Browse Definitions :
Definition

unknown unknown

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

An unknown unknown is unidentified information. An individual or organization may realize that such information exists and is relevant to them but its specifics are completely outside of their scope of awareness. The term is one of four categories of information, which also includes known knowns, unknown knowns and known unknowns.

Unknown unknowns are pertinent to many areas of information technology, including big data, text mining, project management, software design and cybersecurity. In the context of big data, for example, an unknown unknown may represent an unidentified asset. Many organizations access and store huge volumes of unstructured data without much knowledge of its potential value. However, big data analytics software may identify patterns and connections among data that yield useful information.

In project management and security, on the other hand, unknown unknowns are more often spoken of as unidentified risks. Nevertheless, there is benefit in understanding that there may be completely unpredictable events and outcomes that could have a significant effect on an organization, and reserving some contingency resources to respond to such situations.

Current discussion about unknown unknowns and its variations arose from then-United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s 2002 comment at a Defence Department briefing:

“There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know.”

Rumsfeld was differentiating categories of knowledge in a military context. The comment was generally considered nonsensical and public response was derisive. Since then, however, the terms have been elaborated upon and applied in business, the sciences and other areas of endeavor.

This was last updated in February 2019

Continue Reading About unknown unknown

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • compliance audit

    A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

SearchSecurity

  • Cybercrime

    Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network.

  • data breach

    A data breach is a confirmed incident in which sensitive, confidential or otherwise protected data has been accessed and/or ...

  • zero-day (computer)

    A zero-day vulnerability, also known as a computer zero day, is a flaw in software, hardware or firmware that is unknown to the ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • cloud insurance

    Cloud insurance is any type of financial or data protection obtained by a cloud service provider. 

  • business continuity software

    Business continuity software is an application or suite designed to make business continuity planning/business continuity ...

  • business continuity policy

    Business continuity policy is the set of standards and guidelines an organization enforces to ensure resilience and proper risk ...

SearchStorage

  • business impact analysis (BIA)

    Business impact analysis (BIA) is a systematic process to determine and evaluate the potential effects of an interruption to ...

  • RAID (redundant array of independent disks)

    RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is a way of storing the same data in different places on multiple hard disks to ...

  • dedicated cloud

    A dedicated cloud is a single-tenant cloud infrastructure, which essentially acts as an isolated, single-tenant public cloud.

Close