You have probably come across the term “CIA” in the news, movies or other media. When we think about the “CIA”, the first thing that pops up is most likely the US intelligence agency. However, CIA in cyber security has nothing to do with the intelligence agency.
Instead, CIA in cyber security simply means: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. It’s also referred as the CIA Triad.
The CIA Triad is a model that organizations use to evaluate their security capabilities and risk. Addressing security along these three core components provide clear guidance for organizations to develop stronger and more effective security best practices and policies.
CIA Triad Broken Down
Confidentiality in cyber security
When doing business with clients and prospects, it is common to collect and store their personal information. Names, email addresses and phone numbers are a few examples of personal information. This is sensitive data that your company is responsible for protecting and securing. Relying and trusting your cloud or CRM provider is not enough. Your business needs to enforce extra security measures to ensure that your clients and prospects’ privacy is safeguarded.
Protecting confidentiality can start from defining and controlling access levels of information internally and externally. For example, those who work in the IT department that typically don’t interact with clients and prospects, should not have access to client information. If someone does not need a type of information to perform their work, then they should not have access to that information.
When data accessibility is limited, you significantly lower the chances of having information being leaked accidentally or intentionally.
Examples of confidentiality risks include data breaches caused by criminals, insiders inappropriately accessing and/or sharing information, accidental distribution of sensitive information to too wide of an audience.
Integrity in cyber security
Integrity means that data or information in your system is maintained so that it is not modified or deleted by unauthorized parties. This is an important element of data hygiene, reliability and accuracy.
To reserve data integrity, the easiest methods are backing up your data, using access controls, monitoring your audit trail and encrypting your data.
Examples of attacks on integrity include email fraud attacks (which compromise the integrity of communications), financial fraud and embezzlement through modification of financial records, even attacks like Stuxnet that impacted the integrity of industrial control systems data flows to cause physical damage.
Availability in cyber security
The final component of the CIA Triad is availability. It means that systems and data are available to individuals when they need it under any circumstances, including power outages or natural disasters. Without availability, even if you have met the other two requirements of the CIA Triad, your business can be negatively impacted.
To ensure availability, your organization can use redundant networks, servers and applications. These can be programmed to become available when the primary system is broken down. Besides having backups, the design of IT architecture plays a key role as well. For instance, if high availability is a component of your IT systems, then you could maintain a certain level of operational performance for an extended period of time even in unexpected circumstances.
Examples of attacks on availability include Denial of Service attacks, Ransomware (which encrypts system data and files so they are not accessible to legitimate users), even swatting attacks which can interrupt business operations.
A risk management process grounded in a strong understanding of the CIA Triad forms the basis of a robust security program and data management. When you follow this model and meet its requirements, your organization and clients are better protected. If you combine a risk management framework with regular technical testing and consistent monitoring you can effectively strengthen your security posture and reduce long-term risk exposure.
Enroll your teams in security awareness training to reduce the chance of falling victim to cyber attacks now.