Data masking, also known as data obfuscation, hides the actual data using modified content like characters or numbers. The idea behind data masking is creating another version of data that cannot be easily identifiable or reverse engineered, protecting data classified as sensitive.
However, it doesn’t destroy the data and the data stays usable for other activities. If used with an access management service like HIWARE, data masking can also be activated depending on the user and the user’s unique authority and access.
The main reason why it is necessary is that a company needs to prevent any mistakes that might result from human error. The human error part of cyber security is getting more serious as the cost of human error has reached tens of millions and therefore companies are spending more on solutions that provide access control of system users. Collectively, more than 80%of all data breaches are due to insider threat, which can be either intentional or accidental. Data masking hides sensitive information such as passport no, name, address, phone number etc., so that even the employees who handle the DB cannot see the details and exploit them. Only the admins who are trusted enough to handle to data is given access to this data.
‘Insider threat’ is not only the employees that work for that organization, but everyone with access to the system. Data masking is a very useful tool when a company needs to give access to its database(s) to outsource and third-party IT companies. It makes data useless for cyberattacks while preserving its usability and consistency while reducing risks associated with sharing the data with integrated third-party applications and cloud migrations. It also avoids risks associated with outsourcing any project. Because most organizations merely rely on trust when dealing with outsourced persons, masking prevents data from being misused or stolen.
Data masking also helps companies to stay compliant with data protection laws such as GDPR, PDPA etc. by eliminating the risk of sensitive data exposure. Because of this, data masking offers a competitive advantage for many organizations. And in many countries, data protection laws legally require companies to comply with their rules which makes cybersecurity measures like data masking a necessity and not a ‘good to have’.