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Talking security: the basics

In any discussion of security, there are some basic terms that will be used a lot. This step will introduce you to the basic terminology of information security.


The guiding principles behind information security are summed up in the acronym CIA (and we’re pretty sure there’s a joke in there somewhere), standing for confidentiality, integrity and availability.

We want our information to:

  • be read by only the right people (confidentiality)
  • only be changed by authorised people or processes (integrity)
  • be available to read and use whenever we want (availability).

It is important to be able to distinguish between these three aspects of security. So let’s look at an example.

In April 2011, Sony revealed that the PlayStation Network, used by millions of consumers worldwide, had been breached by hackers. The breach went unnoticed by Sony for several days and ultimately resulted in the theft of up to 70 million customer records. The records included customer names, addresses, emails, dates of birth and account password details. Information which could have enabled additional attacks or identity theft.

In order to assess the scale of the damage and repair the vulnerabilities that led to the attack Sony took the PlayStation Network offline, a move which cost the company, and merchants who offered services via the network, significant amounts of revenue.

You’ll also learn more about malware in the course of the study.

Now that you understand some of the basic concepts and terminology, you’ll use this knowledge to study real examples of cyber security breaches.

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