Encryption VS Data Masking
Both, data masking and encryption are used to hide data's original values. Yet, they are not the same, both by purpose and by the implementation.
WHAT IS DATA ENCRYPTION?
Data encryption is the process of converting original, readable data or plaintext into unreadable text or ciphertext using an encryption algorithm. A decryption key is needed to revert encoded data to a readable format.
Access to the encryption key needs to be restricted to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches.
WHAT IS DATA MASKING?
Data masking, also known as de-identification, is the process of replacing sensitive data attributes with similar realistic values using a masking algorithm. Masked data can be retained for testing and analytical purposes, but cannot be re-identified once masked.
Data masking meets the requirements of most privacy laws including GLBA, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, PIPEDA, CCPA, and more.
DIFFERENCES IN PURPOSE AND IMPLEMENTATION
The purpose of encryption is to hide data from the hacker. In data security classification, the hacker is an external threat and has no access to encryption keys. Both data in transit and data on the disk are well protected with encryption against hackers outside of the organization. The purpose of data masking is to hide data from the developer. The developer often does have access to an encryption key. Not only that, encrypted data, unless there is a specific provision, might not fit the predefined field sizes of your storage and makes it extremely hard to comprehend values for the developer. The difficulty in comprehension slows down development.
Encryption is a method that allows the intended communication information or message, referred to as plaintext, to be encrypted using an encryption algorithm, generating ciphertext that can only be read if decrypted. Thus, the information itself does not change the content but changes the presentation. Data masking, or de-identification, is a method that allows the intended information to change its content in such a way that it retains the form of the information presentation yet completely loses the content. While sometimes statistical methods allow guessing original values for some types of data masked with certain methods, given certain precautions, one can reduce the probability of re-identification.