In today’s digital economy, data is a company’s number one asset. In order to protect a company’s data assets from the numerous criminals infecting cyberspace, businesses must rely on a new breed of security professional known as “Information Assurance” (IA) Specialists.
Cyber security professionals have long understood the need for a specialized position to manage information risks. Over several years, with the high volume of cyber attacks that have plagued companies, both large and small, it has become essential to ensure data is defended on all fronts.
Whether online or offline, the IA specialist works to protect sensitive information from thieves intent on profiting from the hard work of others.
When we look at the field with more focused clarity, it becomes apparent that it is required to separate IA from cyber security (CS) in general. Whereas cyber security technicians are focused on defending online assets only and discovering glitches in software or hardware systems that could allow hackers, crackers, and other internet criminals to penetrate into sensitive company systems. On the other hand, an IA specialist works directly with data to minimize risks both online and off.
It can also be viewed as a highly specialized form of information technology as the IA specialist must have an extremely robust degree of technical knowledge to ensure best standards and practices are implemented consistently. With the numerous threats that are now commonplace in the IT world, the IA specialist ensures that viruses, worms, phishing attacks, social engineering attacks, identity theft, and other forms of modern data crime can only offer a minimal impact to a company overall. As the risk of threats increase, so will the need for IA specialists.
The term information assurance refers to the various steps involved with the overall protection and management of information systems, such as computer systems, networks, and web-based cloud assets. In addition to digital assets, the IA specialist is also required to have a working knowledge of analog practices. As any hacker can attest, a large number of penetrations are caused by improper disposal of real data assets. Simply forgetting to shred a document can costs a company millions of dollars if that document were to fall into the wrong hands.
There are five mantras that are normally associated with the definition of information assurance.
1. Nonrepudiation – Meaning a digitally signed document is associated to the person who signed it and cannot be duplicated or hacked by another. Think of it as a modern form of the “wax seal” that was used during ancient times.
2. Confidentiality – Ensuring that the data remains privy to the select few that have been chosen to access it.
3. Authentication – The ability to prove that whatever party is accessing the data is who they say they are.
4. Availability – Making sure that the data is available to the user when it is needed.
5. Integrity – Ensuring the data has not been tampered with by an outside party.
The IA specialist uses these mantras to determine the overall security of a company’s information assets.