Data obfuscation is a security measure that aims to mask any kind of information or file. It involves scrambling information to ensure anonymity. It is often a strategy organizations employ as a security measure, as it renders data useless in case of a breach. That way, no severe compromise can occur.
So, what is data obfuscation in simple terms? It can be likened to someone wearing a mask in public to remain unrecognizable. Obfuscation ensures that the data remains intact and that malicious individuals cannot read it.
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What Are the Popular Methods of Data Obfuscation?
Data obfuscation can take many forms, but we listed the three most common and effective methods below.
Encryption is often done when a company needs to store or transfer data securely. In this method, users cannot make changes or analyze the information in an encrypted state.
Data obfuscation via encryption typically uses cryptography, where users cloak the information with additional code. This code can only be separated from the “hidden” or “vaulted” information (hence, the term “crypt”) by using another code (the cryptographic key), which only an authorized recipient holds.
In tokenization, data is substituted with a value that bears no meaning. Only users with the right token (or key) can transform the value back to its original state and read the information. This method is often used by credit card payment processors to mask customers’ credit card numbers.
In data masking, information is replaced with false data to ensure privacy. It is an effective means to hide sensitive information because the substitute is often realistic. It is often employed in testing, application development, or personnel training personnel to present them with a data set without revealing confidential data.
What Are the Benefits of Data Obfuscation?
Data obfuscation has several benefits that include:
One of the more apparent benefits of data obfuscation is security. Since it hides data from unauthorized users, organizations can ensure that no confidential information can fall into the wrong people’s hands.
Data obfuscation also helps companies meet the mandates of regulatory requirements, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As such, they can reduce their chances of paying hefty fines due to data breaches.
Organizations in regulated industries that need to protect personally identifiable information (PII) from exposure can benefit from data obfuscation as well. It makes it possible for them to reveal only the necessary information to specific users, thus preventing failure to comply with standards.
What Are the Challenges in Data Obfuscation?
While data obfuscation offers security and compliance benefits, it can be challenging to implement. Users need to ensure that the changed data remains integrable, which requires careful processing. Reverting information to its original form must also be done in a certain way that requires reverse-engineering knowledge.
Is There a Way to Automate Data Obfuscation?
Data obfuscation can be automated with the help of third-party tools. Examples of available tools in the market include Oracle – Data Masking and Subsetting, Microsoft SQL Server Data Masking, and IBM InfoSphere Optim Data Privacy. These solutions are especially useful for users who do not have dedicated security teams.
Now that you know the answer to “What is data obfuscation?” it should become part of your organization’s security measures. Note the benefits and challenges it brings, though. Any method you choose must match your business and industry requirements. And if you lack the skills and know-how, it may be best to select an automated data obfuscation method.
Remember that no company is safe from cyber attacks. So, every organization needs to protect confidential data from abuse, mainly since data breaches are costly.