What and Why Data Masking?

What is Data Masking?

Data Masking is the replacement of existing confidential and sensitive information in test or development databases with information that looks original but is of no use to anyone who might want to misuse it. Usually, the users of the test, development or training databases do not need to see the exact information as long as what they are looking at looks real and is logical.

It is important to know that data masking is appropriate to more than just personal details – sometimes confidential business information is relevant for masking as well.

Why Mask Data?

Legal Requirements

The regulatory environment surrounding the responsibilities and duties of a data holder to protect the information they maintain are becoming increasingly accurate in just about every legal jurisdiction. It is a much safe assumption that the standards for the maintenance and security of data will become increasingly strict in the future.

Loss of Confidence And Public Relations Disasters

It can logically be told that if a data escape happens in your organization, then the formal legal penalties implemented by governmental bodies is not the only problem you will be challenging. Possibly it may not even be prominent of your serious worries. Improper data exposure, whether malicious or accidental, can have disastrous consequences. Often the costs of such an event can far exceed any fines taxed for the demolition of the rules. Malicious Exposure

Many people think that the major risk to the information they hold is from external entities who may break in and steal the data. The opinion then follows that protecting the network and firewalls is the sufficient and appropriate response. There is no doubting that such protection is necessary, but it has been shown that in many cases the data is stolen by malicious insiders who have been granted over access to the data. No firewall can ever keep an insider from obtaining data under such circumstances. However, by decreasing the number of databases with the unmasked information, the overall risk of exposure is lessened. If the external hackers get through the network security, they will have far fewer useful targets and will not easily get the confidential information whereas there is high risk to lose the real data from the internal intruders.

Accidental Exposure

The prospect of accidental exposure of information is often ignored when considering the security risks associated with real-time data. It is thought that there is no use in masking the data because everybody has access to production anyways.

Not so, the risks linked to an accidental exposure of the data remains. Often just masking the most confidential information (credit card numbers, customer email addresses etc) is enough to decrease somewhat the damage compared with accidental exposure and the masked databases remain just as functional

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