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Why Financial Institutions Should Practice Data Masking

Data security should be a major consideration for every business, regardless of their industry. However, there are some industries that have a greater need for protecting their system information as well as the information of their customers.

Discussing business_AutoRABITFinancial institutions provide a service that is inextricable from their customers’ lives. Financial services impact the most important elements in a person’s life—where they live, their ability to feed themselves, and future financial planning have a direct impact on their quality of life.

Disruptions of service can negatively affect these considerations. Stolen or otherwise compromised data can lead to stolen identities or loss of money.

Financial institutions have access to their customers’ finances, but they also have access to personally identifiable information (PII) that is very attractive to cybercriminals. Compound this with the ever-present allure of money, and you have an industry that is at the top of the cybercriminal target list.

There are multiple threats facing financial institutions at any given time. Proper data security requires a constant effort on multiple, simultaneous fronts.

Data breaches can come as a result of external threats such as cybercriminals, but that isn’t the only danger to this sensitive information. User error, employee theft, and compromised third-party applications can also threaten the security of sensitive information.

With so many potential hazards to sensitive data, how does a financial institution protect itself?

Data masking is one essential element of a successful data security plan. Properly protecting sensitive information includes efforts at the various levels within your Salesforce system, and data masking can be one of your last lines of defense.

What Is Data Masking?

Sensitive data—such as account numbers and personally identifiable information—is attractive to cybercriminals. This information becomes a target and is sought after in order to either steal money or sell the information.

Data masking seeks to protect this sensitive information by hiding it.

This doesn’t include secret folders or locations as that would be incredibly difficult with a large system of data. Instead, data masking disguises sensitive information. There are a few different methods of doing this, but a common iteration is to substitute characters within the original content.

There are various methods of data masking, but they are split up into three categories:

Working on a computer_AutoRABITDynamic Data Masking

Data is secured in real-time. It is masked as it is created within the original environment so even most of those that can access it can’t see the original data. Only those with proper authorization can see the unmasked information.

Static Data Masking

Sensitive information is masked within the original database. It is then duplicated and transferred to a test environment. From there, the information can be shared with third-party vendors while leaving the original data untouched.

On-the-Fly Data Masking

Masking occurs while the data is being transferred from one environment to the next. This is similar to Dynamic Data Masking but with the added goal of sharing the information. On-the Fly Data Masking is commonly used in conjunction with Continuous Deployment.

Why Is Data Masking Important for Financial Institutions?

Data security is a major consideration for financial institutions because of the potential ramifications of a security breach. Affected customers can suffer long-term effects from having their personal information stolen, and the consequences of financial theft are obvious.

Data masking helps protect this sensitive information. And while these considerations are important for every business, financial institutions have an even greater need to protect valuable data.

Consumer Confidence

Banking customers need to be able to trust their financial institution. They rely on these companies to manage their savings and facilitate payments to essential aspects of their lives. Long-term relationships related to services such as car or home loans will require a large commitment that customers don’t take lightly.

A proven record of failing to properly protect sensitive customer information will erode this necessary trust. A financial institution that experiences a data breach will be seen as unreliable when it comes to protecting sensitive information. This can result in a loss of current customers as well as a failure to procure new clients and transactions.

Regulatory Compliance

There are a variety of government regulations that stipulate how sensitive customer information is to be handled. And a large portion of those regulations relate to the utilization of proper methods for protecting this information.

Data masking is one such method of securing PII that is as essential aspect of regulations such as the GDPR. Failure to adhere to these regulations can lead to stiff fines.

How Do I Utilize Data Masking?

The actual process of masking important data varies depending on how you plan to use the information. The methods will be similar in that they involve obfuscating the content of each data set, but how it is stored and how it can be accessed will differ.

There are numerous methods for masking sensitive data that can be very beneficial to financial institutions.

Happy man at computer_AutoRABIT

Here are three forms of data masking:

Encryption

This is generally regarded as the most secure form of data masking. Sophisticated algorithms are used to encode data to make it unreadable. A key is used to access the data and make it useable.

Pseudonymization

Users are protected by replacing any identifiable information with stand-in identifiers. The absence of a link between information and the associated user protects the individual and assists in adherence to regulations like the GDPR.

Anonymization

PII is either removed or substituted so that it can’t be associated with a particular user. This makes the information anonymous, which protects users from having their data compromised.

What Else Can Financial Institutions Do to Protect Sensitive Data?

Frequent Updates

Financial institutions will benefit from frequent Salesforce system updates by addressing user experience considerations. Another benefit is that an updated system will provide fewer entry points to cybercriminals. Run diagnostic checks on your system and perform system updates frequently.

System Audits

Automated and repeated security audits will alert financial institutions to potential vulnerabilities. Frequent updates and continued attention will alleviate many potential weak points, but the amount of sensitive information within the system necessitates further measures. Audits provide detailed, actionable reports.

Communicate Best Practices

Our team members can be a great asset as well as a potential liability. Malware and phishing attempts are common and frequently successful. Poor employee habits create situations that cybercriminals can exploit to access your system. Maintain open lines of communication and be sure every team member is aware of potential threats.

Institute Backup & Recovery Plans

Complete and repeated system backups are essential to guaranteeing a financial institution can remain operational, even in the event of an outage. System recovery functionality is equally as important to getting your system back online and operational as quickly as possible.

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