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There are three key concepts of information security which you may or may not be familiar with:
o Confidentiality is the characteristic of information whereby only those with sufficient privileges and a demonstrated need may access certain information. When unauthorized individuals or systems can view information, confidentiality is breached.
o Integrity is the quality or state of being whole, complete, and uncorrupted. The integrity of information is threatened when it is exposed to corruption, damaged, destruction, or other disruption of its authentic state. Corruption can occur while information is being entered, stored, or transmitted.
o Availability is the characteristic of information that enables user access to information in a usable format without interference or obstruction. A user in this definition may be either a person or another computer system. Availability does not imply that the information is accessible to any user; rather, it means availability to authorized users.
This is known as the “security triad”. It can be further expanded upon:
o Information that is collected, used, and stored by an organization is intended only for the purposes stated by the data owner at the time it was collected. Privacy as a characteristic of information does not signify freedom from observation (the meaning usually associated with the word), but in this context, privacy means that information will be used only in ways known to the person providing it. Many organizations collect, swap, and sell personal information as a commodity. It is now possible to collect and combine information on individuals from separate sources, which has yielded detailed databases whose data might be used in ways not agreed to, or even communicated to, the original data owner. Many people have become aware of these practices and are looking to the government for protection of the privacy of their data.
o An information system possesses the characteristic of identification when it is able to recognize individual users. Identification is the first step in gaining access to secured material, and it services as the foundation for subsequent authentication and authorization. Identification and authentication are essential to establishing the level of access or authorization that an individual is granted. Identification is typically performed by means of a user name or other ID.
o An information system possesses the identity that he or she claims. Examples include the use of cryptographic certificates to establish Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections or the use of cryptographic hardware devices--for example, hardware tokens provided by companies such as RSA's SecurID--to confirm a user's identity.
o After the identity of a user is authenticated, a process called authorization assures that the user (whether a person or a computer) has been specifically and explicitly authorized by the proper authority to access, update, or delete the contents of an information asset. An example of authorization is the activation and use of access control lists and authorization groups in a networking environment. Another example is a database authorization scheme to verify that the user of an application is authorized for specific functions such as reading, writing, creating, and deleting.
o Accountability of information exists when a control provides assurance that every activity undertaken can be attributed to a named person or automated process. For example, audit logs that track user activity on an information system provide accountability. (Management of Information Security by Michael E. Whitman and Herbert J. Mattord)