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What Is Data Masking Software?

February 7th, 2013 Posted in Software

Protecting data is of the utmost importance. In today’s highly digital age, it becomes necessary to protect privacy without ultimately sacrificing quality of data that is passed from one to another. While data de-identification has been highly successful in helping to protect privacy, data masking software may be even more effective in supporting the needs of the IT world. Using both together may just give you the security that you have been looking for.

Data masking is merely the process of concealing certain elements of information within data storage. This essentially replaces sensitive data with data that does not technically exist. Data masking is designed to make it impossible to access sensitive information and make that information unavailable to anyone outside of those authorized to access it. Data masking is done generally to test certain processes without the risk of exposure of the sensitive data included in those processes. It helps to avoid data leaking and can ensure that integrity is maintained.

In order for this to be effective however, the data being masked has to be altered so that the actual values of that data are completely impossible to determine or to reengineer. The functional appearance of any data masked is completely maintained and any authorized user can still test that data. It can be decrypted and encrypted during the establishment of security policies as well.

Data masking can easily be implemented using a variety of techniques. Shuffling will use existing data as a substitution and move the value of that data so that no value will appear in the original row. Encryption scrambles the data algorithmically and does not leave it looking like realistic data. It also tends to make the data appear bigger. Substitution can be used and this technique completely replaces data with random values chosen from previous datasets. Deleting data of course simply means that you remove any sensitive data and completely delete it. Finally, you can vary the existing values of data with a specific range so that you disguise them.

Some masking software allows you to deal with massive databases and save your masking functions so that you can use it on other databases when needed. You can maintain the integrity of your data across tables so that all of your information is masked at all times. This software is essential in the healthcare industry where patient data could be leaked and many software programs are now catered to the specific needs of the healthcare industry.

If you want to ensure complete privacy, data masking may simply not be enough. While it does allow you to hide the data from other unauthorized sources, it often works best when combined with de-identification software programs that use a combination of powerful tools to help ensure that the data is secure. Using both together may give you the safety that you want when you deal with private data. You can significantly reduce the risk of identification and still enjoy maximum information utility for your output data.

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