Why Banks Are Turning to Tokenization to Protect Cloud Data

Of all the sensitive data moving into the cloud, banking information may be the most precious, which is probably why financial institutions are increasingly looking at tokenization as a way to fend off cybercriminals, recent research suggested.

California-based vendor CipherCloud released its “Q2 2015 Global Cloud Data Security Report,” which indicated that tokenization is used by 68 percent of the 50 banks surveyed, particularly for personally identifiable information (PII). It’s a technology that safeguards data by taking something like a bank card number and substituting a randomly generated figure of the same length for it. That way, even if cybercriminals compromise data in the cloud, it will be nearly impossible for them to use it.

As CipherCloud told CSO Online, tokenization tends to be used for numbers rather than names to ensure cloud-based information can be easily searched. Of course, banks still use more traditional forms of protection such as search-preserving encryption to safeguard data, too.

Tokenization is not only being embraced by financial services firms. Computerworld reported last year that retailers were turning to the technology as a way to make sure they didn’t join high-profile data breach targets such as Target and Home Depot in losing thousands of customer credit and debit card numbers. Tokens can be reused or applied just once, and payment card data doesn’t have to be stored on their enterprise networks.

The Web Host Industry Review suggested the CipherCloud report is proof that cloud computing is becoming more mature in financial services. In some respects, these organizations have little choice but to beef up security as they seek the cost savings and flexibility of on-demand infrastructure. Tokenization may be one way to move forward with cloud projects while also adhering to regulatory and compliance requirements.

There are still differences in exactly what data is stored in the cloud and how, Silicon Angle pointed out. Highly sensitive PII was cited by only 33 percent of those surveyed, though more than half admitted to putting data from commercial clients in hosted environments. Still, if tokenization works as the industry hopes, those numbers could look very different the next time a report like this is put together.

Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives...