Use the Hash: Modern Database Hash Processes

Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Business Software, Business Technology, IT services [ 0 Comments ]

database hash processesWe’ve already heard about a lot of the big security breaches that have made customers of retailers and other businesses very insecure about their personal data. Hackers routinely get hold of digital information that reveals credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other crucial identifiers, as well as other sensitive customer information.

Because the stakes are so high, and because data theft can cause such a massive setback for a business, security experts are looking at data shielding ‘by any means.’ As a safety measure, today’s engineers have designed a data security system called a ‘hash algorithm’ or ‘hashing system.’

Related: 5 Security Features Your Small Business Needs

Hashing and Public Key Encryption

In a basic sense, using a hashing strategy falls into the category of public key encryption or PKI security. This works a lot like older technologies that also used different kinds of “keys” to encrypt data.

With public key encryption, two keys are generated for a piece of data. There is a public key and a private key. Putting the two together allows for the retrieval of the data in question.

The fundamental philosophy here is that nobody can access the data without the private key. It means that in most cases, thieves and others can’t just reach in and take data without also getting their hands on that other separate resource. In public key encryption, the hash often acts as the public key.

How Hashes Are Made

The above still doesn’t answer the question of how hashes are made, and how they are specifically used as storage alternatives for pieces of data. The specific nature of a hash algorithm has to do with several factors, including the format of the original information.

When hashes are done on numbers, the algorithm may not be very complex. Some instances of hashing simply involve applying simple operations like addition and multiplication. Again, because hackers don’t have access to the number added or multiplied to the original data, it’s virtually impossible to reverse engineer the result.

Related: 7 Ways to Protect Your Customers’ Credit Card Information

But how are hashes done on text strings such as names? Here, the hashing algorithm can be programmed to come up with a random number to represent each character string. These numbers are essentially placeholders – they don’t really resemble the original information in any way. However, they offer two distinct benefits to database administrators.

  1. When hackers access the database, they only come up with these useless numbers. You could think of these randomized placeholders as ‘decoys’ or again, as effective shields, where someone hoping to scoop up passwords, IDs or other important items comes up empty-handed. This kind of security is important for a wide range of services: this infographic from InstantShift shows some of the weakest password strategies and over 400,000 passwords hacked!
  2. The other benefit is that hashing can make searching less labor-intensive. It can require less computing power to check these fixed length numbers than it would be to check and compare longer text strings. That’s why hashing can also be a strategy for IT efficiency, allowing for more seamless server searches.

Strong Encryption and Strong Security

Along with getting the best encryption in place and using advanced data shielding strategies like hashing, security administrators need to be at the top of their game in every area that applies to the business operations or processes they are working on. That means looking at network traffic, device security and much more. With that in mind, data strategies like hashing help to provide part of a set of ‘best practices’ for keeping a company ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting their customers and their brands.

Related: Avoid these small business security threats.

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