The CIA Triad and How to Use It Today

Updated on May 4, 2019
Erin McAllester profile image

Erin is studying cybersecurity. She thinks broadly about tech-related topics and how they affect our daily lives.

Our personal information is the key to our assets. While the internet offers many tips and tricks for keeping your information safe, it is also useful to offer a framework for reflecting on our personal information and how to maintain your privacy in your day-to-day. This article will help you construct your own personal information security framework.

CIA Triad

When organizations design information security systems they follow a three-part framework known as the CIA triad.

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

The purpose behind the triad is simple; the three guiding principles are meant to shape acceptable use policies and other policies applied to information security systems in organizations. In this article, I encourage individuals to adopt the CIA triad as a mentality in their everyday life to help secure personal information.

What Does CIA Mean?

Confidentiality is defined by Merriam-Webster as being “private or secret”. For our purposes, this definition is just fine. Confidentiality in an information technology setting is valuable for maintaining the privacy of customer and employee data, in particular out of necessity due to data privacy laws such as HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Billey Act).

Integrity is the bread and butter to upholding data soundness in storage, transit, and after and during use. Data inside an organization, in particular personal information, must be kept away from factors and individuals that may alter or use the data for reasons other than its intended use.

Availability points to maintaining systems and protective methods that house critical data, namely through updating operating systems and deploying the most appropriate security methods. As mentioned above, some data must be legally kept for a given length of time and accessible by authorities. Availability is maintained with three types of controls:

Administrative

Administrative controls determine who has access and how much information they have access to.

Technical

Technical controls are things like DMZs (demilitarized zones), firewalls, encryption, and password policies that prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing said data.

Physical

Physical access to private information can lead to information being compromised.

How Can the CIA Triad Help You?

Has an employer ever asked you to share your bank account information and routing number so that you can receive a direct deposit? Have you ever had credit card information stolen from you without losing your wallet? Has an acquaintance ever asked you a personal question that, in retrospect, could lead them to know things about you that could compromise your assets? The goals and ideas behind confidentiality, integrity, and availability can help.

Source

Confidentiality

People compromise their personal information daily.

  • Credit cards
  • Bank account
  • Social Security number
  • Passwords to bank accounts and assets

One or all of these items is the key to compromising items that belong to you, whether it be your credit score or your money. Confidentiality is the art of minimizing the exposure of your information to outsiders. While good integrity and accessibility practices (below) both greatly increase your ability to keep your data confidential, there are a few applicable mentalities for hardening your confidentiality.

  • If you can physically access your information, so can someone else. Whatever safety mechanism you’ve deployed to secure your information is accessible, so keep how and where you hold that information quiet and secure.
  • The unfortunate truth is that you cannot trust everyone. Reflect on using other people’s devices before accessing accounts, and consider where you store important documents like your social security card.
  • Have the confidence to research on your own to find solutions for storing your information.

Integrity

You can avoid public WiFi, scammers, and burglars, but another important aspect of data protection is password styling. While many accounts offer two-step authentication and offer somewhat stringent password requirements, many people do not understand how critical a long password is to protecting your accounts.

Passwords can be cracked using tools known as rainbow tables. A rainbow table is a set of hash values that are matched to hashes translated from plaintext passwords. When a password is typed in and sent to a website so that you can obtain access, the password itself is sent as a hash, not in plain text. Rainbow tables allow hackers to cross reference the hash with a table of hashes to decrypt your password.

Rainbow tables are one of the many reasons why individuals should not access password-protected identity data over public Wifi networks.

Some good rules of thumb for your personal password policy are the following:

  1. Never use the same password for multiple systems
  2. Passwords should never contain words, slang, or acronyms
  3. Set your accounts to lock you out after a certain number of unsuccessful password input attempts
  4. Use different character types (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, symbols)
  5. Make your password long (greater than 8 characters in length)
  6. Be sure to change your passwords after a breakup if you shared a computer with someone

Password Strength

Which of these passwords is strongest?

See results
Source

Accessibility

As mentioned above, the administrative aspect of the CIA triad can be broken down into three primary portions: Administrative, technical, and physical.

Administrative

The best ways to keep your information private is to access valuables only on the safety of a private, trusted WiFi network; ideally your own. It's critical to enforce your personal WiFi network with the same stringent password policies you do your other accounts. Change the name of your network so that hackers can't use the default network name to break the encryption.

Some potential threats to your online assets when accessed from the privacy of your own home are Wardrivers. Wardriving is the act of mapping out local area network (or LAN) wireless access points and accessing them secretly, and occasionally, nefariously. A strong password decreases the likelihood of access from uninvited parties, following the suggestions above.

Technical

First and foremost the most important thing you can do is enable WPA2 Wireless encryption.

Additionally, if you’re concerned you’ll experience surveillance from wardrivers, or if you’re simply not interested in your internet service provider knowing what you’re up to, it pays to install a VPN. There are a few great Hubs on VPNs here:

How to Set up Remote VPN Access Using pfSense and OpenVPN

VPNs With the Best Bet of Protecting Your Privacy

Physical

Certain documents that contain personal information are important to keep. Pay stubs, for example, are often used to verify income when applying for loans, apartments, or other things that require the asset holder to assess your financial situation. Keep these and things like social security cards, tax returns, birth certificates and even extra cash locked in a fire-proof box. Other items, such as bank statements or receipts, bills, or other documents containing personal information should be shredded.

References

(N.D.) Confidential. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/confidentiality?src=search-dict-hed

O'Donnell, Andy. (Nov. 15, 2018). Rainbow tables: Your password's worst nightmare. Retrieved from: https://www.lifewire.com/rainbow-tables-your-passwords-worst-nightmare-2487288

O'Donnell, Andy. (Nov. 19, 2018). How to hack-proof your wireless router. Retrieved from: https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-hack-proof-your-wireless-router-2487654

Pinola, Melanie. (Dec. 6, 2012). How often should I change my passwords? Retrieved from: https://lifehacker.com/how-often-should-i-change-my-passwords-5966214

Rouse, Margaret. (N.D.). Confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA triad). Retrieved from: https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Confidentiality-integrity-and-availability-CIA

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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