Data masking, also known as pseudonymization, is used in order to minimize the unnecessary spread and exposure of sensitive data within an entity. Data masking replaces real data with imaginary data that is accessible so that it can be used safely in situations where actual data is not needed.
With data masking, many forms of confidential data can be shielded. For instance:
● Personally identifiable information (PII)
● Protected health information (PHI)
● Intellectual property (ITAR and EAR regulations)
● Payment card information (PCI-DSS regulation)
Data values are altered via the data masking solution, while data formats remain unchanged. Data masking uses many sensitive information manipulation methods, including the substitution of characters or numbers, the shuffling of characters, or the use of algorithms for the generation of random data with the same properties as the original data.
Here are three main reasons why businesses should include data masking in their wider strategy for data protection, taking into account the high priority need for organizations to protect their confidential data.
1) Manage Compliance
In the past, several data protection laws have been enforced. Comprehensive in nature, these laws require companies to ensure full protection of data. A few examples of such regulations are SOX, GDPR, CCPA, etc. A solution for data masking helps comply with these regulations.
The GDPR proposes two key principles: minimization of data and pseudonymization as ways of protecting people’s privacy rights while allowing data controllers to use collected data for other purposes.
GDPR allows businesses to implement data minimization, which is to collect and use data limited to what is needed for a specific purpose, to retain it no longer than necessary, and not to make it available to an infinite number of people. Data masking can also be used in order to meet the data security requirements of GDPR.
2) Secure Non-Production Data
Although facilitating secure sharing/copying/using of sensitive data, masking lets you safeguard those data sets and meet compliance requirements without hindering your business operations.
Contractors or offshore staff can, if left uncontrolled, access production data in non-production environments, and potentially move it via the cloud or removable media throughout locations. And there may be multiple such data sets in general. As long as the data is available for non-production purposes, masking can control the distribution of real data that could be vulnerable to breach or outright theft. It also decreases the possible risk factor of your organization.
3) Protect From Insider Threats
Trusted staff, engineers, trainers, company analysts, who are already within perimeter defenses, may need access to data but may not actually need access to actual production data. The real threat to today’s businesses can theoretically be from within; it is not appropriate to underestimate the magnitude of the threat from insiders. A significant proportion of data breaches are caused due to problems such as mistakes, accidental employee actions, third-party snafus, and stolen computer devices. By masking sensitive production data, organizations make available the data that staff needs to get their job done while reducing the risk of a malicious, irresponsible, or compromised insider data breach.
Data masking is a means of pseudonymization of data, especially in non-production data environments such as training, analytics, application development, and testing. By replacing confidential data with realistic, fictional data, a secure data masking solution helps organizations comply with key data privacy guidelines.