A very common mistake among many of the people who work with data is to mistake data protection techniques. Data encryption and data masking, for example, are two technically different processes that are often identified as one.
The confusion increases when data encryption and data masking are joined by other terms such as data anonymization, de-identification, data scrambling, or data obfuscation. Do you want to understand once and for all that each one means?
The Fundamental Difference Between Data Encryption And Data Masking
Reversibility is the main difference between masking and data encryption. For data masking, reversible information is weak since it contains original data that is vulnerable.
To prevent the knowledge of a key from offering certain types of information to an unauthorized person, many companies opt for data masking. The main characteristics of this type of technique are:
- Hides data items that users in certain roles should not see and replaces them with similar-looking fake data.
- Masked data is designed to meet the requirements of a system ready to continue work or testing without interruption.
- This technique ensures that vital parts of personally identifiable information cannot be recognized.
- One of the most used techniques is dynamic data masking, which transforms data on the fly based on user privileges, thus accelerating data privacy and is very valuable for protecting transactional systems in real-time.
Anyone who knows data masking knows that none of its techniques is based on data encryption. In fact, it is not even necessary to have a decryption key for the information, since all the data records, which the rules allow access, can be seen in their native form.
However, for data encryption (widely used to protect files on the local, network, or cloud drives, network communications, and to protect email and web traffic), reversibility is required in containing the information. original, albeit in a different format. Furthermore, encryption involves:
- Convert and transform data into encoded, often unreadable, ciphertext using unreadable mathematical calculations and algorithms.
- The need to have the original decryption key, together with the corresponding decryption algorithm, each time the information content is to be recovered.
Are There Alternatives To Data Encryption and Data Masking For Information Protection?
Some companies wonder what data scrambling is. Data encryption is the process of obfuscating or deleting confidential data, a practice commonly performed by database administrators seeking to preserve the confidentiality of information when cloning. The main characteristics of this type of technique are:
- It is an irreversible randomization process, which does not allow the separation of original data from encoded data.
- Typically the same coding parameters are used for multiple cloning runs.
In addition to data encryption, masking or data scrambling, businesses protect their most valuable assets through data anonymization, which makes it difficult to identify a particular individual from stored data related to him , something that is achieved based on technical such as hashing, disturbance, data encryption, generalization, or pseudonymisation. Another alternative is de-identification, a process that prevents a person’s identity from being connected to information about them and is achieved through the removal or masking of personal identifiers and the suppression or generalization of quasi-identifiers. Finally, it is worth highlighting the obfuscation of data, another form of data masking where data is purposely scrambled, forming confusing or unintelligible data sets, to prevent unauthorized access.
Also Read: What Is Data Discovery?