Definition

information security (infosec)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Managing information security amid new threats: A guide for CIOs
Contributor(s): Taina Teravainen

Information security (infosec) is a set of strategies for managing the processes, tools and policies necessary to prevent, detect, document and counter threats to digital and non-digital information. Infosec responsibilities include establishing a set of business processes that will protect information assets regardless of how the information is formatted or whether it is in transit, is being processed or is at rest in storage.

Infosec programs are built around the core objectives of the CIA triad: maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability of IT systems and business data. These objectives ensure that sensitive information is only disclosed to authorized parties (confidentiality), prevent unauthorized modification of data (integrity) and guarantee the data can be accessed by authorized parties when requested (availability).

Many large enterprises employ a dedicated security group to implement and maintain the organization's infosec program. Typically, this group is led by a chief information security officer. The security group is generally responsible for conducting risk management, a process through which vulnerabilities and threats to information assets are continuously assessed, and the appropriate protective controls are decided on and applied. The value of an organization lies within its information -- its security is critical for business operations, as well as retaining credibility and earning the trust of clients.

Threats to sensitive and private information come in many different forms, such as malware and phishing attacks, identity theft and ransomware. To deter attackers and mitigate vulnerabilities at various points, multiple security controls are implemented and coordinated as part of a layered defense in depth strategy. This should minimize the impact of an attack. To be prepared for a security breach, security groups should have an incident response plan (IRP) in place. This should allow them to contain and limit the damage, remove the cause and apply updated defense controls.

Information security processes and policies typically involve physical and digital security measures to protect data from unauthorized access, use, replication or destruction. These measures can include mantraps, encryption key management, network intrusion detection systems, password policies and regulatory compliance. A security audit may be conducted to evaluate the organization's ability to maintain secure systems against a set of established criteria.

Jobs within the information security field vary in their titles, but some common designations include IT chief security officer (CSO), chief information security officer (CISO), security engineer, information security analyst, security systems administrator and IT security consultant.

This was last updated in September 2016

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How does your organization ensure that all its staff members are involved and up-to-date on information security procedures?
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We have periodic required online training, and reminder emails sent out every now and then. Also phishing tests. I think that it helps to keep people aware. 
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