• Pseudonymization & Anonymization

    How to protect your data with eperi

Two different ways to protect sensitive data

With pseudonymization and anonymization of data, companies have two options for address a central demand of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): data minimization. If personal or sensitive company data is pseudonymized or anonymized, the risk of unauthorized access and inspection is reduced. In both cases, encryption methods are preferred, which differ in essential points.

Companies should put their business requirements and IT framework conditions to the test in order to select the appropriate process. When selecting data, you need to take care to ensure compliance with legal requirements and at the same time to guarantee flexible evaluation options – for example for data analytics. It is equally important that the introduction of data protection measures does not impair process efficiency. In addition, the technical solutions must be highly scalable.

Pseudonymization

Pseudonymization is the method of choice if data is to be processed along a business process for which the reference to a particular person is irrelevant but is required in individual cases. An example is the processing of an incoming sales order. While the customer’s name is required in plain text for credit checks, for example, it is sufficient to continue working with a pseudonym in the downstream process steps.

The GDPR defines pseudonymization as the processing of personal data in such a way that the personal data “can no longer be assigned to a specific person without the use of additional information” (Art. 4 GDPR). This means that an original value is replaced by another value and the assignment is usually stored in a corresponding table. This way, the original can be reconstructed if required. The assignment table can be stored separately from the systems, applications and databases used for data processing. Attacks are thus made very difficult, as attackers first have to compromise several different systems. The GDPR therefore explicitly declares in Recital 28 that pseudonymizing personal data “can reduce the risks for the persons concerned and support the processors in complying with their data protection obligations”.

Anonymization

Anonymization is the stricter brother of pseudonymization. According to the GDPR, personal data must be stored and processed “in such a way that the person concerned cannot be identified or can no longer be identified” (Recital 26 GDPR). This excludes saving the original value and information from which it can be reconstructed. The anonymization of data is particularly recommended in companies when it comes to test data provision or data transfers to secondary systems, such as data warehouses and reporting solutions. During anonymization, the original values are first replaced with replacement values using a key. The key is then destroyed. The reconstruction of the original data is thus excluded.

Focus on protecting sensitive data

Always assume that every application, every system, whether it is running in your network or in the cloud, can have potential weak points. There is no such thing as 100 % protection for systems and applications. However, if you protect sensitive data using encryption, pseudonymization, or anonymization, you are creating another hurdle for those who want to gain unauthorized access to protected data. The trick is to align protection precisely with sensitive data – and that means encrypting only the sensitive data. Modern cloud data protection solutions such as the eperi Gateway offer a solid foundation for meeting the requirements of the GDPR. The advantages of targeted encryption of sensitive data by using pseudonymization and anonymization are particularly beneficial for companies that use cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce.

Do you have any questions or would you like to arrange a live demo of an eperi Cloud Data Protection solution?