What is the difference between safety and security in the context of information management or computer science?


This could be the canonical answer for people searching for it. Let me know if superuser.com is the wrong site for this question.

I have, of course, googled it and haven't found an answer that seemed short and to the point. Wikipedia wasn't very helpful either: safety, information security.

  • This sounds most suspiciously like a first-year university CS assignment question… (I don't mean to be rude if it's genuine.) – msanford Jun 27 '10 at 22:54
  • will it be answered ever in a exact answer?? – Ravisha Mar 11 '11 at 9:25
  • Surprisingly its OK to answer homework questions on SU. – davidgo Mar 17 '16 at 3:46

Safety is generally thought of in terms of data integrity. Backups, checksums, etc all ensure that the data is safe from failure.

Security is protecting data from unauthorized access, such as private info being viewed by a trojan, or database tables being dropped from SQL injection.

Note that no one really really uses the word "safety" but the term "security" is widely used in the industry.

  • 1
    Weirdly enough, both these words translate to one in Russian. So that was the reason I could not remember any real-world example of safety usage... – whitequark Jun 7 '10 at 2:24
  • Safety can also refer to protecting against things like users making dumb mistakes. (When performing dangerous options, we prompt the user with a confirmation box, to increase overall safety.) Security does tend to refer to unauthorized actions (not necessarily "protecting data", although that is quite common). For instance, permissions settings that prevent a person from handling equipment (which could be unrelated to being careful about data being read or written). – TOOGAM Jun 2 '16 at 4:49

Safety references to accidentally threat. Fault tolerance deals with safety.

Security refers to intentional threat. Attacks for example!

  • I'm not convinced this is 100% accurate, but its concise and pretty good. – davidgo Mar 17 '16 at 3:48
  • According to wikipedia: "Security [...] applies to any vulnerable and valuable asset, such as a person, dwelling, community, item, nation, or organization.", "Safety is the state of being "safe" (from French sauf), the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes" – guhur Mar 17 '16 at 13:35


A safe data can be insecure, if the data is monitored but not tampered during transit A secure data can be unsafe, if the data is not tampered during transit but has got corrupted due to physical or electronic medium

Local storage

A safe data can be insecure, if the data is stored without corruption but data is visible to third party A secure data can be unsafe, if the data has username or password to access but hard drive is corrupt

Cloud storage

A safe data can be in secure, if the data is stored as it was transferred but the data was compromised during transmission by network bots or network protocol snooping A secure data can be unsafe, if the data transferred gets corrupted and no checksums or data consistency checking is available


A safe data can be insecure, if the data structure is consistent with user data but a Trojan program is using the same data through some access maliciously within the computing unit A secure data can be unsafe, if the data structure has a data that has been computed incorrectly by the user program and updated due to a bug in the system

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.