Blog_Banner_Asset
    Homebreadcumb forward arrow iconBlogbreadcumb forward arrow iconSoftware Development USbreadcumb forward arrow iconInformation Classification in Information Security

Information Classification in Information Security

Last updated:
16th Sep, 2022
Views
Read Time
6 Mins
share image icon
In this article
Chevron in toc
View All
Information Classification in Information Security

Information security (abbreviated to InfoSec) refers to the processes, practices, and tools intended to secure data from unauthorized access, modification, use, disclosure, inspection, disruption, recording, or destruction. When data is stored or transferred from one physical location or machine to another, InfoSec applies to both. Information security is often used interchangeably with cybersecurity. However, the two terms are different. Cybersecurity is an umbrella term referring to protecting IT assets from attacks in cyberspace. On the other hand, information security deals with protecting data regardless of its form in the cyber realm and beyond.

Information security comes into the picture because it is paramount for organizations to categorize information and maintain confidentiality. Moreover, information or data classifications are essential since all information/data are not equally critical or relevant to an organization. This article explores the fundamentals of data classifications in information security.

What is Information Classification?

The term information classification is pretty self-explanatory; it is the process of classifying information/data into relevant categories. The primary logic behind classifying information is that not all information is equally important or relevant to an organization. Therefore, categorizing information into different classes helps organizations keep data safe and ensure that only appropriate personnel access it. Moreover, some types of information are sensitive, require more confidentiality than others, and must therefore be protected from unauthorized access or misuse. Now, this is where information classification in information security comes into action.

Criteria of Information Classification

When dealing with information security and classifying information, one of the first questions an organization faces is – what criteria should the information be classified on? Although classifying information sounds like a cakewalk, the task becomes highly complex when organizations deal with voluminous and critical data. 

Ads of upGrad blog

However, there are four criteria for information classification that make this process easier:

  1. Age: Under the age criteria, information is classified depending on whether its value decreases over time.
  2. Value: Value-based classification entails that information will be classified if it is valuable to the organization.
  3. Useful life: Under this criteria, information is considered valuable if it is available to make changes as per requirements.
  4. Personal association: Under the personal association criteria, information can be classified if it is of personal significance to any individual or falls under the ambit of privacy law.

Popular Courses & Articles on Software Engineering

Levels of Information Classification

Depending on the risk of harm or loss if disclosed, organizations must assign value to information for efficient classification. Based on value, organizations have discrete levels of data classification to ensure information security. These are as follows:

  • Public information: Public information is accessible to everyone, both within and outside the organization.
  • Internal information: Internal information is accessible to all employees within the organization.
  • Restricted information: As evident from the name, restricted information is available to select employees in the organization.
  • Classified information: Classified information has restricted access and is governed by law or regulation. Government institutions typically use the term classified information as a legal term.
  • Confidential information: Confidential information demands the maximum level of security measures. The onus of preserving the confidentiality of such information falls on all entities included in or affected by the data.

Steps of Information Classification

Efficient information classification in information security is the bedrock of keeping your organization’s data assets secure, organized, and accessible. However, classifying information can be challenging when organizations deal with a high volume and variety of data. 

The following steps outline the process of information classification that makes it easier for organizations to understand data assets and determine the appropriate level of security for each of them:

  1. Enter information assets into an inventory

The first step in information classification involves collating the data into an asset register or inventory. In addition, organizations must also decide the data ownership and its format (paper documents, electronic documents, databases, etc.) at this step.

  1. Assigning value to the information assets

Assigning value to information assets means classifying information depending on its value. Accordingly, organizations must classify information as confidential, classified, restricted, internal, and public. Typically, information assets with a higher vulnerability to risks are assigned greater confidentiality. 

  1. Labeling information assets

Once the information has been classified based on value, the next step is to create a format for labeling the data. The labeling system must be consistent, reliable, simple, and easily understandable, irrespective of whether it’s digital or physical data. For instance, digital files can be labeled in alphabetic or numeric order, whereas paper documents can be marked on the cover page and subsequent pages. Additionally, visual labels in the header and footer of documents can help personnel handling the information be more attentive to the security level or confidentiality.

  1. Handling information assets

Once the organization has categorized and labeled information assets, the final step is to establish rules to protect the information based on the classification. It also includes implementing security controls for information storage, sharing, and disposal. The controls must be in proportion to the value and sensitivity of the information. 

For instance, public information can be stored in an open cabinet accessible to all or published on the organization’s official website. On the contrary, classified information must be kept in a more secure location or server or physically guarded by security professionals.

Learn Software Development Courses online from the World’s top Universities. Earn Executive PG Programs, Advanced Certificate Programs or Masters Programs to fast-track your career.

Benefits of Classifying Information

Following are the main benefits of information classification in information security:

  • Security

The most significant benefit of information classification is security. Since the main idea behind classifying information is protecting confidentiality, it enables organizations to chalk out the appropriate security measures based on the type of information. With digitalization dominating almost all industries and sectors, protecting digital information adds another layer of complexity. However, with measures such as firewalls, data encryption, storage on secure servers, and abidance with data protection standards, organizations can significantly reduce the risks of data thefts and data breaches.

  • Efficiency 

Data classification in information security is not all about protecting confidentiality. Organizations that have their data organized and classified can quickly locate and retrieve information when needed, increasing the efficiency of daily operations. Moreover, information classification entails that different groups within the organization actively engage in discovering data that is created, handled, and stored. It essentially leads stakeholders to understand the organization and presents an opportunity to rethink if the information adds value or decreases operating efficiency. 

  • Compliance

By labeling data as sensitive, information classification in information security enables organizations to protect data from threats and ensure compliance with data protection audits. Accurately classifying information, especially those governed by laws and regulations, allows organizations to mitigate the risk of data theft or loss and minimize non-compliance penalties. 

Conclusion

Ads of upGrad blog

Data classification in information security help organizations to assign appropriate data protection measures to enhance data security and ensure regulatory compliance. It involves protecting information from unauthorized access and includes steps to prevent unwarranted access and use of data actively. With data organized and accessible when needed, classifying information can also make an organization’s day-to-day operations more efficient. Most importantly, information classification promotes awareness of cyber threats and the need for information security management at all levels within the organization. 

Learn Cybersecurity with upGrad

Are you looking for a reliable platform to learn cybersecurity online? Then begin your journey with upGrad’s Cybersecurity Certificate Program in partnership with Purdue University. The 8-months online course is specially designed for entry to mid-level technical professionals, engineers, analysts, IT professionals, tech support professionals, and fresh graduates.

Program Highlights:

  • Cybersecurity Certificate Program from upGrad and Purdue University
  • 300+ learning hours
  • 15+ live sessions
  • Comprehensive coverage of relevant programming languages and tools
  • Four projects
  • 360-degree learning support
  • Industry and peer networking

Profile

Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
Get Free Consultation

Select Coursecaret down icon
Selectcaret down icon
By clicking 'Submit' you Agree to  
UpGrad's Terms & Conditions

Our Best Software Development Course

Explore Free Courses

Suggested Blogs

Top 19 Java 8 Interview Questions (2023)
6053
Java 8: What Is It? Let’s conduct a quick refresher and define what Java 8 is before we go into the questions. To increase the efficiency with
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

27 Feb 2024

Top 10 DJango Project Ideas & Topics
12654
What is the Django Project? Django is a popular Python-based, free, and open-source web framework. It follows an MTV (model–template–views) pattern i
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

29 Nov 2023

Most Asked AWS Interview Questions & Answers [For Freshers & Experienced]
5668
The fast-moving world laced with technology has created a convenient environment for companies to provide better services to their clients. Cloud comp
Read More

by upGrad

07 Sep 2023

22 Must-Know Agile Methodology Interview Questions & Answers in US [2024]
5393
Agile methodology interview questions can sometimes be challenging to solve. Studying and preparing well is the most vital factor to ace an interview
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

13 Apr 2023

12 Interesting Computer Science Project Ideas & Topics For Beginners [US 2023]
10922
Computer science is an ever-evolving field with various topics and project ideas for computer science. It can be quite overwhelming, especially for be
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

23 Mar 2023

Begin your Crypto Currency Journey from the Scratch
5458
Cryptocurrency is the emerging form of virtual currency, which is undoubtedly also the talk of the hour, perceiving the massive amount of attention it
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

23 Mar 2023

Complete SQL Tutorial for Beginners in 2024
5557
SQL (Structured Query Language) has been around for decades and is a powerful language used to manage and manipulate data. If you’ve wanted to learn S
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

22 Mar 2023

Complete SQL Tutorial for Beginners in 2024
5041
SQL (Structured Query Language) has been around for decades and is a powerful language used to manage and manipulate data. If you’ve wanted to learn S
Read More

by Pavan Vadapalli

22 Mar 2023

Top 10 Cyber Security Books to Read to Improve Your Skills
5532
The field of cyber security is evolving at a rapid pace, giving birth to exceptional opportunities across the field. While this has its perks, on the
Read More

by Keerthi Shivakumar

21 Mar 2023

Schedule 1:1 free counsellingTalk to Career Expert
icon
footer sticky close icon