The number of data hacks around the world has increased, and the United States is no exception. Over 1,3000 significant data breaches occurred in 2017—up 1,100 from 2005. The sharp rise in breaches is thought to be attributed to cyber criminals who are stealing more data, and also that businesses are reporting these breaches with more regularity. And while the loss of data may be detrimental in and of itself, public companies may expect that their stocks take a massive hit—just as Equifax’s did after its breach. But there are ways global businesses can protect themselves from data hacks, including practicing data masking.
What is Data Masking?
Data masking is a method of protecting data by replacing real data with fake data that still functions properly and can be used safely when and where the real data is not required. Essentially, it can protect sensitive data by “masking” it with convincing fake data, preventing data loss in different use cases. It does this by changing data values while the data formats stay the same. It does this through:
- Number and/or character substitution
- Character reorganization
- Random data generation with properties that are the same as real data
These methods of obfuscation can prevent sensitive information such as names, credit card numbers, healthcare information, addresses, and other data from being seen and stolen by hackers. It can still be available for data owners to use real data for whatever purposes they need.
Data Masking Strategies
Masking real data in an irreversible way is key to protecting that data, as this prevents the real data from being obtained even if a hack occurs. And this process shouldn’t be done just once; sensitive data regularly changes, and so too should the masked data in order to secure real data. The quicker this can be done, the better. For companies involved in application development, training, and analytics modeling, having copies of production data for non-production is key. Masking allows for protection of those data sets while sharing or copying data without slowing operations.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in May of this year, and brought with it numerous changes to how data is used and stored. It is intended to strengthen personal data of EU citizens—with implications for anyone who collects, stores, and shares those citizens’ data. For those who fail to comply, they may expect stiff penalties. As GDPR aims to protect data, it does so by implementing data minimization and pseudonymization, a data management and de-identification tactic that replaces personally identifiable information fields with an artificial identifier(s), otherwise known as pseudonyms. This not only protects sensitive data, but it protects data controllers and processors.
A World Increasingly Reliant on Data
As the number of connected devices increases exponentially, the amount of data these devices generate will increase at astounding rates. And, as illustrated by high-profile hacks in recent years, the need for protecting this sensitive data will be more urgent than ever before. SMEs and global businesses alike will indeed need secure ways in which to store their data—and methods by which to protect their data from hackers. Data masking provides protection from (and, at the very least, mitigation of damage done by) hacked data—no matter the industry or sector.
Managing your organization’s cyber security is an essential endeavor not only for safety measures, but remaining competitive in your original market—and global markets. If your organization is considering expanding into new international markets, reach out to Velocity Global today to learn more about how our expansion experts and our suite of services can assist with every step of the expansion process.