What is false positive? - Definition from WhatIs.com
Part of the Software applications glossary:

A false positive is an error in some evaluation process in which a condition tested for is mistakenly found to have been detected. 

In spam filters, for example, a false positive is a legitimate message mistakenly marked as UBE --unsolicited bulk email, as junk email is more formally known. Messages that are determined to be spam -- whether correctly or incorrectly -- may be rejected by a server or client-side spam filter and returned to the sender as bounce e-mail.

One problem with many spam filtering tools is that if they are configured stringently enough to be effective, there is a fairly high chance of getting false positives. The risk of accidentally blocking an important message has been enough to deter many companies from implementing any anti-spam measures at all.

False positives are also common in security systems. A host intrusion prevention system (HIPS), for example, looks for anomalies, such as deviations in bandwidthprotocols and ports. When activity varies outside of an acceptable range – for example, a remote application attempting to open a normally closed port -- an intrusion may be in progress. However, an anomaly, such as a sudden spike in bandwidth use, does not guarantee an actual attack, so this approach amounts to an educated guess and the chance for false positives can be high.

False positives contrast with false negatives, which are results indicating mistakenly that some condition tested for is absent. 

This was last updated in August 2014
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • enterprise search

    - Enterprise search is the organized retrieval of structured and unstructured data within an organization. (WhatIs.com)

  • health informatics

    - Health informatics, a term that includes narrower fields such as clinical and nursing informatics, is the study and management of health information. (SearchHealthIT.com)

  • agentless

    - Agentless, in computing, refers to operations where no service, daemon or process (AKA an agent) needs to run in the background on the machine the action is being performed on. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Software applications

    - Terms related to software applications, including definitions about software programs for vertical industries and words and phrases about software development, use and management.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question. Find an Answer.Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Ask An IT Question

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Ask Question

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.