Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

12/26/2009
12:15 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
50%
50%

Data Masking Primer

Data masking is an approach to data security used to conceal sensitive information. Unlike encryption, which renders data unusable until it is restored to clear text, masking is designed to protect data while retaining business functionality.

Data masking is an approach to data security used to conceal sensitive information. Unlike encryption, which renders data unusable until it is restored to clear text, masking is designed to protect data while retaining business functionality.Masking is most commonly used with relational databases, maintaining the complex data relationships that database applications rely on. Masking, in essence, scrambles data in such a way as to render individual data meaningless, but still provides business use and database functional dependencies. One example: shuffling patient care data so that individual data points cannot be traced to one person, but medical trend data can still be derived from the database as a whole.

The two most common business use cases for masking are testing and analytics. Using real customer data is the best way to confirm application functionality, but moving sensitive production data (patient records, financial transactions, customer history) into lower security test systems is very risky. Similarly, so is moving sensitive data into business analytics and decision-support systems, with correspondingly greater exposure to loss. Masking provides test applications and business analytics with valuable data and simultaneously secure sensitive information.

"Data masking" is the industry accepted term for this market segment. Masking implies concealment, but not alterations; most data masking products alter the original copy. There are many other ways to scramble data, including transposition, substitution, obfuscation, concatenation, statistical averaging, and hashing algorithms (just to name a few). These technologies transform information into something that looks like the original, but with the original copy obliterated, and the new data cannot be reverse-engineered.

Data masking is commonly employed using three basic strategies:

1. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load): This describes the process most commonly associated with data masking. As data is queried or archived from the database, it is run through a transformational algorithm and then reloaded into a test or decision-support database. The original production database remains intact, but the copies have been transformed into a safe state.

2. Dynamic In Place Masking: This is a new catchphrase for the masking market and, unlike ETL, does not create a new copy. Dynamic masking keeps the original data, but creates a transformation "mask" dynamically, as queries are received. Implemented as a database "view" or trigger, query results are transformed before returned to the user. Depending on users' credentials, they may get unaltered data or masked data. This allows masking to be run in parallel to the original data set, using the same database installation, but it comes at some cost in performance.

3. Static In Place Masking: In this model, original data within the database undergoes obfuscation in place. The vendors provide the capability to make the changes without breaking data relationships. This model allows for complex, multitransformational algorithms to be applied simultaneously to keep obfuscated data value close to the original. There is no performance degradation or additional space requirements, but it requires periodic checking to mask new data entries.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security consulting practice. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/13/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-14300
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The docker packages version docker-1.13.1-108.git4ef4b30.el7 as released for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Extras via RHBA-2020:0053 (https://access.redhat.com/errata/RHBA-2020:0053) included an incorrect version of runc that was missing multiple bug and security fixes. One of the fixes regressed in th...
CVE-2020-14298
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The version of docker as released for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Extras via RHBA-2020:0053 advisory included an incorrect version of runc missing the fix for CVE-2019-5736, which was previously fixed via RHSA-2019:0304. This issue could allow a malicious or compromised container to compromise the co...
CVE-2020-15050
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
An issue was discovered in the Video Extension in Suprema BioStar 2 before 2.8.2. Remote attackers can read arbitrary files from the server via Directory Traversal.
CVE-2020-10987
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The goform/setUsbUnload endpoint of Tenda AC15 AC1900 version 15.03.05.19 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary system commands via the deviceName POST parameter.
CVE-2020-10988
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
A hard-coded telnet credential in the tenda_login binary of Tenda AC15 AC1900 version 15.03.05.19 allows unauthenticated remote attackers to start a telnetd service on the device.