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Information security

What do we mean by the term 'secure'? Let's explore this in more detail.
What does it actually mean to be ‘secure’? Most people would think that security means protecting against unauthorised access but there’s actually a lot more to it.

Often when we talk about security we will start with the CIA triage. This doesn’t refer to the well-known intelligence service; it’s an abbreviation of the following three main features of information security:

  • Confidentiality ensures that information is not disclosed to unauthorised persons and processes
  • Integrity provides several guarantees:
    • Preventing the modification of information by unauthorised users
    • Preventing the unauthorised or unintentional modification of information by authorised users
    • Preserving internal and external consistency
    • Internal – logical connection within the data in the system
    • External – logical connection between the objects in the real world and their representations in the system
  • Availability guarantees that authorised users have uninterrupted access to the system/information

Other evaluation factors

In addition, there are many other factors that we need to consider when evaluating the security of a system. Some of these are:

  • Authenticity – confirmation of the origin and identity of an information source
  • Identification – confirming the identity of a user
  • Authentication – confirmation of the evidence of a user’s identity
  • Accountability – assigning responsibility for a user’s actions
  • Non-repudiation – a user cannot deny that they have sent a particular message or performed a particular action
  • Privacy – protection of individually identifiable information
  • Organisational security policy – a high-level statement of the structure, processes and mechanisms covering information security

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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