Data is the foundation of all digital information. Whether you’re viewing a web page, checking your inbox or watching an online video, your computer will receive data. Data, however, can undergo changes during transmission and storage. Depending on the type of change it experiences, it may become corrupted. Data corruption is a common problem that render data unreadable. What is data corruption exactly, and what causes it?

Overview of Data Corruption

Data corruption refers to any unwanted change to data during its transmission or storage. In most cases, data will be transmitted and stored in its original form. If you download a file to your computer, for instance, the file won’t be modified — assuming you don’t manually modify it. There are instances, however, in which data may change. These changes can occur during the transmission or storage of data. Data is considered corrupt if it undergoes an unintentional and unwanted change during either of these processes.

Detected vs Undetected Data Corruption

Data corruption can be classified as either detected or undetected. As the name suggests, detected data corruption means that you’ve identified it. If you find a file with corrupted data, it’s considered detected. Undetected data corruption, on the other hand, refers to modified data that you haven’t yet discovered. Also known as silent data corruption, it’s more problematic than detected data corruption because it often goes unresolved.

What Causes Data Corruption?

There’s no single cause of data corruption. Rather, data corruption can occur from any number of causes. Sudden power outages are a common cause of data corruption. If you are in the middle of downloading a file and your power goes out, data corruption may occur. The data within the file may change as it’s written onto your computer. To resolve this problem, you’ll typically have to delete the file and redownload it.

Malware can cause data corruption as well. Some forms of malware are designed to modify data. Malware can spread throughout your computer’s hard-disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) while modifying its stored data. The end result is corrupted data. You can prevent malware from causing data corruption by implementing a high level of cybersecurity, including the use of antivirus software and a strong firewall.

In Conclusion

Data must maintain its original form during transmission and storage. If it’s changed, it may become corrupted. Data corruption is any unwanted or unintentional change to data that occurs during transmission or storage.