V2.0 is about to be released! We'll be publishing info about new features in a series of blog posts. In this post we’ll be explaining the basics and overall process of development of data masking packages with BizDataX Design Components.
BizDataX Design Components enables designing of data masking packages visually which makes it easier to implement and maintain data transformations and data masking logic specifics. The tool is integrated with Visual Studio development environment. Integration with Workflow Designer, a part of Windows Workflow Foundation, enables visual implementation and visual insight into implemented data masking logic. Entity Designer, a part of Entity Framework, is used to model entities representing data. Testing of data masking logic is supported by Visual Studio Debugger. Figure 1 shows a typical screen layout with toolbox to the left (1), design surface in the middle (2) and properties (3) to the right.
Figure 1: BizDataX Design Components integration with Visual Studio and typical user interface layout
In order to start using data masking, the organization has to analyze the data and applications, implement and test the masking logic, produce a deployment package, deploy the package and use it to mask production data.
First step – Deciding on masking methods
Handling of sensitive data requires systematic approach. The process should always start with analysis phase, the phase in which data owners, experts, developers and testers should sit together to analyze data structures and interactions between different IT systems. The team needs to agree up front what data is sensitive. Different masking methods should be discussed, together with effects that they could cause to the application as a whole and in detail at the column level.
Second step – Implementing and testing masking logic
Implementation of the masking logic starts with the definition of a data model. Entity Framework can be used to build the model from scratch or from an existing database with “generate from database” option. Figure 2 shows a sample entity diagram.
Figure 2: Entity diagram representing the database
The data masking logic is defined visually with tools provided by Windows Workflow Foundation. BizDataX Design Components adds many toolbox groups and items which are specialized for data masking such as tools for generating random numbers and dates, picking of random replacement first or last names, data shuffling or replacing credit card or social security numbers.
Figure 3: BizDataX toolbox items
Individual tools can be combined into sequences, blocks, or conditional and distribution branches which enable definition of complex data masking logic. Items can be rearranged with natural drag-drop or copy-paste. The view can be zoomed and navigated. In short, the design experience provides everything that is expected from a modern visual development environment.
Figure 4: Visual definition of a data masking logic, segment for masking US social security numbers
In addition to visual design tools, BizDataX Design Components ships with comprehensive and powerful data masking API to support advanced scenarios. API enables making any .Net or native SQL code snippets a part of the data masking package.
Third step - Producing deployment package
Visual Studio build process can be used to build release binaries and prepare the data masking package for deployment to a staging or production environment with BizDataX Runtime Features installed. The build process identifies dependencies and copies all the binaries and all the dependencies into one location. The build process also generates the manifest data containing the information about configuration parameters, process structure and other execution and progress reporting capabilities implemented.
Fourth step - Deploying package and start masking process
The package is copied and registered with BizDataX Runtime (see of BizDataX Runtime Help for details). BizDataX Runtime enables immediate or scheduled execution of registered masking packages. Administrators configure execution environment, define execution parameters, configure hosting environment, monitor and manage executions.
Figure 5: BizDataX Runtime
This is the overall process which can be repeated iteratively. In fact, the organization should establish normal project control mechanisms and start planning i.e. continuous maintenance of data masking if changes to applications or data structures are expected. BizDataX Design Components supports the process.
In the next post we will go one step further with the implementation BizDataX to keep explaining. See you soon!