Talking Tech: Safe Vs. Secure


Let’s face it, techs have their own colloquialisms which sound like gibberish to even a well educated person. This phenomenon is the result of one of the oldest maxims of language: he who discovers or invents it gets to name it. Since any programmer can write a program, and, by extension, name it [and its features], talking tech has become its own mix of everyday objects, invented terms, and strange hybrids therein. Many tech terms follow inferred rules found elsewhere in English while others do nothing of the sort. For example a desktop computer sits on the top of a desk while a laptop computer sits on your lap. There are, however, many tech terms which are homonyms in English but differ greatly when brought into the context of a tech discussion. Safe Vs. Secure

One of the most important practices in information technology is the regular backup of the data we entrust to our computers. Although there are many approaches to data backup, they all share a common goal: keep your data both safe and secure. Since safe and secure sound appealing to the marketers of the world, the terms are used largely in tandem but occasionally are used interchangeably. That’s a major mistake! Not all secure data is safely stored and very few consumer grade backup solutions are secure. Let me elaborate.

Safe data, by definition is data which has been stored in a way which ensures that it is both readily available for restoration and stored redundantly such that a single backup’s failure does not result in data loss.

Secure data, by definition refers to a specific method by which any data (either primary or backup) is stored such that it is not accessible by anyone other than its creator and intended recipients. Encrypted files cannot be accessed by those without the password to unlock those files. Yet, encryption of data does not ensure the safety of said data. Here’s a real-world scenario.

You have data on a desktop at work and a laptop at home. To transfer files between home and work, you use an encrypted jump drive which requires a password to access its contents. The jump-drive and its data are secure but not safe because it is entirely possible to lose the jump drive during your commute. If you lose the drive, it may not be accessible to the person who finds it, but if the only copy of that data is on the drive, your lost drive is just as useless to you as it would be to its new owner!

Here’s another example.

You have a network attached storage drive or public folder at work which you regularly access from home which doesn’t have a password protecting it. The lack of security is to ensure it is easy for you and your co-workers to access their publicly available files from anywhere. Since the data exists on both your home computer and at work, it can be assumed that the data is safe from common pitfalls such as hard drive failure, fire, electrical surges, etc. The data is, however, not the least bit secure since anybody, employee or not, can access the publicly available folder. In a sentence: We back data up to keep it safe and we encrypt it to be sure it is secure from others.

For more information on best practices, data security,and data safety, call Nerds Limited and see just how useful it can be to have your own tech guy!