What is Information Security (InfoSec)?
Information security (sometimes referred to as InfoSec) covers the tools and processes that organizations use to protect information. This includes policy settings that prevent unauthorized people from accessing business or personal information. InfoSec is a growing and evolving field that covers a wide range of fields, from network and infrastructure security to testing and auditing.
Information security protects sensitive information from unauthorized activities, including inspection, modification, recording, and any disruption or destruction. The goal is to ensure the safety and privacy of critical data such as customer account details, financial data or intellectual property.
The consequences of security incidents include theft of private information, data tampering, and data deletion. Attacks can disrupt work processes and damage a company’s reputation, and also have a tangible cost.
Organizations must allocate funds for security and ensure that they are ready to detect, respond to, and proactively prevent, attacks such as phishing, malware, viruses, malicious insiders, and ransomware.
What are the 3 Principles of Information Security?
The basic tenets of information security are confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every element of the information security program must be designed to implement one or more of these principles. Together they are called the CIA Triad.
Confidentiality measures are designed to prevent unauthorized disclosure of information. The purpose of the confidentiality principle is to keep personal information private and to ensure that it is visible and accessible only to those individuals who own it or need it to perform their organizational functions.
Consistency includes protection against unauthorized changes (additions, deletions, alterations, etc.) to data. The principle of integrity ensures that data is accurate and reliable and is not modified incorrectly, whether accidentally or maliciously.
Availability is the protection of a system’s ability to make software systems and data fully available when a user needs it (or at a specified time). The purpose of availability is to make the technology infrastructure, the applications and the data available when they are needed for an organizational process or for an organization’s customers.
Information Security vs Cybersecurity
Information security differs from cybersecurity in both scope and purpose. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but more accurately, cybersecurity is a subcategory of information security. Information security is a broad field that covers many areas such as physical security, endpoint security, data encryption, and network security. It is also closely related to information assurance, which protects information from threats such as natural disasters and server failures.
Cybersecurity primarily addresses technology-related threats, with practices and tools that can prevent or mitigate them. Another related category is data security, which focuses on protecting an organization’s data from accidental or malicious exposure to unauthorized parties.
Information Security Policy
An Information Security Policy (ISP) is a set of rules that guide individuals when using IT assets. Companies can create information security policies to ensure that employees and other users follow security protocols and procedures. Security policies are intended to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive systems and information.
Creating an effective security policy and taking steps to ensure compliance is an important step towards preventing and mitigating security threats. To make your policy truly effective, update it frequently based on company changes, new threats, conclusions drawn from previous breaches, and changes to security systems and tools.
Make your information security strategy practical and reasonable. To meet the needs and urgency of different departments within the organization, it is necessary to deploy a system of exceptions, with an approval process, enabling departments or individuals to deviate from the rules in specific circumstances.
Top Information Security Threats
There are hundreds of categories of information security threats and millions of known threat vectors. Below we cover some of the key threats that are a priority for security teams at modern enterprises.
Unsecure or Poorly Secured Systems
The speed and technological development often leads to compromises in security measures. In other cases, systems are developed without security in mind, and remain in operation at an organization as legacy systems. Organizations must identify these poorly secured systems, and mitigate the threat by securing or patching them, decommissioning them, or isolating them.
Social Media Attacks
Many people have social media accounts, where they often unintentionally share a lot of information about themselves. Attackers can launch attacks directly via social media, for example by spreading malware via social media messages, or indirectly, by using information obtained from these sites to analyze user and organizational vulnerabilities, and use them to design an attack.
Social engineering involves attackers sending emails and messages that trick users into performing actions that may compromise their security or divulge private information. Attackers manipulate users using psychological triggers like curiosity, urgency or fear.
Because the source of a social engineering message appears to be trusted, people are more likely to comply, for example by clicking a link that installs malware on their device, or by providing personal information, credentials, or financial details.
Organizations can mitigate social engineering by making users aware of its dangers and training them to identify and avoid suspected social engineering messages. In addition, technological systems can be used to block social engineering at its source, or prevent users from performing dangerous actions such as clicking on unknown links or downloading unknown attachments.
Malware on Endpoints
Organizational users work with a large variety of endpoint devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, many of which are privately owned and not under the organization’s control, and all of which connect regularly to the Internet.
A primary threat on all these endpoints is malware, which can be transmitted by a variety of means, can result in compromise of the endpoint itself, and can also lead to privilege escalation to other organizational systems.
Traditional antivirus software is insufficient to block all modern forms of malware, and more advanced approaches are developing to securing endpoints, such as endpoint detection and response (EDR).
Lack of Encryption
Encryption processes encode data so that it can only be decoded by users with secret keys. It is very effective in preventing data loss or corruption in case of equipment loss or theft, or in case organizational systems are compromised by attackers.
Unfortunately, this measure is often overlooked due to its complexity and lack of legal obligations associated with proper implementation. Organizations are increasingly adopting encryption, by purchasing storage devices or using cloud services that support encryption, or using dedicated security tools.
Modern organizations use a huge number of technological platforms and tools, in particular web applications, databases, and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from providers like Amazon Web Services.
Enterprise grade platforms and cloud services have security features, but these must be configured by the organization. Security misconfiguration due to negligence or human error can result in a security breach. Another problem is “configuration drift”, where correct security configuration can quickly become out of date and make a system vulnerable, unbeknownst to IT or security staff.
Organizations can mitigate security misconfiguration using technological platforms that continuously monitor systems, identify configuration gaps, and alert or even automatically remediate configuration issues that make systems vulnerable.
Active vs Passive Attacks
Information security is intended to protect organizations against malicious attacks. There are two primary types of attacks: active and passive. Active attacks are considered more difficult to prevent, and the focus is on detecting, mitigating and recovering from them. Passive attacks are easier to prevent with strong security measures.
An active attack involves intercepting a communication or message and altering it for malicious effect. There are three common variants of an active attacks:
- Interruption—the attacker interrupts the original communication and creates new, malicious messages, pretending to be one of the communicating parties.
- Modification—the attacker uses existing communications, and either replays them to fool one of the communicating parties, or modifies them to gain an advantage.
- Fabrication—creates fake, or synthetic, communications, typically with the aim of achieving denial of service (DoS). This prevents users from accessing systems or performing normal operations.
In a passive attack, an attacker monitors, monitors a system and illicitly copies information without altering it. They then use this information to disrupt networks or compromise target systems.
The attackers do not make any change to the communication or the target systems. This makes it more difficult to detect. However, encryption can help prevent passive attacks because it obfuscates the data, making it more difficult for attackers to make use of it.
|Active Attacks||Passive Attacks|
|Modify messages, communications or data||Do not make any change to data or systems|
|Poses a threat to the availability and integrity of sensitive data||Poses a threat to the confidentiality of sensitive data.|
|May result in damage to organizational systems.||Does not directly cause damage to organizational systems.|
|Victims typically know about the attack||Victims typically do not know about the attack.|
|Main security focus is on detection and mitigation.||Main security focus is on prevention.|
Information Security and Data Protection Laws
Information security is in constant interaction with the laws and regulations of the places where an organization does business. Data protection regulations around the world focus on enhancing the privacy of personal data, and place restrictions on the way organizations can collect, store, and make use of customer data.
Data privacy focuses on personally identifiable information (PII), and is primarily concerned with how the data is stored and used. PII includes any data that can be linked directly to the user, such as name, ID number, date of birth, physical address, or phone number. It may also include artifacts like social media posts, profile pictures and IP addresses.
Data Protection Laws in the European Union (EU): the GDPR
The most known privacy law in the EU is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation covers the collection, use, storage, security and transmission of data related to EU residents.
The GDPR applies to any organization doing business with EU citizens, regardless of whether the company itself is based inside or outside the European Union. Violation of the guidelines may result in fines of up to 4% of global sales or 20 million Euro.
The main goals of the GDPR are:
- Setting the privacy of personal data as a basic human right
- Implementing privacy criteria requirements
- Standardization of how privacy rules are applied
GDPR includes protection of the following data types:
- Personal information such as name, ID number, date of birth, or address
- Web data such as IP address, cookies, location, etc.
- Health information including diagnosis and prognosis
- Biometric data including voice data, DNA, and fingerprints
- Private communications
- Photos and videos
- Cultural, social or economic data
Data Protection Laws in the USA
Despite the introduction of some regulations, there are currently no federal laws governing data privacy in general in the United States. However, some regulations protect certain types or use of data. These include:
- Federal Trade Commission Act—prohibits organizations from deceiving consumers with regard to privacy policies, failure to adequately protect customer privacy, and misleading advertising.
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act—regulates the collection of data related to minors.
- Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA)—regulates the storage, privacy and use of health information.
- Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA)—regulates personal information collected and stored by financial institutions and banks.
- Fair Credit Reporting Act—regulates the collection, use, and accessibility of credit records and information.
Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for protecting users from fraudulent or unfair transactions such as data security and privacy. The FTC can enact regulations, enforce laws, punish violations, and investigate organizational fraud or suspected violations.
In addition to federal guidelines, 25 US states have enacted various laws to regulate data. The most famous example is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The law went into effect in January 2020 and provides protection to California residents, including the right to access private information, request deletion of private information, and opt out of data collection or resale.
There also other regional regulations such as:
- Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) CPS 234
- Canada Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- Singapore Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA)
Information Security with Imperva
Imperva helps organizations of all sizes implement information security programs and protect sensitive data and assets.
Imperva Application Security
Imperva provides multi-layered protection to make sure websites and applications are available, easily accessible and safe. The Imperva application security solution includes:
- DDoS Protection—maintain uptime in all situations. Prevent any type of DDoS attack, of any size, from preventing access to your website and network infrastructure.
- CDN—enhance website performance and reduce bandwidth costs with a CDN designed for developers. Cache static resources at the edge while accelerating APIs and dynamic websites.
- WAF—cloud-based solution permits legitimate traffic and prevents bad traffic, safeguarding applications at the edge. Gateway WAF keeps applications and APIs inside your network safe.
- Bot management—analyzes your bot traffic to pinpoint anomalies, identifies bad bot behavior and validates it via challenge mechanisms that do not impact user traffic.
- API security—protects APIs by ensuring only desired traffic can access your API endpoint, as well as detecting and blocking exploits of vulnerabilities.
- Account takeover protection—uses an intent-based detection process to identify and defends against attempts to take over users’ accounts for malicious purposes.
- RASP—keep your applications safe from within against known and zero‑day attacks. Fast and accurate protection with no signature or learning mode.
- Attack analytics—mitigate and respond to real security threats efficiently and accurately with actionable intelligence across all your layers of defense.
Imperva Data Protection
Imperva’s data security solution protects your data wherever it lives—on premises, in the cloud and in hybrid environments. It also provides security and IT teams with full visibility into how the data is being accessed, used, and moved around the organization.
Our comprehensive approach relies on multiple layers of protection, including:
- Database firewall—blocks SQL injection and other threats, while evaluating for known vulnerabilities.
- User rights management—monitors data access and activities of privileged users to identify excessive, inappropriate, and unused privileges.
- Data masking and encryption—obfuscates sensitive data so it would be useless to the bad actor, even if somehow extracted.
- Data loss prevention (DLP)—inspects data in motion, at rest on servers, in cloud storage, or on endpoint devices.
- User behavior analytics—establishes baselines of data access behavior, uses machine learning to detect and alert on abnormal and potentially risky activity.
- Data discovery and classification—reveals the location, volume, and context of data on premises and in the cloud.
- Database activity monitoring—monitors relational databases, data warehouses, big data and mainframes to generate real-time alerts on policy violations.
- Alert prioritization—Imperva uses AI and machine learning technology to look across the stream of security events and prioritize the ones that matter most.