Data obfuscation is the procedure where you replace sensitive information with data that looks real. It would render it useless to the malicious actors. For development and testing environments it is used as developers would be requiring realistic data or test software as real data is not needed. There are three types of data obfuscation methods

  • Masking- it is the process where you develop different versions of data with a similar structure. The data is not going to change as the value is subject to change. It is possible to modify data in various ways as you can shift letters or numbers, words replacement or between records partial form of switching
  • Data tokenization- the current data is replaced with meaningless stuff. An authorized user can connect the token to an original data. This data is part of the production environments and an example is execution of financial transactions where there is no need to be transferring credit card details to an external  processor
  • Data encryption- relies on the use of cryptographic methods, or private key systems to modify data. Till it is decrypted this would be complexly unusable. Encryption is secure, but when you decrypt the data, it is not possible to analyse or manipulate it any form.

The reasons why data obfuscation turns out to be vital

There are ample numbers of reasons why organizations rely on data obfuscation methods.

  • Not possible to be trusting third parties- Sending out personal data, health information or credit card details to a third party is dangerous. There is considerable risk as the people who are accessing the data are beyond the control of the organization. Hence it imposes the organization to various levels of standards and regulations.
  • The operations of the business will not require real data- the user of data be it a customer, employee or contractors does pose a risk to an organization. There are various business process like development ,analytics or reporting which may not require any form of real personal data. The moment you obfuscate the data the business process is maintained by you reduce the risk.
  • Compliance- there are various compliance standards that require the data to be obfuscated, An example is the European general data protection for sensitive data does call for a degree of data masking.

The definition of data encryption

Encryption is the process where you scramble data with the use of an encryption algorithm. It is done in such a manner where it is not possible to do so without the aid of a decryption key. The modern versions of algorithms are secure, and calls for a considerable degree of computing to crack. There are a couple of types of data encryption as discussed below

  • Symmetric key encryption- it is known to encrypt and decrypt a message where it uses the same key. This is a lot faster than asymmetric encryption but the sender has to exchange the encryption key with the receiver before decrypting. It would require the user to distribute and deal with numerous keys. This turns out to be impractical and poses a lot of security concerns. The type of encryption is based on public key cryptography.

The strategy of data obfuscation

Be it code obfuscation or data there has to be a strategy in place. The strategy in place for data obfuscation is as follows

Data discovery

The first stage of the data obfuscation process is to figure out what type of data requires protection. Every company has their specific security requirements, internal policies, data complexity or be it compliance needs. Towards the end of this step you have to obtain the class of data, the type of data breach that may occur and the manner by which data obfuscation would trim down the risk.

Architecture

As part of the data discovery stage, an organization is in a position to classify data based on their business class or a class that is developed by a compliance standard. The norm of classification is sensitive, classified and public data.

For any type of classes that needs to be protected by obfuscation, there is a need to figure out on how each type of obfuscation would have an impact on the application. Any type of business operation should be able to accomplish the task under data obfuscation.

Build

The organization plans to build a platform in place to comply with obfuscation in practice. Then they would configure it to the data classes or architecture that would have been defined in the earlier classes.

  • The process to integrate data obfuscation component with the existing set of data stores and applications
  • Preparation storage infrastructure and data sets to be storing obfuscated versions of the data.
  • The process to start off with the change management procedure
  • For different types of data having an understanding of the obfuscation rules.

Deployment along with testing

The moment a system is developed, it is necessary to be testing it on all types of applications and data. This would make sure that the process of obfuscation is really secure and will not have an impact on the business operations. Testing may call for more than a single data storehouse that would make an attempt to obfuscate a part of the single database.

Once the project makes a move towards larger deployment it would be prudent at the end of an organization to undertake user acceptance task. Organization roles have to be defined properly to deal with the process of obfuscation.  In hindsight the scripts can be automated.

To sum up things an organization, that may leverage data obfuscation, tends to protect the sensitive data in requirement of a holistic solution. Suppose if the data is masked, infrastructure along with data sources still have to be protected from any form of complex attacks. You may secure your cloud bases to be catching up with DevSecops. Even integration with any type of database would be provided to gain instant visibility. Universal policies are to be implemented leading to enhancement of value.