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5 Data Protection Techniques and Privacy Methods to Modernize Your Data Security Strategy

by Prime Factors
August 28, 2023

Data Protection Methods for Businesses

It’s time to start shifting the mindset from leveraging encryption as a sole data protection technique, to implementing a more robust, well-rounded approach that leverages multiple types of data protection methods seamlessly to define and enforce how data is protected, who can access it, and what form the data takes when access is granted. 

Encryption is the process of encoding information so that it is unreadable to unauthorized parties. What makes encryption so powerful is that if data is intercepted, it remains unintelligible without the corresponding cryptographic keys used to encrypt the data. While encryption remains essential to most enterprises’ data protection strategy, the proliferation of data protection regulations, the expansion of industry standards, and a continued onslaught of data breaches have led to an evolution in what it takes to enforce modern data protection and privacy.

A data security platform that seamlessly applies a variety of data protection techniques the moment data is created in an application is a worthwhile investment and the best approach to ensure compliance with industry data protection regulations while strengthening your overall data security. Below, we’ve outlined five important data protection methods to bring your data security to the next level. 

Data Protection Techniques You Should Be Using in Addition to Encryption

1. Encryption Key Management

While strong encryption is important to protect your data, the necessity of a robust centralized key management system that can provide visibility and control over how data is locked and unlocked cannot be understated. 

Encryption without sound key management is a bit like leaving the key to your house under the doormat. Regardless of how great your lock is, it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the key, steals it, copies it, and uses it. Sure - the house is locked, but is it secure?  

Robust encryption key management ensures that keys are securely generated, stored, monitored, only accessed as needed, rotated from time to time, and destroyed when necessary to ensure that your most sensitive data remains secure over time. Encryption key management essentially adds a layer of protection on top of your encryption techniques by ensuring you maintain strict control over who can decrypt your most sensitive information. 

EncryptRIGHT by Prime Factors provides a state-of-the-art, centralized encryption key management functionality to minimize risks such as loss, theft, or misuse, associated with managing keys. EncryptRIGHT’s key lifecycle management functionality includes:  

  • Generate: Securely generate a variety of cryptographic key types. 
  • Exchange: Securely exchange cryptographic keys between systems and users.  
  • Store: Store keys in a secure software vault or in hardware security modules (HSMs). 
  • Rotate: Schedule keys to automatically change from time to time to improve security. 
  • Suspend: Suspend key usage as needed for specific periods of time. 
  • Revoke: Permanently revoke access to keys at any point or on a schedule. 
  • Expire: Set expiration dates for certain keys to automatically deactivate.  
  • Destroy: Permanently destroy keys for permanent data shredding. 
  • Archive: Securely archive historical keys to access as needed in the future. 

EncryptRIGHT seamlessly manages all the cryptographic keys for the data it secures, helping customers stay more organized, in control, and secure whenever they apply encryption to sensitive information. 

2. Tokenization

Tokenization is one of the most powerful techniques to reduce the attack surface for sensitive data. Rather than sending sensitive data throughout an enterprise, tokenization replaces the actual data with surrogate information (or tokens) that look and feel a lot like the real data but are meaningless values – often random numbers. The tokens, not the real data, are shared throughout the various enterprise systems, shielding the original sensitive data from unauthorized users (i.e., if a bad actor gets ahold of sensitive data that is tokenized, it means nothing to them). While many enterprises believe deploying a tokenization platform is overly complex, implementing tokenization isn’t as hard as you might think.  

EncryptRIGHT allows companies to deploy tokenization natively in applications, the moment data is created, in just a few lines of code, making it easier than ever to tokenize sensitive information. EncryptRIGHT Tokenization supports the following token types: 

  • Format Preserving: Format tokens to match the original data length and characters. 
  • Format Targeting: Customize tokens based on characters and length, regardless of original data (format-targeting tokenization). 
  • Random Number Generation (RNG): Randomly generate numbers in software or hardware security modules (HSMs). 
  • Encryption Generation: Leverage encryption using a specific encryption key. 
  • Single Use Tokens: Generate a unique token every time data is in the clear for a single use. 
  • Multi-Use Tokens: Generate a reusable token for a piece of data. 
  • Token Formats: Generate multiple token formats (alphanumeric, numeric, or binary data format). 

To learn more about the values of tokenization, download Prime Factor’s tokenization whitepaper, “What Enterprises Need from Tokenization.” 

3. Data Masking

Data masking is a central tool for modern data protection and privacy in which characters of sensitive data are redacted (i.e., *****3404) to obfuscate portions of sensitive data, often to ensure that the entire piece of sensitive information cannot be accessed. Data masking techniques include static data masking and dynamic data masking. In static masking, a data set is typically irreversibly anonymized, often for use cases related to analytics or creating data testbeds in which personally identifiable information need to never be revealed. Dynamic data masking involves temporarily pseudonymizing sensitive data, often when secured data is accessed, and in conjunction with decryption or de-tokenization, based upon the user or group accessing the data. This technique can ensure that only approved elements of a secured piece of data are revealed on a user-by-user basis. 

The importance of data masking comes into play for very specific use cases, such as when a customer service representative needs to review a customer’s account. They may ask for the last four digits of the customer’s social security number as a form of identification. The customer service representative doesn’t need to see the entire SSN, so data masking ensures the authorized user only sees what they need to see to complete the task. 

Data masking is also a requirement for industry standards, like PCI-DS and EU GDPR. If you’re transmitting, storing, and using sensitive information, data masking ensures data can only be accessed when necessary while also keeping it secure. Without data masking, you risk personally identifiable information being maliciously accessed, stolen, or misused. 

EncryptRIGHT helps organizations apply data masks to data in real time – applying specific masks to specific data sets based upon who is accessing the data. Applications can obfuscate specific data leveraging centralized EncryptRIGHT Data Protection Policies (or DPPs) the moment users access data in their application – allowing strict enforcement of data privacy and industry compliance. 

4. Access Controls

Access controls are fundamental to data security and go hand in hand with data masking as well as other data protection techniques. For modern data protection, enterprises must have the ability to define and enforce who can create, access, and manipulate what pieces of sensitive information – from production data to security policies, specific controls, cryptographic keys, masks, and other elements of data security. Separations of duties must be enforced related to creating, viewing, and protecting sensitive information, along with governing who can access, view, and make changes to specific security techniques or functionality associated with data protection to ensure that the right people are doing, accessing, and seeing the right things. 

Clear separations of duties are made possible by multi-layered access controls that help to protect against breaches and ensure data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Ideally, the users that create the schemes and techniques by which sensitive data is protected are different from those manipulating, accessing, using the data protection itself. This is where EncryptRIGHT can help. 

EncryptRIGHT employs multiple layers of access controls. Specific users or user groups may be assigned to serve a broad or perhaps a very limited administrator role – things like assigning user access and management, managing licensing, and maintaining installations. Other users might be assigned specific roles related to security posture – such as defining policies, maintaining keys, maintaining permissions within a policy. While yet other users or applications might be able to only view buy not manage specific elements related to a data protection policy.  Compliance teams might be able to view security logs but little else related to the overall security posture. When it comes to protecting and revealing sensitive data, some applications might be restricted to only ‘secure’ data using a specific data protection policy, while others may only be allowed to ‘unsecure’ data previously secured by a policy.  Even those that can ‘unsecure’ data may find that their access to the data itself has been limited to some piece of masked data or redacted altogether. With these measures in place, EncryptRIGHT makes it simple and efficient to define and enforce what form your data should take when people have access to it, and whether they should see the whole piece of data, part of it, or none of the data at all. 

5. Audit Logging and Reporting

Your enterprise doesn’t just want state-of-the-art data protection but also visibility into the changes made by whom at what times to what things in your overall security posture. Audit logging establishes certainty related to any changes to your security posture that may have been implemented over time. This insight, coupled with appropriated reporting and alerting functionality always allows you to monitor your security environment, track any changes being made, and log, report, and alert on these changes in real time. Audit logging and reporting functionality should be flexible enough to track whatever your enterprise deems important such as user logins, changes, security techniques to cryptographic keys or changes to permissions, specific security events and other user activity within a system. 

EncryptRIGHT provides customers with the flexibility they need to capture and track whatever elements of data security are important to them and report or alert through a variety of interfaces and third-party tools. For additional security, the system sequentially numbers, hashes, and encrypts audit log files to avoid tampering. EncryptRIGHT can also ensure real-time data integrity with built-in notification alerts to trigger any hashing errors not matching after decryption. This safety net helps to maintain visibility and traceability wherever sensitive data is protected – something auditors love to see when reviewing security programs.

A sum greater than its parts – these data protection techniques working seamlessly together at the application layer 

While these five data protection techniques help to supplement encryption, the importance of where, when, and how they work together can’t be understated. Ideally all sensitive data would be secured the moment it is created, and that security would persist until the exact moment that data is used. The data itself would only be ‘unsecured’ or revealed in a manner that limits the exposure of sensitive information or characters only to the extent needed to meet an authorized business objective. This approach requires a variety of security measures, such as those listed above, in addition to robust encryption and key management, to work together seamlessly to enforce data protection and privacy in applications that create, consume, and process data.  

However, organizations have avoided deploying data protection at the application layer because it has historically proven to be difficult, complex, and costly… but that’s no longer the case. EncryptRIGHT simplifies application layer data protection by allowing applications to secure data at the application level without interweaving cryptography into each application. Instead, any application running in virtually any environment (all common operating systems, on premises or in the cloud) can present any type of data – records, fields, files – to EncryptRIGHT and ask to secure data the moment it’s created or unsecure data the exact moment it’s needed with a data protection policy name.   

All of the robust security functionality of EncryptRIGHT, which includes functionality like encryption, key management, tokenization, hashing, digital signing, data masking, along with data access controls are instantly applied to the data, without an application ever needing to know any of these details. Audit logs, alerting and reporting functionality is already baked into EncryptRIGHT, so compliance teams can track any changes to security posture over time.  Drawing from the details of a centralized EncryptRIGHT data protection policy (DPP), data can be transformed into its secure state, or its revealed state, precisely as intended by the DPP.   

The DPP might encrypt some pieces of data like a password and tokenize others, such as a payment card number. Or the policy might mask social security numbers and only give certain authorized individuals access to pieces of data. In every case, the application programmers do not require any specific cryptography knowledge, nor do they even have visibility into how the data is being transformed, in most cases. They simply present a piece of data to EncryptRIGHT and ask to secure it or unsecure it with a policy name. All the functionality is delivered in a single code base that provides more control, more customization, ease of scalability, better flexibility, and stronger security for your data where it matters most: at the application layer. Application layer data protection has never been easier, more cost-efficient, and more effective than with EncryptRIGHT. 

Modernize your data protection with EncryptRIGHT. Reach out to a data security expert today. 

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