The Value of Data Obfuscation for Instant Datasets: Tonic Meets Release

Andrew Colombi
August 29, 2023
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Developers and DevOps teams know and appreciate the importance of data privacy. We don’t have to tell you twice that your company’s reputation and ability to hold on to your customers hinges on their trust in your company to keep their data safe.

Tonic’s test data platform is the industry-leading one-stop-shop for safe, realistic data for lower environments. Release and Tonic share the same goal: getting production-like data into development and staging environments as efficiently as possible to streamline the development cycle and enhance software quality. With the launch of Release’s Instant Datasets and their native integration with Tonic, we’re excited to make obfuscated test data easily accessible in your ephemeral environments as well. A match made in developer productivity heaven.

In this blog post I’ll discuss the value of data obfuscation for software testing and why the marriage between data obfuscation and reliable, isolated, and replicable development and testing environments is a love story for the ages.

Already excited to engage more in the conversation? Sign-up for the September webinar with Release’s CTO and co-founder Erik Landerholm and myself, Tonic’s CTO and co-founder Andrew Colombi, to learn best practices for getting developers the data they need!

Understanding Data Obfuscation

Data obfuscation techniques are especially useful for staging and testing as they can strike the perfect balance between data privacy and data utility. Obfuscation techniques such as masking, encryption, generalization, randomization, and tokenization effectively hide sensitive information while maintaining the integrity of your production data to allow for the most accurate and secure testing experience.

There are several different reasons why you should be thinking about obfuscating your test data:

  1. General privacy protection - Your users, customers, and patients entrust you with their personally identifiable information, financial details, and medical records. Your reputation as a reliable, trust-worthy company hinges on keeping that information safe.
  2. Regulatory compliance - Your company not only has to answer to your customers, but also to the powers that be. Data protection policies such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA are all examples of ways organizations are held accountable to maintaining the privacy of those individuals they collect data from.
  3. Data sharing - Of course your team is talented, but fresh perspectives and specialized skill sets can improve any brand or product. If data needs to be shared with those outside your organization such as researchers or partners, data obfuscation can be used to do so without compromising your sensitive data.
  4. Testing and development - Develop, test, test, test, release - that should be your workflow to push out the best software possible. But along the way, data used for software development and testing can be at risk of exposure. Obfuscating your production databases is one way of allowing developers to access the data they need to ship the highest quality products while still respecting the privacy of your customers.

No matter what type of sensitive data you have, data obfuscation can be done using a variety of techniques:

  • Tokenization - replacing sensitive data with tokens, or random strings of characters, while the original data is securely stored.
  • Encryption - transforming data into a format that is unreadable by an attacker using complex algorithms and the maintenance of a decryption key so that the data can be transformed back.
  • Masking - a set of techniques to hide a certain subset of sensitive data.
  • Generalization - reducing the granularity and specificity of data by aggregating it or putting it into a more broad format.
  • Randomization - perturbing data or adding random noise to it in order to make it challenging to decipher individuals’ information.
  • Synthetic data generation - creating new data based on the patterns in a real dataset or based on rules defined by a user.

The good news is that we at Tonic have built our platform to seamlessly offer all of the above obfuscation methods and streamline your success in implementing them in your testing environments. And with the Release Instant Datasets, it’s that much easier to access the exact dataset you need.

Data Obfuscation for Software Testing

Testing applications on production data is a dangerous game. Test data obfuscation techniques create a dataset that is safe for use in testing of all kinds.

With Tonic you can customize which, how, and where you obfuscate your production data as well as who has access to what. This allows for flexible workflows making sure that everyone gets the data they need to deliver at the highest caliber.

Combining obfuscated data with ephemeral environments takes software testing to the next level. Ephemeral environments allow engineers the ability to work in reliable and isolated testing environments, accelerate their feedback cycles for quicker bug fixes, and boost collaboration to ultimately produce higher-quality software and better user experiences. We’re big fans of the solutions Release provides.

Cruise on over to the blog and check out Release’s CTO and cofounder Erik Landerholm’s guest blog post about the integration and sign up for our collaborative September webinar to learn more about how to use production-like, secure data for your application development and testing processes.

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