What is the CIA Triad? | Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability


The CIA in CIA Triad stands for the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of data. Confidentiality means the data is secret and private. Integrity means the information is accurate, uncorrupted, and complete. Availability means the people and machines that should have access to it have access. Organizations can achieve security using the CIA Triad by protecting data privacy, ensuring its integrity, and keeping it available to the right users.

What Are the Three Components of the CIA Triad?

Each component of the CIA Triad — confidentiality, integrity, and availability — has roots in multiple disciplines going back decades if not centuries. One reference to confidentiality in computer science comes from an Air Force publication from 1976. Integrity was referenced in a 1987 military paper on computer security policies. References to data confidentiality became increasingly popular around the same time. By the late 1990s, computer security professionals referred to the combination of the three as the CIA Triad. Let’s further inspect the CIA Triad and its three components.


The data owner is responsible for safeguarding the data’s confidentiality and ensuring no one reveals it. The company must use access controls to limit access to the data to those with a right to it. The enterprise should curtail data sharing between employees with the right to access the data and those without that right. Sharing passwords at work could break confidentiality by sharing access.

There are, for example, company insiders from HR to customer support who don’t need and should not have access to data such as intellectual property. It’s not in their job description to handle such data. The data owner can separate confidential data using network segmentation, encryption, tokenization, and data masking to abstract away the information so no one can understand it.

These tools can also limit data access so that customer service representatives who need access to some customer data won’t have access to all of it. Tools such as encryption follow the data when it leaves the organization. It’s vital in cases where Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Protected Health Information (PHI) is at stake.

Data holders must implement specific controls and technologies, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), to keep cybercriminals and unauthorized employees from seeing the data. Nevertheless, attackers find themselves in a position through phishing and other exploits to see or control data. The greater the access, the more likely the attacker can gather data through lateral movement across the network.

Attackers move laterally to find customer databases, identity and access controls, and intellectual property. Identity and access controls give them more access and open more databases and processes where they can find private data.


People trust reliable, clean data untouched by errors, corruption, or tampering. Errant data can mislead analysts who derive valuable insights from it. If they present insights that direct the business to move in the wrong direction, the company can waste investments in product development, producing products that don’t resonate with the customer or don’t function as intended.

Attackers can compromise data integrity by bypassing Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), gaining unauthorized access to internal systems, and reaching and changing authentic data. False data can lead to incorrect calculations of IoT and OT data, leading systems to take actions that are harmful to plants and equipment, such as data centers, dams, or power plants.

Whether public or private, data must appropriately reflect news events, products, services, organizations, and people. Hacktivism, corporate espionage, and propaganda are potential motives to alter data, robbing it of integrity.

If people lose faith in data integrity, they will lose faith in the data holder who presented it. Organizations can lose reputation, customers, and revenue.


Precise data that people, processes, and machines have a right to is useless if they can’t access it. Everything that makes data available, from storage devices that maintain, secure, and protect it to the paths of data in motion, must pass data to authenticated users. Public data must travel unhindered to the public-facing interfaces of endpoint devices.

Tools that make data available must be trustworthy. If phishing attacks overcome email, telling legitimate data from lies can be increasingly difficult. If people lose trust in the communication medium, it is no longer a source of reliable data, and data becomes less available. The same goes for fake news and deep fakes, which can impersonate a human voice or image for disseminating false information.

With the assumption and expectation of real-time data, automation, and a world of technologies and services that count on data availability, availability is no less critical than confidentiality or integrity. Not only can downtime lead to data being unavailable, but the lack of availability of data needed to run systems can also lead to downtime.

No one trait of the CIA Triad can void the others. Even as an organization makes data available to those with the right to access it, it cannot risk the exposure of confidential parts that some other group or person can’t see or risk data integrity while making it available.

Why Should Organizations Use the CIA Triad?

Organizations using the CIA Triad achieve many of the goals of information security with three higher-level objectives. If the organization keeps the data confidential, threat actors don’t access it. If they don’t access it, that means that the ultimate goal of their attacks (such as phishing and ransomware) fail. If the organization maintains the integrity of the data, then the data isn’t encrypted by ransomware attacks, and it isn’t altered, deleted, or presented somewhere else in a form that is not correct.

If the organization maintains the availability of the data, then no threat actor has deleted the data or brought down the infrastructure that makes it available. When an organization keeps the data available, the data realizes its value for the organization and its constituents. All of an organization’s data security goals are achievable by starting with the CIA Triad and tracing all security efforts back to it.

By implementing the CIA Triad at every point along an attacker’s cyber kill chain, the organization can frustrate steps in the kill chain and stop cyber events before they reach their target.


What does CIA stand for in cybersecurity?

In cybersecurity, the CIA Triad establishes confidentiality, integrity, and availability to protect all internet-connected devices, systems, and technologies.

What is integrity in the CIA Triad?

Integrity in the CIA Triad is data authenticity, cleanliness or hygiene, and completeness. The data must be trustworthy and reliable for the given use. If a criminal hacker has exchanged some or all of the data for inaccurate data, if the data holder or caretaker has not maintained data hygiene, or if the organization and its customers can’t rely on the data, any business service that counts on proper data inputs won’t get valuable data outputs.

How do organizations ensure the protection of the CIA Triad?

The SentinelOne AI-powered cybersecurity platform protects the CIA Triad using threat detection and response, visibility, and control over data, and response to threats that could compromise data integrity. It ensures business continuity by maintaining the availability of critical systems and data.

Who created the CIA Triad?

Examples of military applications of the CIA Triad date back hundreds of years. Using the CIA Triad to protect sensitive information may predate the appearance of the acronym itself.


The CIA Triad is a framework for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, thereby achieving data security. Using the CIA Triad, organizations mitigate unauthorized access to keep data secret, they backup and maintain the integrity of the data against ransomware attacks, and they keep data available. If the data is not available to the right parties, it’s the same as if the data doesn’t exist.

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