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Tokenization & Encryption – Two Data Security Methods for the Cloud

A company can use encryption, tokenization or a combination of both methods to secure its information

When organizations look to protect sensitive data at rest in the cloud or in transit on the way to it, there are two primary obfuscation strategies most consider - tokenization or encryption. But some enterprises may not know the details of how these methods work or how they differ.

The Tokenization Process
A newer technology, tokenization is the process of taking a sensitive data field and replacing it with a surrogate value called a token. De-tokenization is the reverse process of replacing a token with its associated clear text value.

The Encryption Process
Encryption uses a cipher algorithm to mathematically transform data. Encrypted values can be transformed back to the original value via the use of a key. With encryption, a mathematical link back to its true form still exists.

Encryption vs Tokenization - Key Differences
Depending on specific data protection requirements, a company can use encryption, tokenization or a combination of both methods to secure its information. The key differences between the two approaches may influence which technique an organization chooses.

With tokenization, the original data is completely removed, while with encryption, the original data still bears a relationship to its unencrypted form. Tokenization also tends to be more flexible in its length and format compared to traditional encryption techniques. Unlike encrypted values, tokens cannot be returned to their corresponding clear text values without access to a secured "look-up" table that matches them to their original values.

Unlike encrypted values, which express the relative length of their clear text value, tokens can be generated so that they don't have any relationship to the length of the original value. Tokenization is frequently the de facto approach to addressing data residency because tokenization can be used to keep sensitive data local (resident) while tokens are stored in the cloud.

Other Important Considerations
Whichever approach selected, one key concern for end users is the preservation of usability of an application. The solution chosen should be able to protect sensitive data going into the cloud without adversely impacting the experience of the application users. Preserving the usability of the application, such as maintaining the ability to search, create reports and sort on data, is critical to maximizing the business value of the cloud applications that enterprises are adopting.

Another concern for many organizations is third-party certifications and verifications. Depending on the industry, a solution may need to be evaluated on its ability to comply with standards such as PCI DSS, HITECH & HIPAA, ITAR, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issues Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) as guidelines for use across the Federal government. Many other industries also consult these guidelines to help inform their own security and IT policies. For example, NIST guidelines highlight the importance of using FIPS 140-2 validated encryption when securing sensitive information, and many industries have now adopted this validation as the benchmark for the level of encryption strength they require for their own data.

For more specific information on both of these approaches, download one of our knowledge pieces on tokenization or encryption.

Read the original blog entry...


PerspecSys Inc. is a leading provider of cloud protection and cloud encryption solutions that enable mission-critical cloud applications to be adopted throughout the enterprise. Cloud security companies like PerspecSys remove the technical, legal and financial risks of placing sensitive company data in the cloud. PerspecSys accomplishes this for many large, heavily regulated companies across the world by never allowing sensitive data to leave a customer's network, while maintaining the functionality of cloud applications. For more information please visit http://www.perspecsys.com/ or follow on Twitter @perspecsys.

More Stories By David Stott

As Senior Director, Product Management at PerspecSys, David Stott leads efforts to ensure products and services meet market requirements. he works closely with multiple internal teams and client stakeholders to develop excellent customer experiences and advance the strategic product direction. He is an experienced product management and marketing professional with a successful record of aligning market needs and opportunities with product requirements, functionality, and go-to-market strategies. David joined PerspecSys from Covarity and has also held product management and marketing leadership roles with Angoss Software, ADP, and Ironside Technologies.

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