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Introduction to Protection

Nowadays, enterprises have a wide variety of sensitive data which is stored in their repositories. The data can be personal, financial, business related or any kind of sensitive data.

This highly sensitive data can be lost due to data breach. A Data Breach is an incident where highly sensitive information about the company’s asset (the asset may include information about the customers, employee, trade secrets, etc) is stolen from the system without the knowledge or authorization of the system’s owner. The data breach damages the company’s reputation due a perceived ‘betrayal of trust’.

For example, an American web service provider holds the record for the largest data breach of all time with 3 billion compromised records. Similarly in year 2019, an American financial service company had 885 million records exposed online including bank transactions, social security numbers and more.

As per the below graph, the data breaches have significantly increased since 2011. The number of records exposed is comparatively higher in year 2018. The total number of data breach in 2018 was 1257 but 471.2 million records were exposed.

To prevent the loss or theft of sensitive and confidential information, the data protection techniques like data masking, encryption and decryption comes into picture.  

Data Protection is the process which uses a set of strategies and processes to secure the privacy, availability, and integrity of data. There are two protection techniques used for protecting the sensitive information: Data Masking and Data Encryption.

The primary function of Data Masking is to protect sensitive information in situations where it might be visible to someone without authorization to view. Using this technique, the original data is replaced with modified content which is realistic to the source data. It also often necessary to apply data masking on production data for non-production use such as application development and testing, personnel training, business analytics modelling, etc.

Using this technique, either some or all part of original data is masked. E.g., in online shopping, only last four digit of the credit card number or debit card numbers are shown to the customer to prevent fraud.

Data Encryption is a process where data is scrambled into unreadable format with the help of an encryption algorithm. The process of reversing an encrypted message back to its original form is called Decryption. To restore the message into its original format, a decryption algorithm and an encryption key is required.

Data Encryption is useful in maintaining the privacy of the data, analysing the fraudulent cases, helping the businesses to stay compliant with regulations, etc. In such scenarios, the encrypted data will be decrypted by authorized person into original data to perform an analysis.

To protect the sensitive information, various government regulations implemented across the globe such as PII, CCPA, GDPR, HIPAA, etc.,

There are few to reasons because of which data masking and encryption became a business requirement:

  1. Protect data from third party vendors – Sharing of data with consultants, third party marketers, often exposes confidential, sensitive, or protected information.

  2. Operator error – Often data breaches happen because of the operator error or business insiders.

  3. Not all operations require the use of entirely real, accurate data – There are various functions in an organization department that don’t require a real data. For instance, to test an application, to predict the future trends, etc.

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