Data masking best practices for protecting sensitive information?

Data masking best practices

What is meant by data masking?

Data masking is a process of hiding the data and restricting access for unauthorised persons. If anyone tries to access the data, they cannot even see or alter the data. The content of the original data masked with some special characters.

Data masking implies masking the data, which contains information like personally identifiable information, protected health information, commercially sensitive data, payment card information, intellectual property, and sensitive personal data. The data must be usable and should undergo some test environment cycles.

For any organisation, data has to undergo certain stages of life cycle like development, testing, and execution before data masking.?

Why is data masking important to sensitive information?

Data masking is essential for sensitive data. It not only secures the information but also gives confidence to individuals and organisations. And also, data masking gives freedom during test environments to protect your data from intentional and accidental threats.

  • Data masking protects your data and also your organisation’s data
  • Improves test data by providing real-time data
  • It also provides data from a non-production environment
  • It secures the data during non-production of data
  • It also protects against insider threats

What is sensitive information?

Sensitive information is the information that may present with individuals, organisations, and government bodies.

Sensitive information of personal information is like personally identifiable information, health information, biometric data, financial information. And business information like trade secrets, business schemes, plans, and policies.

Sensitive information of classified information is crucial information, and this information contains some levels of classification like a secret, top-secret, restricted, and confidential. Classified information is released to all only after finishing an in-depth investigation.

Tips for securing sensitive information:

  • Restrict access to sensitive information
  • Use different logins
  • Don’t give administrative access to all
  • Secure sensitive documents in sealed cabinets
  • Use strong passwords for protecting the documents
  • Avoid using unsecured WiFi
  • Create a cyber threat emergency plan

Data masking? What do I need to know?

The Data Masking feature has a huge demand for many organisations to safeguard sensitive data. Data masking can increase the security levels for data if required by the organisation or regulatory authorities.

Various data is exchanged between the multiple departments of an organisation and their business clients. Hence it is essential to mask the data which can be accessed by external and internal users. Some unauthorised users try to hack the data when data is accessed by outside users, which causes severe loss in terms of data and also money.

Right now, most of the databases are coming with data masking features.

For example: If an unauthorised user tries to access a table from a database when the user selects the query, the output generated result will be stale data, which will be in an unreadable format. As the data is masked, mostly columns data will be interchanged in the database table.

Data masking? What are the benefits?

Data masking means not only masking the data but also replacing the data with certain blanks. It generates the data which is similar to original data in the test environment, and also it secures the data by replacing the sensitive data with the unique characters. Data masking generates data that is similar to originals, in some cases it generates replicas to that data.

  • It keeps your data safe?
  • It protects access from unauthorised persons
  • It reduces the security risks
  • It also saves the regulatory fines?
  • Improves the structural and integral format
  • Declines the risks that are associated with data

Data masking techniques:

Data masking is essential for any industry to protect data from other unauthorised persons.

Data is masked in different techniques, these different techniques used for different purposes. For various industries, various masking types are used.?

For example: In the Banking sector, numbers and data variance techniques are used to change or alter the financial data like account, debit, and credit card details.

Below are some data masking techniques:

  • Substitution
  • Shuffling
  • Number and data variance
  • Nulling out
  • Encryption
  • Masking out

Types of data masking:

There are three types of data masking.?

1)Static?

2)Dynamic?

3)On-the-fly?

The best practices for securing Sensitive Information:?

Here are such practices of securing sensitive information

Many times we hear the data got hacked, hackers are finding new ways to hack the data.

With the present technologies, you can safeguard your devices that contain information. Not always, security breaching happens due to technology weakness sometimes due to user mistakes also.

It is not enough just by masking the data. The masked data of an organisation should undergo certain stages like identifying the sensitive information and then applying the appropriate data obfuscation method.

Here are the best practices to protect sensitive information.?

  1. Build strong passwords
  2. Use multifactor authentication
  3. Be suspicious on email
  4. Protect your mobile devices
  5. Engage in safe and peaceful web browsing
  6. Be vigilant

1. Build strong passwords: Generate strong passwords for all your accounts so that no hacker can crack the passwords. If you keep weak passwords like date of birth or mobile numbers, it becomes easy to crack passwords for hackers. A strong password should have a group of lower case, numbers, upper case, and also special characters.

2. Use multifactor authentication: Along with the username and password, use another factor for better authentication. Using more factors increases security.?

For example: After entering username and password details, sending a code to a mobile number or asking a security question on the next page and asking the user to enter the details provides better security for accessing the data.?

3. Be suspicious on email: Be careful regarding the emails which are having the links which mislead to phishing where your account gets hacked once you click the link, while some emails are like they offer huge amounts and ask you to send our details.

For attackers, it becomes very easy to hack accounts by sending links to the targeted users. To protect from such frauds whenever you receive such emails, contact the company or organisation and clear all our doubts regarding the mail received by you.

4. Protect your mobiles: An outdated mobile software gives a path to attackers, so keep updating software on your devices and update all our applications. Updated software is fully protected and secure and restricts access for attackers.

5. Engage in safe and peaceful web browsing: Not only the mobile software and mobile applications update your browsers for safe and peaceful browsing. An outdated browser opens a path to attackers for stealing the personal and sensitive information by simply placing small snippet codes in cookies.?

Be aware of pop-ups and advertisements as attackers try to steal information by providing links and allowing users to click on the link. When a user clicks on the link, the attacker easily accesses the browsing device and steals the information. So always keep your web browser up to date.

6. Stay vigilant: Even though advanced technology helps users in providing security and privacy, which keeps attackers far away. It is essential to keep an eye on your sensitive information. Be alert while using sensitive information.

What are the ways to protect sensitive information?

Most of the companies keep their sensitive information like credit card details, debit card details, bank account details, and other details in certain files. And for any company, this data is necessary for business and its functions. If such sensitive data goes into the hands of intruders, it creates damage and harm to both companies and their customers. So it is necessary to protect such sensitive information.

There are five key principles for securing the data:

  1. Take stock
  2. Scale down
  3. Lock it?
  4. Pitch it
  5. Plan ahead

1. Take stock: Understand how personal information is transferred from one environment to another environment. Try to find where the company stores the data and identify the sensitive data. By enquiring, different departments trace the information that is stored on other storage devices like flash drives and hard disks of laptops. Such a way, Identify sensitive information from various sources and store it at a place.

2. Scale down: Keep the sensitive data, which is important and useful for business functions only. Ignore the data, which will no longer be useful for business. Don’t collect sensitive information that does not legitimate your business needs.

3. Lock it: Identify and Protect the sensitive information that you stored by discovering the data from various resources. There are four principles of securing sensitive data, which includes Physical security, Electronic security, Employee Training, and Security practices.

4. Pitch it: Discard the data after using it, which is not important. Destroy the paper records by burning and shredding. By implementing proper disposal practices, you can prevent unauthorised persons from accessing the data.

5. Plan ahead: Create an alternate plan if any security threats to the protected data. Certain steps protect your data and help from a security breach. If any security threats take place, try to investigate the security reasons immediately, and respond to the incident.

Final thoughts: Sensitive information contains all your personal details that expose your interests and behaviour to outsiders. For any individual or organisation, they have sensitive information. If such sensitive information gets breached, then it causes severe harm to both individuals and organisations. It lowers the reputation and reveals the company’s trade secrets, which helps the opposite competitors. It is very necessary to protect sensitive information.?

Data masking prevents data breaching from unauthorised persons by hiding the data. Certain strategies and methods in data masking help in protecting sensitive information, which increases trust over the organisation, and also it keeps our data safe. Data masking techniques and best practices help in safeguarding sensitive data.