Published On: 18 October 2023By Categories: Tags: 2.4 min read

Difference in CIA Triad (Security) in Information Technology and Operational Technology

Is there any distinction in the application of the CIA Triad between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT)? To answer this, let’s first clarify what the CIA Triad is. The CIA Triad is a foundational security model that comprises three fundamental principles: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability, with a specific order of importance when applied to Information Technology.

  1. Confidentiality: This aspect centers on keeping information and data private, safeguarding it from unauthorized access or disclosure.
  2. Integrity: Ensuring data is maintained in a correct state and that any changes are auditable. Data must remain unaltered and reliable.
  3. Availability: This principle ensures that information and data are accessible as needed. It emphasizes the reliability and uptime of IT systems.

The diagram above shows a presentation of CIA Triad for Information Technology.

In the context of IT, “Confidentiality” is paramount. Protecting data from breaches and ensuring the security of both users and systems are critical. “Availability” holds the lowest priority, as it is mainly about managing data and information.

Now, let’s examine how the CIA Triad is applied in Operational Technology. In OT, the order of importance shifts slightly. The focus moves from “Availability” being the top priority, followed by “Integrity,” and then “Confidentiality.”


The diagram above shows a presentation of CIA Triad for Operations Technology.

Operational Technology, in essence, deals with hardware and software that monitor and control equipment and physical processes in various industries. Examples include:

  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems
  • Distributed Control Systems (DCS)
  • Remote Terminal Units (RTUs)
  • Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI)
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems and machines
  • Scientific equipment (e.g., digital oscilloscopes, microscopes)

For instance, consider a Water Treatment plant heavily reliant on Operational Technology. In this case, the primary concern is the “availability” of machinery to filter, process, treat, and provide drinking water. Ensuring the continuous operation of all components of the plant is crucial from a security perspective. Compromising any part of the system can disrupt the entire production process, making “Availability” paramount in OT security.

The key difference in the application of the CIA Triad between IT and OT lies in their respective focuses. IT is primarily concerned with information and data security, while OT centers on the functionality and reliability of devices and processes.

In summary, the CIA Triad remains applicable in both IT and OT, but the order of importance differs due to their distinct emphases. IT prioritizes data security, while OT places the highest importance on the uninterrupted operation of devices and processes.

Keen to learn more? Visit our Cybiant Knowledge Centre to find out more latest insights or reach out to Cybiant’s consultants by dropping a quick e-mail at to us.

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