How vulnerable is your sensitive data? Your data policies may put this information at risk of being breached. An ad hoc approach for dealing with this data makes it difficult to maintain your organization’s cybersecurity. Data obfuscation holds the key to improving your security and making it easier to use your data, but it must be driven by your policies to be effective.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Data Obfuscation?
  2. Why Do You Need to Obscure Your Data?
  3. How Data Obfuscation Works
  4. What Is Policy-Driven Data Obfuscation?
  5. Leveraging Xplenty’s ETL Solution for Data Obfuscation

What Is Data Obfuscation?

Data obfuscation allows you to hide sensitive data without removing all of its functionality. You’ll also hear this process referred to as "data masking." Many types of software can assist you with obfuscation, from ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tools to iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) solutions.

Customer Story
Customer Story
Keith connected multiple data sources with Amazon Redshift to transform, organize and analyze their customer data.
Amazon Redshift Amazon Redshift
David Schuman
Keith Slater
Senior Developer at Creative Anvil
Before we started with Xplenty, we were trying to move data from many different data sources into Redshift. Xplenty has helped us do that quickly and easily. The best feature of the platform is having the ability to manipulate data as needed without the process being overly complex. Also, the support is great - they’re always responsive and willing to help.
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Why Do You Need to Obscure Your Data?

Some of the most common reasons to hide sensitive data include:

  • Staying in regulatory compliance: Many data privacy regulations have strict guidelines on how you need to handle sensitive data, and falling out of compliance can be a costly situation.
  • Protecting against data breaches: When sensitive data is obscured, unauthorized parties cannot view this information if they breach your systems.
  • Running tests with full data sets: If you need real-world data to test your software, you can protect individuals’ privacy while still getting the representative information required.
  • Moving your data between systems: You can keep sensitive data in transit safe while it is exported and imported to its new destination.
  • Sending credit card information from an online store to a payment processor: Data obfuscation between these two systems keeps the payment data safe even if it gets intercepted.

How Data Obfuscation Works

For your data obfuscation policies, you need to choose the methods that work best for your use cases. These include:

  • Data anonymization: You commonly use this method to create usable test data for your non-production environments. This data no longer has identifiable information and lacks a way to revert to its pre-anonymization form. The sensitive data can be randomized, substituted for dummy values, or substituted for dummy values within a real-world range.
  • Data tokenization: Your sensitive data connects to a random code, known as a token. When the right system receives this token, it can look up the original value. You see this method used most often in payment processing and similar use cases.
  • Data encryption: Your sensitive data gets transformed, so it can only be read with the right encryption key. This method is used to protect sensitive data in transit. Once the data arrives at its intended destination, the system uses the key to decrypt it.

Customer Story
Customer Story
Keith connected multiple data sources with Amazon Redshift to transform, organize and analyze their customer data.
MongoDB MongoDB
Amazon Redshift Amazon Redshift
David Schuman
Dave Schuman
CTO and Co-Founder at Raise.me
They really have provided an interface to this world of data transformation that works. It’s intuitive, it’s easy to deal with [...] and when it gets a little too confusing for us, [Xplenty’s customer support team] will work for an entire day sometimes on just trying to help us solve our problem, and they never give up until it’s solved.
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What Is Policy-Driven Data Obfuscation?

Data obfuscation doesn’t do a lot of good if everyone in the organization uses it arbitrarily. A lack of a cohesive strategy may result in sensitive data that are not protected, uneven implementation of this tool, a lack of understanding on how to use data obfuscation properly, higher costs, and added complexity for the IT team.

Policy-driven data obfuscation provides clear guidelines on why it’s important, what type of method to use, the data that should be hidden, and the software that everyone in the organization should use for it.

Define Sensitive Data and Its Location in Your Organization

What types of sensitive data do you handle? Don’t assume that everyone knows what this data is, as regulations and policies can change regularly. Laying it out clearly ensures everyone is on the same page. You also need to define where this data is located and where it might be moved. For example, your non-production environment often has large amounts of sensitive data on test software and similar locations. Conduct a complete audit if necessary to avoid overlooking any sensitive data stores hidden on decommissioned machines or old software.

Set Up a Standardized System for Obfuscating Data

Everyone in the organization needs to use the same system to obfuscate data. You won’t have to worry about data masking methods that don’t fit with your use cases, additional attack vectors from added infrastructure complexity, or supporting more software than you need to. Ideally, you have an automated method for data obfuscation so that sensitive data is automatically hidden as needed, rather than needing user input every time. Detail every data use case that requires obfuscation and add flexibility in your policies to account for future requirements.

Change Management for Data Obfuscation Policies

Increase data obfuscation adoption and reduce the learning curve through step-by-step advanced training guides on the process for your tool, why it’s important, and how it benefits everyone in the organization. Focus on getting leadership and end-user buy-in throughout the process of creating your policies, procuring the tool, and deploying it, so you have the ongoing support needed to make this project a success.  

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Leveraging Xplenty’s ETL Solution for Data Obfuscation

Streamline your data obfuscation by automating the process in your data pipeline. Xplenty is an ETL tool that securely extracts your data, transforms it based on your data obfuscation policies, and then loads it into the destination.

This user-friendly, no-code data pipeline platform ensures that your sensitive data is consistently obscured so you don’t have to worry about falling out of compliance or exposing this information to unauthorized parties.

Try Xplenty for fourteen days and see for yourself how it helps you implement policy-driven data obfuscation.