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What is Data Obfuscation?

Data Obfuscation

Since 2005, over 9000 documented data breaches have leaked 10 billion records. To put it into perspective, that’s more than the entire global population combined!

Data has become the world’s new currency. Data privacy and security concerns are growing as our dependence on data and information grows. 2021 marked a record-breaking year for data breaches, showing a 68% rise from the 2020 numbers. Collecting, storing, distributing, and using data introduces the risk of being compromised. How do firms ensure data integrity and regulatory compliance while preserving autonomy, reputation, and trustworthiness?

The answer lies in a process widely known as data obfuscation. This blog will discuss data obfuscation, its benefits, types, and processes. We’ll also learn how you can incorporate data obfuscation into your test management strategy.

What is data obfuscation?

Data obfuscation hides actual data values by obscuring their meaning to provide an additional layer of protection. This process renders the data useless for hackers while retaining its utility value for developers and testers. QA teams primarily use data obfuscation to build realistic datasets that keep actual data values out of reach from malicious actors.

Why is data obfuscation critical?

New norms and regulations have been introduced worldwide, led by the GDPR, that have made data obfuscation a compulsory practice. Here’s why data obfuscation is critical to each organization that works with development and testing.

●     Third-party risks

Most organizations work with various third parties, leading to complications in data sharing. As more people gain access to sensitive data, the malpractice risk increases exponentially. Data obfuscation ensures that these risks are mitigated by keeping data within the parent organization’s control.

●     Real data isn’t always required. 

According to the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, insider threats accounted for nearly 22% of all security incidents. It is essential to hide data from your employees, contractors, and related parties. Testing is one process that doesn’t require real data values; it can also give the necessary results with similar data.

●     Compliance is key

Any multinational company with global operations cannot ignore stringent compliance regulations. Breaching compliance can result in massive fines, a loss of brand image, and, worst case – business closure.

What are the most common data obfuscation methods?


This process involves using an encryption algorithm to scramble data into indecipherable values. Designated personnel can only retrieve this data via an encryption key. Cracking this key, at least with modern encryption algorithms, is nearly impossible.

It has two main types – symmetric key encryption and public-key cryptography.

Symmetric key encryption uses the same key for both encryption and decryption. But it requires secure handling of several keys, posing a new security risk in itself.

On the other hand, public-key cryptography uses a public and private key for encryption. Most online digital signatures work with this method.


Data masking is a simple procedure that replaces actual data with fake values with the same structure and type.

This, too, comes in two categories.

Static data masking masks the original data in the database, making it safe to share with third parties.

Dynamic data masking maintains two copies of the data in the database – the original data and the masked copy. The original values are only visible to authorized users, while the masked data can be shared with anyone.


Testers input misleading values into the original data in tokenization to obscure its meaning. The newly generated value, a token, is used for business processes.

Organizations can do this through three methods.

● Encryption using a cryptographic key

● Hash function

● Adding or subtracting random values

The original data is stored in a secure token vault accessible only to a few individuals, and the generated tokens are released to the public for further use.

Other obfuscation techniques are: shuffling, blurring, nulling, randomization, and substitution. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, and an assessment of your testing requirements will reveal which technique is the best possible match.

EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA require companies to follow stringent obfuscation rules. This can become an issue during testing, as even one slip-up can lead to costly overruns. Using a reliable test data management tool can alleviate risks associated with data leaks. Avo’s Intelligent Test Data Management helps you build software with representative test data compliant with data privacy regulations worldwide. It is also more cost-effective and promises an expedited time to market.

Book a demo today if you want to learn more about how Avo’s Intelligent Test Data Management can help your testing overcome regulatory hurdles.

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