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Data Masking Definition


Every company has sensitive data, whether it is trade secrets, intellectual property, critical business information, business partners information, employee information, its customers information, business transaction information etc. All of this data must be protected from leakage based on company policy, regulatory requirements, and industry standards.


Simply put, data leakage is when sensitive data leaves the protection of the custodian who has been authorized by the owner to have access to this data. The owners authorization requires that the custodian (your company) take reasonable measures to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the sensitive data, and that it foresees and prevents intentional or unintentional misuse, breach, or theft of the sensitive data.


Most organizations have at least three categories of data such as public, internal use only, and confidential. Many companies have long-established data classification guidelines. However, with all of the new regulations and industry standards, they have discovered that the mere presence of a corporate policy is no longer sufficient.


The requirements for protecting data must be clearly defined and reflect the specific requirements within the appropriate regulatory and industry rules and standards. For structured data, specific data elements must be labeled as sensitive and should never be used within their factual state in development, QA, or other nonproduction environments. The data classification policy should clearly identify the requirements for data masking. Note that knowledge and information can be broken down into specific data elements. Finally, the organization must implement a compliance process that will provide periodic independent review of the development and QA environments to ensure that best practices are followed.


Data masking is the process of obscuring (masking) specific data elements within data stores. It ensures that sensitive data is replaced with realistic but not real data. The goal of masking data is to protect sensitive information from falling in the hands of unintended recipients.