This confuses me sometimes, I just need to know what is meant by integrity and consistency just in simple terms or in computer security.

will it be wrong to say:- someone who gain an unauthorised access to a computer and then modify files is violating integrity? if correct, how about consistency?


  • Are you referring to the CIA triad? If so I think you mean confidentiality? – Ammar Bandukwala Oct 29 '15 at 19:20
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    Ammar Bandukwala it sort of CIA, but am looking at the Security features of OS under enforced sharing, They state that Resources should be made available to users as appropriate.Sharing brings about the need to guarantee integrity and consistency , for me Integrity and consistency is the same. I just wanna note the difference – Siduduzo Godfrey Manqele Oct 29 '15 at 19:26

Integrity refers to the accessed data being correct.

Consistency refers to the accessed data being available.

  • Consistency and availability seems two different things to me. Some data while available anywhere at anytime may be as well some buggy inconsistent crap. – WhiteWinterWolf Oct 30 '15 at 10:33

Integrity means that the data is correct.

Consistency means that the data format is correct, or that the data is correct in relation to other data. This term isn't much used in Information Security, you'll find it in Computer Science in general.

For instance, accessing a database without authorization and changing a DOB from 1/1/1980 to 2/2/1980 would violate integrity. Changing a DOB to 13/13/1980, or deleting a user so that other data (e.g. bills) references to NULL would violate consistency.


The notion of consistency is an important concept as soon as you deal with shared data as you mentioned in your comment.

  • Integrity: This one means that the data you access is conform to a correct and sane state. This means that the data has not been altered, whether due to technical (networking, storage, etc.) or human issue (unintentional wrong manipulation, intentional malicious access, etc.).

    It does not take into account concurrent access to the data.

  • Consistency: This one is mostly specific to shared environments and directly relates to the C in the ACID acronym used in transactional databases world. The end-goal with this ACID principle is to guaranty that there will be no issue (data loss, incoherent values, etc.) when several people try to modify the same document at the same time. You can handle it several in several ways; from the smartest change merging algorithms passing through read/write locking mechanisms and up to the dumbest warning like "This document has been modified by another user, your changes cannot be saved, please reload it".

    The consistency principle focuses on the fact that, at any time, the data saved into you system must be in a coherent and valid state (what is exactly a "valid" state may depend on your exact needs, it can range from allowed values to complex relationship between several data). Your system must not allow the users to save data considered invalid or incoherent, even when several users alter the data at the same time.

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