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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Information assurance

 Information assurance (IA) is the practice of assuring information and managing risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of information or data and the systems and processes used for those purposes. While focused dominantly on information in digital form, the full range of IA encompasses not only digital but also analog or physical form. Information assurance as a field has grown from the practice of information security which in turn grew out of practices and procedures of computer security.

Information assurance process

The information assurance process typically begins with the enumeration and classification of the information assets to be protected. Next, the IA practitioner will perform a risk assessment for those assets. Vulnerabilities in the information assets are determined in order to enumerate the threats capable of exploiting the assets. The assessment then considers both the probability and impact of a threat exploiting a vulnerability in an asset, with impact usually measured in terms of cost to the asset's stakeholders. The sum of the products of the threats' impact and the probability of their occurring is the total risk to the information asset.

With the risk assessment complete, the IA practitioner then develops a risk management plan. This plan proposes countermeasures that involve mitigating, eliminating, accepting, or transferring the risks, and considers prevention, detection, and response to threats. A framework published by a standards organization, such as Risk IT, CobiT, PCI DSS, ISO 17799 or ISO/IEC 27002, may guide development. Countermeasures may include technical tools such as firewalls and anti-virus software, policies and procedures requiring such controls as regular backups and configuration hardening, employee training in security awareness, or organizing personnel into dedicated computer emergency response team (CERT) or computer security incident response team (CSIRT). The cost and benefit of each countermeasure is carefully considered. Thus, the IA practitioner does not seek to eliminate all risks, were that possible, but to manage them in the most cost-effective way.
After the risk management plan is implemented, it is tested and evaluated, often by means of formal audits. The IA process is an iterative one, in that the risk assessment and risk management plan are meant to be periodically revised and improved based on data gathered about their completeness and effectiveness.

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