Collateral damage is damage that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The term originated in the U.S. military, but it has since expanded into broader use.
According to the USAF Intelligence Targeting Guide, the term means:
" [the] unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment, or personnel, occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities. Such damage can occur to friendly, neutral, and even enemy forces".
Intent is the key element in understanding the military definition as it relates to target selection and prosecution. Collateral damage is damage aside from that which was intended. Since the dawn of precision guided munitions, military "targeteers" and operations personnel have gone to great lengths to minimize collateral damage
The term 'collateral damage' has also been borrowed by the computing community to refer to the denial of service to legitimate users when administrators take blanket preventative measures against some individuals who are abusing systems. For example, Realtime Blackhole Lists used to combat email spam generally block ranges of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses rather than individual IPs associated with spam, and can deny legitimate users within those ranges the ability to send email to some domains.
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