Data Security Terminology

Uncover the language of data protection with this concise guide to data security technical terms and acronyms.

Access Control

Implements access rights and the policy of “least privilege,” where no individual possesses more authority to use specific compute resources, files, or services than the minimum required to fulfill their work role. Also enables logging usage of resources for forensic analysis.


Anomaly refers to an atypical behavior or action that appears abnormal within the framework of an organization and a user’s or device’s or service’s past activity. Typically, it is evaluated using machine learning algorithms that construct a profile based on historical event data, encompassing factors such as login locations and times, data transfer behavior, and email message patterns. Anomalies may indicate a compromised account.


Authentication is the act of confirming a stated identity and providing evidence to establish that an individual or device or service is indeed who or what they profess to be when seeking access to a particular resource.


CSP is a Cloud Service Provider, which is any organization engaged in offering cloud computing services, including PaaS (Platform as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), or SaaS (Software as a Service).

Cloud Native Database

A cloud-native database is a database service that is deployed and delivered via a platform provided by a cloud service provider (CSP).


Stands for Cloud Security Posture Management, which analyzes the configuration of cloud infrastructure but lacks DSPM’s awareness of the context of stored data. CSPM can be helpful for discovering data in IaaS file storage, and risk and vulnerability management but plays a limited role in solving typical DSPM use cases.


Stands for Database Activity Monitoring (sometimes called DbAM) and uses behavior analytics and other tools to detect and identify unauthorized and potentially fraudulent behavior with sensitive data. Unfortunately for DAM, cloud-resident sensitive data resides in more virtual places than a structured database.


Stands for Data Detection and Response, a cloud version of DLP that provides dynamic monitoring of log analytics to detect data risks as they occur and generate alerts to guide response and remediation.


Short for Data Leak Prevention or Data Loss Prevention, refers to a security measure that safeguards sensitive data, typically files, from being shared beyond the organization or accessed by unauthorized individuals within the organization. This is accomplished through the implementation of policies that encrypt data or regulate sharing settings. Implements access rights and the policy of “least privilege,” where no individual possesses more authority to use specific compute resources, files, or services than the minimum required to fulfill their work role. Also enables logging usage of resources for forensic analysis.

Data Breach

A data breach refers to a security event where sensitive, protected, or confidential data is accessed or exposed without authorization. Such incidents may lead to the exposure of protected health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property, classified data, or other confidential information.

Data Categorization

Data categorization involves classifying data into distinct groups based on similarities among their entities. Data privacy and security professionals use this categorization to assign sensitivity levels such as high, medium, or low to the data.

Data Classification

The systematic procedure of arranging data into meaningful categories, facilitating easier retrieval, sorting, utilization, storage, and protection of the data.

Data Flow

Data flow in communications refers to the route followed by a message from its point of origin to the intended destination, encompassing all the intermediate nodes through which the data traverses.

Data Flow Diagram

A data flow diagram is a visual representation that depicts the movement of information within a process or system. It showcases data inputs and outputs, data stores, and the different sub-processes through which the data flows.

Data Inventory

Data inventory, often called records of authority, identifies personal data present in systems and aids in mapping how data is stored and shared. Data inventories are specifically defined and required under privacy regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA.

Data Protection

A legal concept that encompasses laws and regulations designed to safeguard the personal data of individuals and ensure its fair and appropriate usage.


Short for Data Security Posture Management, which helps keep an organization’s data safe and secure by telling you everything that affects security posture: where sensitive data is anywhere in your cloud environment, who can access these data, and specific risks to sensitive data. Responders then use this information to eradicate threats.

Data Sprawl

The extensive accumulation of data that occurs daily within organizations. It encompasses the generation and accumulation of substantial volumes of digital information by businesses.

Encrypted Data

Information that has undergone encryption, a process of transforming plain text into cipher text. It ensures that only authorized parties possess the ability to decrypt and access the information, while preventing any unauthorized tampering by third parties. Unencrypted data refers to information or data that is stored without any protective encryption. ‍


Stands for General Data Protection Regulation, a comprehensive data protection law that applies to all 28 member states of the European Union. The primary objective of the GDPR is to establish stringent standards for data protection while unifying data protection regulations across the entire EU or wherever EU citizens reside.

Ghost Data

Ghost data are backups or snapshots of data stores that persist even after the original data was deleted. It falls under the category of shadow data, which encompasses unmanaged copies of data stores, as well as snapshots or log data that are not included in an organization’s backup and recovery plans.

Insider Threat

An insider threat refers to any individual who possesses internal access to an organization’s networks or resources, enabling them to exploit security vulnerabilities or engage in data theft within the organization.

Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege dictates that users should be assigned the minimum level of permissions required to carry out their designated tasks.


Misconfiguration refers to the perilous or unauthorized setup of an account configuration that has the potential to result in a compromise. Often, this occurs when well-intentioned users attempt to address immediate business challenges. Despite the absence of malicious intent, misconfiguration stands as the primary cause of data loss or compromise.

Misplaced Data

Misplaced data refers to the situation where data is transferred from an authorized environment to an unauthorized one. When unauthorized data is stored in an environment that is not intended for such data, it can result in data leaks, security breaches, non-compliance with regulations, and other detrimental consequences.


Stands for Protected Health Information, which refers to personal health information that is safeguarded under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This rule establishes federal protections for PHI held by covered entities and grants patients various rights concerning their health information.


PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information, which encompasses any form of information that allows the identity of an individual to be reasonably inferred, either directly or indirectly. Examples of PII include social security numbers (SSN), passport numbers, driver’s license numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, patient identification numbers, financial account numbers, credit card numbers, personal address information such as street address or email address, and personal telephone numbers.

Risk Assessment

Within the domain of cybersecurity, a risk assessment entails a thorough examination of an organization to pinpoint vulnerabilities and threats. The primary objective of a risk assessment is to identify the risks faced by an organization and provide recommendations to mitigate those risks.

Sensitive Data

Refers to information that is safeguarded against unauthorized disclosures due to legal, ethical, privacy, financial, or other significant reasons. It encompasses various types of data, including but not limited to health data, personal information, and confidential information such as trade secrets.

Shadow SaaS

Shadow SaaS refers to an unauthorized cloud application that is connected, often through API integration, to an organization’s SaaS or IaaS infrastructure. It gains access to corporate data without explicit permission from the organization.

Structured Data

Structured data is presented in a standardized, well-defined format that can be easily understood by both humans and computer programs. This type of data is commonly stored in databases. While structured data accounts for only 20 percent of the overall stored data globally, its accessibility and reliable outcomes make it the fundamental basis for contemporary big data research and applications.

Unmanaged Data Stores

Unmanaged data stores refer to deployments that require full support from development or infrastructure teams without relying on assistance from the cloud service provider. In such cases, the responsibility of managing and maintaining these data stores solely rests with the organization’s internal teams.

Unstructured Data

Unstructured data refers to data that does not adhere to a predefined organizational model or format. It is often characterized by being text-heavy, although it can also encompass facts, figures, and time and date information. The absence of a consistent structure and the presence of irregularities and ambiguities make unstructured data more challenging for computer programs to comprehend compared to data stored in databases with well-defined fields or annotated documents. Estimates suggest that unstructured data constitutes a significant portion of global data, and its volume is rapidly expanding.

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