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Data Encryption vs. Data Masking: What You Need to Know

As cyberthreats continue to evolve, it’s crucial that your business is staying up to date with its cybersecurity practices. Two popular options for businesses looking to strengthen their cybersecurity are data encryption and data masking.

Interested to learn which of these techniques is right for your business? Check out this blog! In it, we’ll break down everything you need to know about data encryption and data masking and even help you make a choice about which technique may be the best way to protect your sensitive information.

What Is Data Encryption? Why Does It Matter?

Data encryption is a security measure that involves converting data into a coded form, making it unreadable to unauthorized individuals. This process ensures that even if data is intercepted, it remains confidential and secure. Encryption is vital because it adds an extra layer of protection to sensitive information, preventing unauthorized access and maintaining the integrity of data.

How Does Data Encryption Work?

Data encryption uses algorithms to transform data into an unreadable format called ciphertext. This ciphertext can only be converted back into its original form, known as plaintext, using a decryption key. Encryption algorithms can be symmetric (using the same key for both encryption and decryption) or asymmetric (using different keys for encryption and decryption).

What Data Should Be Encrypted?

Sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial records, intellectual property, and confidential communications, should be encrypted. Any data that, if exposed, could harm individuals or the organization should be given the utmost protection through encryption.

What Are Data Masking Solutions? Why Do They Matter?

Data masking, also known as data obfuscation, is a technique that replaces sensitive data with fictitious but realistic data, while preserving the format and structure of the original data. The purpose of data masking is to provide functional, yet non-sensitive, data for testing, development, and other non-production environments.

How Does Data Masking Work?

Data masking techniques vary, but the common goal is to render sensitive information unreadable while maintaining the usability of the data. Methods can include tokenization, where sensitive data is replaced with random tokens, or substitution, where real data is replaced with fictional values. The masking process typically occurs at the application or database level.

What Data Should Be Masked?

Data that is used for non-production purposes, such as test environments, should be masked. This includes personal information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and any other sensitive data that could pose a risk if exposed.

Concerned About Data Breaches? Read Our Guide

Data breaches have become an unwelcome part of doing business in the digital age. Learn what you can do to prevent data breaches and how you can respond to them if they do occur in our guide:

Data Encryption vs. Data Masking: Factors to Consider

The Sensitivity of Your Data

Consider the nature of the data you handle. If you deal with highly sensitive information that requires utmost protection, encryption is essential. If you need to maintain data realism while obfuscating sensitive details, data masking may be more suitable.

Various Regulations and Compliance Requirements

Ensure compliance with industry-specific regulations. Encryption is often mandated by regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for protecting personal data. Data masking helps organizations comply with regulations that restrict the use of real data in non-production environments.

Your Personal Use Case for Data and the Data Lifecycle

Evaluate how data flows through your organization and the purposes for which it is used. Encryption can be applied to data at rest, in transit, or in use, providing comprehensive protection throughout its lifecycle. Data masking is particularly useful during development, testing, and data analytics processes, where realistic but non-sensitive data is required.

Impact on System Performance

Consider the impact of each technique on system performance. Encryption can introduce some overhead due to the computational resources required for encryption and decryption processes. Data masking, on the other hand, can have a minimal impact on system performance as it involves data transformation without complex cryptographic operations.

Cost, Complexity of Implementation, and Your Resources

Evaluate the cost and complexity associated with implementing each technique. Encryption may require additional hardware or software solutions, as well as ongoing maintenance and key management processes. Data masking solutions vary in complexity, but they generally involve less infrastructure and can be more cost effective to implement.

The Bottom Line: Data Encryption Vs Data Masking

Both data encryption and data masking play crucial roles in securing sensitive information, but they serve different purposes. Data encryption provides strong protection for data at rest, in transit, and in use, making it an excellent choice for highly sensitive data that requires comprehensive security measures. On the other hand, data masking is valuable for non-production environments, allowing realistic data to be used while safeguarding sensitive information.

To determine the best approach for your business, carefully assess the sensitivity of your data, compliance requirements, data lifecycle, system performance considerations, and available resources. In some cases, a combination of data encryption and data masking may be the optimal solution, depending on your specific needs and use cases.

Remember, cybersecurity is a continuous effort, and it’s essential to regularly review and update your security practices to stay ahead of evolving threats. Consider consulting with cybersecurity experts or solution providers who can offer tailored guidance based on your organization’s unique requirements.

Ready to Implement Advanced Security Solutions? Get in Touch With PCI Booking

If you’re looking to strengthen your cybersecurity and ensure compliance with industry regulations, PCI Booking can help. As a leading provider of secure payment data solutions, PCI Booking offers expertise in data encryption, tokenization, and other advanced security measures. Contact PCI Booking today to discuss your specific security needs and take proactive steps to protect your valuable data.

Remember, investing in robust cybersecurity measures is an investment in the long-term success and reputation of your business. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay secure—contact PCI Booking today.