Classified Information


Classified information is material that a government body deems sensitive and needs protection. There are rules governing how classified materials must be stored, physically transported, electronically transmitted, declassified and destroyed.


Government employees sometimes reveal classified details accidentally in media interviews or casual conversations. But revealing something knowingly is far more serious.


Sensitive information, like personal data or financial records, is often protected by law as a matter of privacy. Mishandling this data can have serious impacts on individuals’ lives. For example, the mishandling of an individual’s sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) can lead to harassment or discrimination. It can also result in embarrassment and humiliation for an individual.

PII can be identified by direct identifiers, such as names and addresses, or by indirect identifiers, such as date of birth, gender, race, zip code or occupation. It’s important to protect sensitive PII by classifying it and using methods for limiting access, monitoring, logging and sanitizing data. This can help with corporate, customer and employee privacy as well as threat deterrence and regulatory compliance.

Financial information, such as bank accounts and credit card numbers, fall under this category as do business plans and acquisition information. If this data was to be compromised, it could have significant financial impact as well as damage a company’s reputation.

Restricted – Access to this data would pose a moderate risk to the person or organization impacted. This level of sensitivity is often based on legal, regulatory or reputational risks. For example, if a company was to release confidential financial information on its shareholders, it could have a direct impact on the stock price and the long-standing reputation of a publicly traded company.

Top Secret – This is the highest level of classification and relates to government information. The release of this type of information can threaten the national security as well as international standing. It is typically only accessible to those on a need-to-know basis and subject to additional controls.

Each organization has its own taxonomy and ontology for defining file classification levels, and many industries have granular standards that vary by industry. However, it is 흥신소 critical to have a defined set of categories so that your team can easily find data they need, prevent accidental or intentional data breaches and apply the appropriate control measures to reduce risk.


In the commercial realm, confidential information can include everything from company secrets (the formula for that brown fizzy beverage that keeps competitors at bay) to research and development data. In many cases, this type of information is the backbone of a company’s competitive advantage. Companies spend hefty sums to develop their information so that it can give them an edge over the competition. It would be devastating to a business if competitors could steal their proprietary data.

Generally, confidential information is only accessible to company employees and those with clearance. It may be in the form of written documents or electronic data. The classification of confidential information usually is based on the level of damage that would occur if it was revealed to unauthorized individuals. The damage levels for Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret are typically expected to differ by about an order of magnitude.

Sometimes, information is classified as confidential even though an adversary might be able to get the same information by using resources that are fairly straightforward and independent of our own. This might include the specific design details (diagrammatic or descriptive) of incomplete components of basic or key equipment, apparatus, instruments or machinery employed in a critical stage of the processing and production of end products. It also might include the specific pressures, temperatures, voltages, rates, formulae and other operating details related to a non-critical step in the preparation, processing, separation or purification of basic feed materials and principal end products.

If a document has been classified as confidential and is shared with third parties, it is common to use a confidentiality agreement. In a commercial setting, this information might be shared with vendors, distributors and customers. When the flow of confidential information is one-way, a non-disclosure agreement is more often used.

Top Secret

If a document has this marking it means that the information in it is so sensitive that if it were released, national security would be seriously compromised. Archives processing classified papers often find documents with this marking, especially older ones. These include things like intercepts of encoded enemy radio signals, and information about satellite reconnaissance programs and human intelligence programs. There are also documents that have this mark because the information contained in them has been “codewordd” to prevent unauthorized disclosure. Codewords used for this purpose include words such as Umbra, Talent-Keyhole, Ruff, and Gamma.

The information that is classified at the Top Secret level is highly sensitive, involving new technological developments and materials that are vital to the national defense. To reach this level, the information must have a “relatively high probability of causing serious damage to the national security.” This includes disrupting foreign relations with the information being revealed; damaging a program or policy directly related to national security; revealing secrets about military plans and intelligence operations; or exposing radically new and extremely important munitions of war such as atomic weapons.

When a document is classified at the Top Secret level, it should have classification markings on every page, although old documents may only have them on the front of the first page. Archivists often find documents that have this marking along with other types of classification markings, including “For Official Use Only,” “Limited Official Use,” and “Sensitive but Unclassified.”

The authority to classify information is not granted to all federal officials, but is limited to certain people based on their duties or responsibilities. For example, the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency is a person who has this authority. The President has ultimate declassification authority.