The Anatomy of Security Controls: A Comprehensive Guide

What is a Security Control?

As we all know, information security has become an essential factor in our daily lives. In this age of technology, cyber attacks and data breaches are becoming a common threat to our privacy. Security controls are measures that are put in place to prevent unauthorized access, ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of information. In simple terms, security controls are the practices, processes or techniques used to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access and data breaches.

There are different types of security controls including administrative, physical, and technical controls. Administrative controls are the policies and procedures put in place by an organization to ensure that staff and other stakeholders comply with security procedures. Physical controls involve measures such as locks, access cards, and security cameras put in place to physically secure the premises. Technical controls, on the other hand, are the technology measures put in place to ensure data security. These include access control, encryption, firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and other types of software and hardware controls.

As the world becomes more interconnected, many organizations are moving their operations online. This increases the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Therefore, different types of security controls must be put in place to protect data from unauthorized access, alteration, and damage.

Example: An organization that stores sensitive data such as credit card numbers and social security numbers must have a strong encryption protocol in place to protect such information from cyber-attacks. Data encryption works by converting plain text data into unreadable data (cipher text) which can only be decrypted using a key or password. In this case, if cyber criminals gained access to such data, they would not be able to read it since it is encrypted.

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Another example of a security control is access control. This is a common method used to protect sensitive data. Access control involves ensuring that people who have no authorization cannot access sensitive data. This is achieved through the use of techniques such as passwords, biometric authentication, and access cards. In some cases, access control may also involve limiting the areas that employees can access within a building or organization.

Example: If a company has a database of sensitive customer information that only a few employees should have access to, an access control mechanism would be put in place to ensure that only authorized personnel can access it. This can be done by assigning unique usernames and passwords to the employees who require access and revoking access once they no longer require it. Additionally, the company can use biometric authentication or smart card readers to verify that the user trying to access the database is indeed authorized to do so.

Another important security control measure is intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS). These systems are designed to detect and prevent unauthorized access to an organization’s computer systems. They work by monitoring network traffic and identifying suspicious activity that may indicate an attempted cyber-attack. Once detected, the system can take action to prevent the attack from succeeding.

Example: A company that has a large network of computers might use IDPS to monitor their network in real-time. If the system detects a pattern of unusual traffic, such as a large amount of data being sent out from the system in a short period, it might indicate that the system has been compromised. The system would then take appropriate action such as blocking the traffic or sending an alert to the IT department for further investigation.

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Security controls are essential for the protection of sensitive data. They help to prevent unauthorized access, maintain data integrity, and ensure that data is available when needed. Organizations should put in place a combination of security controls to ensure that they have a robust security system. To effectively protect sensitive data, organizations must evaluate their security risks and develop a comprehensive approach to security that addresses all possible threats.

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