D is for Data

The words we use make a difference. They make a difference in what we do, how we communicate, and our overall effectiveness as information security professionals.

This may seem basic for you, but it’s important to recognize not everyone is an “expert”. Unless you only work with people like you (experts), you’d better master the application and communication of these basics.

Despite wanting “D” to stand for something else, something a little less obvious and more sexy, it’s for “data”. Covering two things here, what is “data” and why must “D” stand for data.

What is Data?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was just one definition? Unfortunately, there’s not for the word “data”. Merriam-Webster has three:

  1. factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation
  2. information in digital form that can be transmitted or processed
  3. information output by a sensing device or organ that includes both useful and irrelevant or redundant information and must be processed to be meaningful

Dictionary.com has four:

  1. a plural of datum (and datum has five definitions)
  2. individual facts, statistics, or items of information
  3. information in digital format, as encoded text or numbers, or multimedia images, audio, or video
  4. a body of facts

BusinessDictionary has two:

  1. Information in raw or unorganized form (such as alphabets, numbers, or symbols) that refer to, or represent, conditions, ideas, or objects. Data is limitless and present everywhere in the universe.
  2. Computers: Symbols or signals that are input, stored, and processed by a computer, for output as usable information.
Despite eleven definitions from these three sources, there are some commonalities. Here’s the definition that I’ve gleaned; data is raw or unorganized information that is factual and/or statistical.

If “information” is core to the definition of “data”, then what’s the definition of information?

Data that is :

  1. accurate and timely,
  2. specific and organized for a purpose,
  3. presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and
  4. can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.
Summary Definitions

Data is:

raw or unorganized information that is factual and/or statistical

Information is:

accurate, timely, specific, and organized data that provides meaning and relevance

The difference between the two is organization and meaning.

Why D is For Data?

The simple answer is data is at the core of everything that is information security and/or data security. To drive home this fact, not only is “information” in the term “information security”, information is data, and the word “data” is applied all over our industry:

  • data administration
  • data aggregation
  • data breach
  • data integrity
  • data leakage
  • data loss
  • data loss prevention
  • data mining
  • data spill
  • data theft

So, to come full circle on the why “D” is for “data” despite wanting to find a more sexy word, data is fundamental to everything we do as information/data security professionals.

There you have it.

Honorable Mention for “D”

  • decrypt (or decryption) – turning ciphertext data (encrypted) into plaintext data.
  • digital – representation of data in discrete units, such as binary (0s and 1s).
  • denial of service – an attack aimed at making a system, service, or application unavailable to authorized users.

There you go. That’s “D”. “D” is basic. “D” is boring (to some). “D” is fundamental.

Next up is “E”.


I don’t do spam. I don’t eat it and I don’t send it. Not to mention, it’s also illegal!

I’ll write a privacy policy soon (that you won’t read).

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