What is the CIA triad? CIA triad explained

The CIA triad is not at all affiliated with the American intelligence service. Instead, it is a common and respected framework that underpins an organization’s security infrastructure. The CIA triad consists of three principles that form the basis of an organization’s security systems and policies.

Understanding the CIA triad

The CIA triad is an acronym of three principles: confidentiality, integrity, availability. Any time a website is taken down, a system is attacked, or an individual falls for a phishing scam, you can bet that at least one of these principles has been contravened.

Within an organization, security teams evaluate vulnerabilities and threats based on their potential effect on each principle in the triad. In more specific terms, teams assess applications, data, and critical systems and then endeavor to reduce risk via the implementation of controls.

The three principles of the CIA triad

Let’s now take a look at the three principles in more detail:


This describes the ability of the organization to protect private or otherwise sensitive information from unauthorized access. In some organizations, employees will have access to different levels of information based on rank or experience. Information can also be categorized according to the level of damage that would occur if it was obtained by an entity without the required permissions. 

Confidentiality can be violated via deliberate acts such as network reconnaissance, escalation of system privileges, and electronic eavesdropping. However, it can also occur due to less intentional acts such as the sharing of user accounts or non-existent authentication systems.


In essence, this means the organization can make assurances that its information has not been tampered with in any way. These assurances mean the information in question is trusted, authentic, and reliable. To maintain integrity, data should also be protected while it is in use, in transit, and in storage.

Integrity can be comprised in much the same way as confidentiality, but direct and indirect attacks can be prevented with digital certificates, version control, auditing, and encryption, to name a few measures.


Availability means systems, applications, and data are accessible to authorized users when needed. Information should be readily and consistently available and its access should not require an inordinate amount of time.

Availability is often comprised when there is a natural disaster and subsequent power outage with no recovery system in place. Natural disasters such as floods and snowstorms may also physically prevent employees from traveling to the workplace, which impacts the availability of business-critical applications and systems. More malicious impacts on availability include ransomware and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

To bolster this CIA triad principle, organizations can utilize redundant systems that are programmed to become available whenever a primary system has been compromised. Availability can also be increased by ensuring that software and security systems are upgraded when necessary, a process that some businesses tend to neglect.

Key takeaways

  • The CIA triad consists of three principles that form the basis of an organization’s security systems and policies.
  • When a website is taken down, a system is attacked, or an individual falls for a phishing scam, at least one of three principles of the CIA triad has been comprised.
  • The CIA triad’s three principles are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Confidentiality describes the ability of the organization to protect sensitive information, while integrity ensures that information is authentic and has not been tampered with. Availability, on the other hand, describes systems, applications, and data that is accessible to authorized users when needed.

Connected Decision-Making Frameworks

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A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Comparable Company Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Pestel Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF FrameworkBCG MatrixGE McKinsey MatrixKotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

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