Handbook of Information Security Management:Access Control

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Section 1-1
Access Control Principles and Objectives

Chapter 1-1-1
Types of Information Security Controls

Harold F. Tipton

Security is generally defined as the freedom from danger or as the condition of safety. Computer security, specifically, is the protection of data in a system against unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction and protection of the computer system itself against unauthorized use, modification, or denial of service. Because certain computer security controls inhibit productivity, security is typically a compromise toward which security practitioners, system users, and system operations and administrative personnel work to achieve a satisfactory balance between security and productivity.

Controls for providing information security can be physical, technical, or administrative. These three categories of controls can be further classified as either preventive or detective. Preventive controls attempt to avoid the occurrence of unwanted events, whereas detective controls attempt to identify unwanted events after they have occurred. Preventive controls inhibit the free use of computing resources and therefore can be applied only to the degree that the users are willing to accept. Effective security awareness programs can help increase users’ level of tolerance for preventive controls by helping them understand how such controls enable them to trust their computing systems. Common detective controls include audit trails, intrusion detection methods, and checksums.

Three other types of controls supplement preventive and detective controls. They are usually described as deterrent, corrective, and recovery. Deterrent controls are intended to discourage individuals from intentionally violating information security policies or procedures. These usually take the form of constraints that make it difficult or undesirable to perform unauthorized activities or threats of consequences that influence a potential intruder to not violate security (e.g., threats ranging from embarrassment to severe punishment).

Corrective controls either remedy the circumstances that allowed the unauthorized activity or return conditions to what they were before the violation. Execution of corrective controls could result in changes to existing physical, technical, and administrative controls. Recovery controls restore lost computing resources or capabilities and help the organization recover monetary losses caused by a security violation.

Deterrent, corrective, and recovery controls are considered to be special cases within the major categories of physical, technical, and administrative controls; they do not clearly belong in either preventive or detective categories. For example, it could be argued that deterrence is a form of prevention because it can cause an intruder to turn away; however, deterrence also involves detecting violations, which may be what the intruder fears most. Corrective controls, on the other hand, are not preventive or detective, but they are clearly linked with technical controls when antiviral software eradicates a virus or with administrative controls when backup procedures enable restoring a damaged data base. Finally, recovery controls are neither preventive nor detective but are included in administrative controls as disaster recovery or contingency plans.

Because of these overlaps with physical, technical, and administrative controls, the deterrent, corrective, and recovery controls are not discussed further in this chapter. Instead, the preventive and detective controls within the three major categories are examined.


Physical security is the use of locks, security guards, badges, alarms, and similar measures to control access to computers, related equipment (including utilities), and the processing facility itself. In addition, measures are required for protecting computers, related equipment, and their contents from espionage, theft, and destruction or damage by accident, fire, or natural disaster (e.g., floods and earthquakes).

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