The CIA triad: Definition, components and examples (2022)

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Information security relies on keeping data secure, integral, and available—but tradeoffs are necessary in real-world scenarios.

By Josh Fruhlinger

Contributing writer, CSO |

The CIA triad: Definition, components and examples (2)
(Video) CIA Triad

What is the CIA triad? The CIA triad components, defined

The CIA triad is a widely used information security model that can guide an organization's efforts and policies aimed at keeping its data secure. The model has nothing to do with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency; rather, the initials stand for the three principles on which infosec rests:

  • Confidentiality: Only authorized users and processes should be able to access or modify data
  • Integrity: Data should be maintained in a correct state and nobody should be able to improperly modify it, either accidentally or maliciously
  • Availability: Authorized users should be able to access data whenever they need to do so

These three principles are obviously top of mind for any infosec professional. But considering them as a triad forces security pros to do the tough work of thinking about how they overlap and can sometimes be in opposition to one another, which can help in establishing priorities in the implementation of security policies. We'll discuss each of these principles in more detail in a moment, but first let's talk about the origins and importance of the triad.

Who created the CIA triad, and when?

Unlike many foundational concepts in infosec, the CIA triad doesn't seem to have a single creator or proponent; rather, it emerged over time as an article of wisdom among information security pros. Ben Miller, a VP at cybersecurity firm Dragos, traces back early mentions of the three components of the triad in a blog post; he thinks the concept of confidentiality in computer science was formalized in a 1976 U.S. Air Force study, and the idea of integrity was laid out in a 1987 paper that recognized that commercial computing in particular had specific needs around accounting records that required a focus on data correctness. Availability is a harder one to pin down, but discussion around the idea rose in prominence in 1988 when the Morris worm, one of the first widespread pieces of malware, knocked a significant portion of the embryonic internet offline.

It's also not entirely clear when the three concepts began to be treated as a three-legged stool. But it seems to have been well established as a foundational concept by 1998, when Donn Parker, in his book Fighting Computer Crime, proposed extending it to a six-element framework called the Parkerian Hexad. (We'll return to the Hexad later in this article.)

Thus, CIA triad has served as a way for information security professionals to think about what their job entails for more than two decades. The fact that the concept is part of cybersecurity lore and doesn't "belong" to anyone has encouraged many people to elaborate on the concept and implement their own interpretations.

(Video) What is the CIA Triad? Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability

Why is the CIA triad important?

Anyone familiar with even the basics of cybersecurity would understand why these three concepts are important. But why is it so helpful to think of them as a triad of linked ideas, rather than separately?

It's instructive to think about the CIA triad as a way to make sense of the bewildering array of security software, services, and techniques that are in the marketplace. Rather than just throwing money and consultants at the vague "problem" of "cybersecurity," we can ask focused questions as we plan and spend money: Does this tool make our information more secure? Does this service help ensure the integrity of our data? Will beefing up our infrastructure make our data more readily available to those who need it?

In addition, arranging these three concepts in a triad makes it clear that they exist, in many cases, in tension with one another. We'll dig deeper into some examples in a moment, but some contrasts are obvious: Requiring elaborate authentication for data access may help ensure its confidentiality, but it can also mean that some people who have the right to see that data may find it difficult to do so, thus reducing availability. Keeping the CIA triad in mind as you establish information security policies forces a team to make productive decisions about which of the three elements is most important for specific sets of data and for the organization as a whole.

CIA triad examples

To understand how the CIA triad works in practice, consider the example of a bank ATM, which can offer users access to bank balances and other information. An ATM has tools that cover all three principles of the triad:

  • It provides confidentiality by requiring two-factor authentication (both a physical card and a PIN code) before allowing access to data
  • The ATM and bank software enforce data integrity by ensuring that any transfers or withdrawals made via the machine are reflected in the accounting for the user's bank account
  • The machine provides availability because it's in a public place and is accessible even when the bank branch is closed

But there's more to the three principles than just what's on the surface. Here are some examples of how they operate in everyday IT environments.

CIA triad confidentiality examples

Much of what laypeople think of as "cybersecurity" — essentially, anything that restricts access to data — falls under the rubric of confidentiality. This includes infosec's two big As:

  • Authentication, which encompasses processes that allows systems to determine if a user is who they say they are. These include passwords and the panoply of techniques available for establishing identity: biometrics, security tokens, cryptographic keys, and the like.
  • Authorization, which determines who has the right to access which data: Just because a system knows who you are, it doesn't necessarily open all its data for your perusal! One of the most important ways to enforce confidentiality is establishing need-to-know mechanisms for data access; that way, users whose accounts have been hacked or who have gone rogue can't compromise sensitive data. Most operating systems enforce confidentiality in this sense by having many files only accessible by their creators or an admin, for instance.

Public-key cryptography is a widespread infrastructure that enforces both As: by authenticating that you are who you say you are via cryptographic keys, you establish your right to participate in the encrypted conversation.

Confidentiality can also be enforced by non-technical means. For instance, keeping hardcopy data behind lock and key can keep it confidential; so can air-gapping computers and fighting against social engineering attempts.

A loss of confidentiality is defined as data being seen by someone who shouldn't have seen it. Big data breaches like the Marriott hack are prime, high-profile examples of loss of confidentiality.

(Video) CIA Triad - N10-008 CompTIA Network+ : 4.1

CIA triad integrity examples

The techniques for maintaining data integrity can span what many would consider disparate disciplines. For instance, many of the methods for protecting confidentiality also enforce data integrity: you can't maliciously alter data that you can't access, after all. We also mentioned the data access rules enforced by most operating systems: in some cases, files can be read by certain users but not edited, which can help maintain data integrity along with availability.

But there are other ways data integrity can be lost that go beyond malicious attackers attempting to delete or alter it. For instance, corruption seeps into data in ordinary RAM as a result of interactions with cosmic rays much more regularly than you'd think. That's at the exotic end of the spectrum, but any techniques designed to protect the physical integrity of storage media can also protect the virtual integrity of data.

Many of the ways that you would defend against breaches of integrity are meant to help you detect when data has changed, like data checksums, or restore it to a known good state, like conducting frequent and meticulous backups. Breaches of integrity are somewhat less common or obvious than violations of the other two principles, but could include, for instance, altering business data to affect decision-making, or hacking into a financial system to briefly inflate the value of a stock or bank account and then siphoning off the excess. A simpler — and more common — example of an attack on data integrity would be a defacement attack, in which hackers alter a website's HTML to vandalize it for fun or ideological reasons.

CIA triad availability examples

Maintaining availability often falls on the shoulders of departments not strongly associated with cybersecurity. The best way to ensure that your data is available is to keep all your systems up and running, and make sure that they're able to handle expected network loads. This entails keeping hardware up-to-date, monitoring bandwidth usage, and providing failover and disaster recovery capacity if systems go down.

Other techniques around this principle involve figuring out how to balance the availability against the other two concerns in the triad. Returning to the file permissions built into every operating system, the idea of files that can be read but not edited by certain users represent a way to balance competing needs: that data be available to many users, despite our need to protect its integrity.

The classic example of a loss of availability to a malicious actor is a denial-of-service attack. In some ways, this is the most brute force act of cyberaggression out there: you're not altering your victim's data or sneaking a peek at information you shouldn't have; you're just overwhelming them with traffic so they can't keep their website up. But DoS attacks are very damaging, and that illustrates why availability belongs in the triad.

CIA triad implementation

The CIA triad should guide you as your organization writes and implements its overall security policies and frameworks. Remember, implementing the triad isn't a matter of buying certain tools; the triad is a way of thinking, planning, and, perhaps most importantly, setting priorities. Industry standard cybersecurity frameworks like the ones from NIST (which focuses a lot on integrity) are informed by the ideas behind the CIA triad, though each has its own particular emphasis.

Beyond the triad: The Parkerian Hexad, and more

The CIA triad is important, but it isn't holy writ, and there are plenty of infosec experts who will tell you it doesn't cover everything. As we mentioned, in 1998 Donn Parker proposed a six-sided model that was later dubbed the Parkerian Hexad, which is built on the following principles:

  • Confidentiality
  • Possession or control
  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Availability
  • Utility

It's somewhat open to question whether the extra three points really press into new territory — utility and possession could be lumped under availability, for instance. But it's worth noting as an alternative model.

(Video) Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability | [ CIA Triad ] | [ தமிழில் ]

A final important principle of information security that doesn't fit neatly into the CIA triad is non-repudiation, which essentially means that someone cannot falsely deny that they created, altered, observed, or transmitted data. This is crucial in legal contexts when, for instance, someone might need to prove that a signature is accurate, or that a message was sent by the person whose name is on it. The CIA triad isn't a be-all and end-all, but it's a valuable tool for planning your infosec strategy.

  • Security
  • Data and Information Security

Josh Fruhlinger is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles.

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FAQs

What is CIA triad and explain its components? ›

What is the Information Security Triad? The three letters in "CIA triad" stand for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. The CIA triad is a common model that forms the basis for the development of security systems. They are used for finding vulnerabilities and methods for creating solutions.

What is CIA triad with example? ›

The CIA Triad is an information security model, which is widely popular. It guides an organization's efforts towards ensuring data security. The three principles—confidentiality, integrity, and availability which is also the full for CIA in cybersecurity, form the cornerstone of a security infrastructure.

What are the 3 components in the CIA model? ›

When we discuss data and information, we must consider the CIA triad. The CIA triad refers to an information security model made up of the three main components: confidentiality, integrity and availability. Each component represents a fundamental objective of information security.

What is the most important part of the CIA triad? ›

The main concern in the CIA triad is that the information should be available when authorized users need to access it. Availability is maintained when all components of the information system are working properly.

What is the purpose of the integrity component of the CIA triad? ›

Integrity: This component of the CIA triad ensures the data is correct, authentic and reliable. In other words, it ensures that the data has not been tampered with and therefore can be trusted.

What are the three components of the CIA triad What are they used for quizlet? ›

Explanation: The CIA triad consists of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Encryption is used to ensure the confidentiality of information.

What are the 3 aspects of security? ›

The fundamental principles (tenets) of information security are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Every element of an information security program (and every security control put in place by an entity) should be designed to achieve one or more of these principles. Together, they are called the CIA Triad.

How do you get CIA triad? ›

To sum up, while implementing CIA triad as a baseline security policy, you must consider the priorities and needs of your system and you must adopt rather a wholistic approach to ensure that everything works well and works well together.

What are three types of sensitive information choose three? ›

There are three main types of sensitive information:
  • Personal Information. Also called PII (personally identifiable information), personal information is any data that can be linked to a specific individual and used to facilitate identity theft. ...
  • Business Information. ...
  • Classified Information.

What is CIA purpose? ›

The CIA, however, has no law enforcement function. Rather, it collects and analyzes information that is vital to the formation of U.S. policy, particularly in areas that impact the security of the nation. The CIA collects information only regarding foreign countries and their citizens.

What does CIA stand for? ›

Who created the CIA triad? ›

It's not a singular doctrine and there was no one author. Rather the model appears to have developed over time, with roots as old as modern computing, pulling concepts from various sources. Ben Miller, vice president for Dragos, seems to be one of the few people who has done any digging on the origins of the triad.

When was the CIA triad created? ›

1989. In the JSC – NASA Information Security Plan document we find the use of the term CIA Triad. However, the term could have been coined as early as 1986.

Which part of the CIA triad has been broken? ›

Integrity has been broken. This is because the trust between the two parties has been compromised.

What are the elements of security? ›

An effective security system comprises of four elements:
  • Protection, Detection, Verification & Reaction.
  • 'Protection' is the physical barrier, such as walls and fences, which separates your property from the rest of the world.
16 May 2019

What is integrity in 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.

What do you mean by integrity in security management? ›

Integrity means that data is protected from unauthorized changes to ensure that it is reliable and correct. Availability means that authorized users have access to the systems and the resources they need.

Which of the following is not an objective of CIA triad model? ›

Explanation: CIA refers to Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability that are also considered as the CIA triad. However, the CIA triad does not involve Authenticity.

What is the CIA triad quizlet? ›

What is the CIA triad? The CIA triad is widely is a widely accepted security measures that should be guaranteed in every secure system. It stand for Confidentiality Integrity, and Availability. CIA. Confidentiality Integrity, and Availability.

What is the CIA triad of information security quizlet? ›

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability. These three form the security triad. Helps prevent the unauthorized disclosure of data.

Which of the following is an example of an information asset? ›

information asset, such as spreadsheets, documents, images, emails to and from project staff, etc.

What are two good examples of a complex password? ›

Use a mix of alphabetical and numeric characters. Use a mixture of upper- and lowercase; passwords are case sensitive. Use a combination of letters and numbers, or a phrase like "many colors" using only the consonants, e.g., mnYc0l0rz or a misspelled phrase, e.g., 2HotPeetzas or ItzAGurl .

What is information security with example? ›

Information Security is basically the practice of preventing unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, inspection, recording or destruction of information. Information can be physical or electronic one.

What does CIA stand for in Cyber security? ›

These three letters stand for confidentiality, integrity, and availability, otherwise known as the CIA triad. Together, these three principles form the cornerstone of any organization's security infrastructure; in fact, they (should) function as goals and objectives for every security program.

What is threat model used for? ›

Threat modeling helps to identify the security requirements of a system or process -- anything that is mission-critical, processing sensitive or made up of valuable data. It is a systematic and structured process that aims to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities to reduce the risk to IT resources.

What protects confidentiality and integrity? ›

Information and data encryption should be used for data at rest to protect confidentiality and integrity. Whether encryption of data is performed at the granularity data elements, files, directories, or volumes can be complicated by many factors including performance and functionality.

What are examples of sensitive information? ›

Examples
  • Social security number.
  • Birthdate/place.
  • Home phone number.
  • Home address.
  • Health records.
  • Passwords.
  • Gender.
  • Ethnicity.

Which of the following is an example of sensitive data? ›

genetic data, biometric data processed solely to identify a human being; health-related data; data concerning a person's sex life or sexual orientation.

What are three states of data? ›

The three states of data are data at rest, data in motion and data in use. Data can change states quickly and frequently, or it may remain in a single state for the entire life cycle of a computer.

What is the structure of the CIA? ›

The CIA is separated into seven basic components: Directorate of Analysis, Directorate of Operations, Directorate of Science and Technology, Directorate of Support, Directorate of Digital Innovation, Mission Centers, and Offices of the Director.

Who does the CIA answer to? ›

Currently, the Central Intelligence Agency answers directly to the Director of National Intelligence, although the CIA Director may brief the President directly. The CIA has its budget approved by the US Congress, a subcommittee of which see the line items.

Who is No 1 intelligence agency? ›

1. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), USA. The CIA is primarily focused to provide intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States and it also plays a major role in maintaining dominance of USA over the world.

Where is the CIA? ›

The George Bush Center for Intelligence is the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, located in the unincorporated community of Langley in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States; near Washington, D.C.

How does the CIA triad relate to cybersecurity? ›

The CIA Triad is a fundamental cybersecurity model that acts as a foundation in the development of security policies designed to protect data. The three letters in CIA Triad stand for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.

What is security triangle? ›

In order for an organization to conduct a secure operation in the conflict/post-conflict regions, the concepts of Acceptance, Deterrence and Protection need to be addressed to increase the overall security level.

How do you get into CIA? ›

Ensure systems and applications stay updated. Use network or server monitoring systems.
...
Best practices for implementing the CIA triad
  1. Data should be handled based on the organization's required privacy.
  2. Data should be encrypted using 2FA.
  3. Keep access control lists and other file permissions up to date.

What are types of information security controls? ›

Control Types

Some common examples are authentication solutions, firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), intrusion protection systems (IPSs), constrained interfaces, as well as access control lists (ACLs) and encryption measures.

Who is responsible for cyber security? ›

Although the CIO, or CISO, still carries primary responsibility for cybersecurity in 85% of organisations (1), it is the entire organisation and everyone working in the business who holds the secondary responsibility for it. Cyberattacks can be targeted at anyone in the business.

Is CIA triad outdated? ›

What makes the CIA Triad obsolete and incomplete? It is obsolete because it is information security–centric, and it only considers there to be three categories of threats against security, and which only require three services to defend against those threats.

What is the weakest link in cyber security? ›

What is the Weakest Link in Cybersecurity? Humans. People are fallible, and they make mistakes. Even with proper awareness and education by IT teams to online risks, we all can be tricked to click on a phishing link that seems legit.

Who or what is our biggest threat to information security and CIA? ›

When we think of cybersecurity risks, often the first thing that pops into our heads is the threats we face from hackers. However, based on a survey from the Ponemon Institute the reality is that the most significant threat to information security isn't from hackers, but from our own employees.

Which of the CIA triad security services was were violated in this update? ›

1)Which of the CIA triad security services was/were violated in this update? Ans:Availabilityservice is violated as part ofWindows 10 Oct 2018 Update.

What are the three components of the CIA triad What are they used for quizlet? ›

Explanation: The CIA triad consists of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Encryption is used to ensure the confidentiality of information.

What are the 3 aspects of security? ›

The fundamental principles (tenets) of information security are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Every element of an information security program (and every security control put in place by an entity) should be designed to achieve one or more of these principles. Together, they are called the CIA Triad.

What is CIA triad NIST? ›

The CIA triad represents the three pillars of information security: confidentiality, integrity, and availability, as follows. Confidentiality – preserving authorized restrictions on information access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information.

Who created the CIA triad? ›

But it seems to have been well established as a foundational concept by 1998, when Donn Parker, in his book Fighting Computer Crime, proposed extending it to a six-element framework called the Parkerian Hexad.

What is the CIA triad quizlet? ›

What is the CIA triad? The CIA triad is widely is a widely accepted security measures that should be guaranteed in every secure system. It stand for Confidentiality Integrity, and Availability. CIA. Confidentiality Integrity, and Availability.

What are 3 security domains? ›

Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret are three security domains used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), for example.

What is the CIA triad of information security quizlet? ›

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability. These three form the security triad. Helps prevent the unauthorized disclosure of data.

What are the components of security? ›

What Are Common Components of a Security System?
  • Motion sensors. Motion sensors are an essential part of any home security system. ...
  • Indoor and outdoor cameras. Security cameras are another core security system part. ...
  • Glass break detectors. ...
  • Door and window sensors. ...
  • Carbon monoxide detectors.

Why is the CIA important? ›

As the world's premier foreign intelligence agency, the work we do at CIA is vital to U.S. national security. We collect and analyze foreign intelligence and conduct covert action. U.S. policymakers, including the President of the United States, make policy decisions informed by the information we provide.

What are two good examples of a complex password? ›

Use a mix of alphabetical and numeric characters. Use a mixture of upper- and lowercase; passwords are case sensitive. Use a combination of letters and numbers, or a phrase like "many colors" using only the consonants, e.g., mnYc0l0rz or a misspelled phrase, e.g., 2HotPeetzas or ItzAGurl .

How can the CIA triad be applied in risk management? ›

How can the CIA triad be applied in risk management? During risk assessments, organizations measure the risks, threats and vulnerabilities that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of their systems and data.

Which of the following is not an objective of CIA triad model? ›

Explanation: CIA refers to Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability that are also considered as the CIA triad. However, the CIA triad does not involve Authenticity.

What is integrity in cyber security? ›

The term 'integrity' means guarding against improper information modification or destruction, and includes ensuring information non-repudiation and authenticity.

What does a CIA stand for? ›

Which part of the CIA triad has been broken? ›

Integrity has been broken. This is because the trust between the two parties has been compromised.

What is security triangle? ›

In order for an organization to conduct a secure operation in the conflict/post-conflict regions, the concepts of Acceptance, Deterrence and Protection need to be addressed to increase the overall security level.

Videos

1. CIA Triad
(digbytes)
2. CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) With very simple examples
(CyberSecurity 2.0)
3. The "C.I.A." security concepts.
(Keith Barker - The OG of IT)
4. The CIA Triad in CyberSecurity
(Ask The Cat)
5. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of Computer Security
(365ComputerSecurity)
6. Introduction I
(Dinithi)

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