which they gain different permissions with regard to what they can view or edit.

For example, not everyone should be able to access, edit, and manage sensitive customer information at will. Alternatively, you can make it so that they can only view a certain document, without being able to edit, download, or make any changes.

This severely restricts the movement of sensitive documents in your organization, thus, making for safer information security overall.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide to information security was useful and you have a better understanding of how to approach it in your organization now. 

We hope by now you would have understood what information security is and how it works in practice.

As covered above, data breaches are more and more common now, and depending on the number of your employees, the fines can range up to millions. Meanwhile, the most common data breaches often include misconfigured software settings, social engineering, or information security theft due to vulnerabilities.

Managing a lot of sensitive data or customer information you want to make sure doesn’t get leaked or fall through a data breach?

Consider looking into how automated document workflow can help secure your sensitive information documents.

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