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Compartmented security mode

Compartmented security mode definition

The compartmented security mode is a way to handle classified information by dividing it into “compartments.” Each has its own access rules. Only people who have both the need to know and the proper security clearance can access a specific compartment. This method helps prevent leaks of sensitive information.

See also: COMSEC, electronic intelligence, declassification

Components of the compartmented security mode

  • Classification levels. Information is sorted into categories like confidential, secret, and top secret, based on how sensitive it is.
  • Compartments. Beyond these levels, information is further split into compartments, usually based on the topic or project.
  • Access control. There may be physical and digital measures to restrict access. Physical controls include safe rooms or restricted areas. Digital controls include encrypted databases, secure communication channels, and strict user authentication.

Access criteria in the compartmented security mode

  • Clearance and vetting. Employees must go through a thorough check to get the necessary security clearance. This process evaluates their background, trustworthiness, and suitability for accessing classified information.
  • Need-to-know basis. An employee can only access a compartment if they need to know that specific information for their work.

Uses of compartmented security mode

  • Government agencies. The mode is used by departments that handle sensitive national security information. This includes intelligence agencies, departments of defense, and diplomatic services.
  • Military. The military uses it to keep information about operations, strategies and technologies safe.
  • Private sector. Sometimes, private companies working with the government also use the compartmented security mode. This is especially true for defense contractors and companies involved in sensitive projects.
  • Research and development. Organizations doing high-stakes research, like advanced technology or cybersecurity, often use this mode.
  • Law enforcement. Special police units dealing with terrorism and organized crime use it to protect sensitive information.
  • Intelligence sharing alliances. Countries in groups like the Five Eyes use it to share intelligence information.