What is data integrity?

There are three pillars of information security (and the objective of implementing technical and organisational security measures): availability, confidentiality and information integrity. Organisations all over the world need reliable information to carry out their daily business activities and make better decisions. This is what information integrity is all about. Let's go over what it is and how it is achieved.

What is it?

This term, in computer security, can be defined as the guarantee of accuracy and reliability of information. By ensuring the integrity of the information and data, any unauthorised modification thereof is prevented.

The hardware and software that support the data, as well as the communication mechanisms, must work in a coordinated manner in order to maintain and process the data correctly and move it to its recipients without being altered.

How is data integrity achieved?

To achieve integrity of information, users' permissions on information should be limited and those to the systems that support it, reduced to the bare minimum. Similarly, critical system files should be hidden and access to them should be restricted. In addition, applications should validate input data and writing to databases should be restricted to authorised users.

Examples of controls or technical measures that guarantee computer integrity:

  • Hashing of the data to ensure that it has not been modified.
  • Management of configuration of the systems to ensure that it has not been changed without authorisation.
  • Change management to ensure the integrity of processes.
  • Controls over physical access to facilities and logical access to information, systems and applications, as well as to the network.
  • Digital signature of the information.
  • Redundancy checks on information transmissions.

Examples of information integrity assurance

Most of the time, when we download any kind of software from a reliable website (for example, a manufacturer...), a file with its hash code usually appears in the place where the file is downloaded. But why is this done? To have the complete certainty that the file has not been modified until it reaches our device.

The integrity of the data or information guarantees the accuracy of the data transported or stored, ensuring that it has not been altered, lost or destroyed, either accidentally or intentionally.

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