I know that security people use the verb "to compromise" with the meaning of "to break", for example in "the integrity of the account has been compromised". But is it okay to also use the noun "compromise" in this context? My dictionary only has that meaning as a verb ("to weaken"), but the noun seems to be reserved for "middle state between conflicting opinions". On the other hand, you get a lot of hits on Google for "data compromise".

  • 1
    Real life example from Visa Asia: "In case of compromise": visa-asia.com/ap/au/merchants/riskmgmt/aisnew_compromise.shtml
    – Thilo
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 8:07
  • That's the title, but in the body text "compromise" is expanded to "account compromise". "This section helps you to understand what you should do to prepare for and what action to take, should your organization suffer an information security breach. Incident response procedure for account compromise" (Emphasis mine.)
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:40

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't use compromise as a noun in a security context. Some possible alternatives:

  • breach
  • penetration
  • exploit

These all have other meanings, but each of them has gained traction in a security setting and would be understood (although "penetration" might cause some giggles among the middle-school crowd) in a way that "compromise" would not.

  • Agree-- it's not that common I don't think to use "compromise" as a noun, though I suppose I'd understand it if I saw it used like that. Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:43
  • The way I would put it is that the other meanings of "compromise" as a noun collide with the intended meaning in ways that the other meanings of my alternate words do not; the domains are different. It's not that "compromise" is not appropriate here, just that it's not clear.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:56

Dictionary.com gives

6) to expose or make vulnerable to danger, suspicion, scandal, etc.; jeopardize: a military oversight that compromised the nation's defenses.

4) an endangering, especially of reputation; exposure to danger, suspicion, etc.: a compromise of one's integrity.

So, from the above example, "a compromise of one's integrity." does not refer to settlement or related, but to endangering and exposure and should correspond to the security related meaning of the verb "to compromise".

  • @Unreason - "One's integrity" refers to personal integrity/honesty; "a compromise of one's integrity" would be a moral failing which threatened one's reputation (see the beginning of the definition). I would avoid using "compromise" as a noun at all in this context - it's too loaded with other meanings.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 8:51
  • @MT_Head, I believe you are twisting the definition, let me rephrase it properly according to punctuation: an endangering*, exposure to danger** (*-especially of reputation, **-to danger, suspicion, etc). Also look at Thilo's link visa-asia.com/ap/au/merchants/riskmgmt/aisnew_compromise.shtml
    – Unreason
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:04
  • also, searching for "security compromise" yields results in books ngrams.googlelabs.com/… , see books.google.com/… especially
    – Unreason
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:07
  • @Unreason - "Security compromise" is not bad - but specifically, "a compromise of one's integrity" would not be understood to mean a security breach. It's the "one's" that changes the meaning to personal. In @Thilo's link, the full phrase is "account compromise".
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:37
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    @MT_Head: "breach of security" is the better choice of words. But that does not make it a better answer to my question.
    – Thilo
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 9:53

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