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Data Masker for Sql Server
If you have just installed the Data Masker software you will want to
see how it works and begin to use it. To assist you with your evaluation and
ease you gently along the learning curve we suggest you read the
items below. We at Net 2000 Ltd. are happy to provide assistance. If you have any questions regarding the Data Masker software or need advice on how to accomplish a specific masking task please email us at: Support@DataMasker.com
Quick Start Guide
Note: If you are waiting for an evaluation key you have
requested, you can still view the tutorials and read some background information (see the steps below).
We apologize for any delay - the evaluation key should be with you shortly.
Basic concepts to understand before you start
- There is no "Undo" ability in Data Masker. If you use the Data Masker tool to
modify the data in an Sql Server database it stays modified. There is no magic button which can
put it back the way it was. Consequently, you should never use Data Masker to modify any production data.
The Data Masker software is intended and solely licensed for use on test, development and training systems.
- The Data Masker software runs on a Windows PC and it can connect to local or remote
Sql Server instances as required. The .NET version 4.0 runtime libraries are required on the PC. Sql Server instance versions 2000, 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2014 are supported on every platform on which those databases run.
- The actions in the Data Masker software which modify the data in the Sql Server database are implemented
as rules (called masking rules). Each rule is
designed to perform one specific task and most masking operations will require multiple
rules to achieve the desired result. It is up to you to build these rules to
suit your requirements. Don't worry though, building masking rules with the Data Masker software is pretty easy.
The Data Masker software includes extensive examples and tutorials - just read on to see how it is done.
- A collection of masking rules, along with the connection information and database structure
is called a masking set. Masking
sets are built and maintained using the point-and-click GUI interface in Data Masker software.
After the build of the rules is complete, running a masking set is a simple process. The
fundamental concept behind masking sets is that you should be able to use them to repeatedly launch a
sequence of known, documented and tested masking operations with minimal operator
involvement. Depending on the complexity of your requirements, there may be some effort involved in building a set of masking rules - but once done, the run process is very straightforward.
- The Data Masker software requires an audit table to be created in each Sql Server database it is to be run against. This object is usually created automatically as part of the build of a new masking set or manually using the various options within the Data Masker software.
- Each table to be modified by the by the Data Masker software must have a primary or unique key constraint.
The Data Masker software must be able to uniquely identify each row and the primary or unique key on a table is the only way to do that.
- Request an evaluation key. If you have not already done so, download the Data Masker software and install it. The installation will place an item in the Windows Start menu and (optionally) a folder on the desktop. Start the Data Masker for Sql Server software and use the form that pops up to request an evaluation key. It can take a short while for the key to return, so it is best to get that process started first.
- Start the Data Masker Software and request an evaluation key.
- Learn about the various types of masking rule. All operations performed by the Data Masker software are configured as masking rules. It is important to understand the difference between the types of rules, how to configure them and when they are appropriate to use.
- Rule Controllers are rules which contain login information. Rule Controllers tell their dependent masking rules which Sql Server instance and database they should connect to in order to perform their actions. All other types of masking rule must have a parent Rule Controller and every masking set must contain at least one Rule Controller. Each Rule Controller is dedicated to a specific database. If you wish to mask tables in more than one database (or synchronize across databases) you will need to create multiple Rule Controllers. A masking set can contain an unlimited number of Rule Controllers.
- Substitution Rules are rules which replace the existing information in Sql Server tables with
realistic looking information of a similar type. The replacement information used by the Substitution Rules
is contained in datasets which are supplied with the Data Masker software. The datasets are located in the
DataSets subdirectory below the Data Masker installation directory. Datasets for just about everything are included and you can make up your own if you need to do so.
- Shuffle Rules are rules which take the existing information in a table column and move
it randomly between the various rows. This is the equivalent of a substitution rule which uses the
columns existing data as a dataset.
- Read about Shuffle Rules and view a tutorial on how to create them.
- View: Creating Shuffle Rules tutorial [local] [internet]
- Command Rules are rules which can run any valid T-SQL statement. Think of them
as a way to imbed a user defined command or action at an appropriate point in the masking set.
- Read about Command Rules and view a tutorial on how to create them.
- View: Creating Command Rules tutorial
- Synchronization Rules are rules which ensure that scrambled data correlates (or synchronizes)
with other data. Synchronization rules are necessary because it is very rare for database information to be stored in
a fully normalized way. Usually, there is a requirement for data masked in one area to be masked in an identical way in another area. There are three basic types of synchronization: Row-Internal, Table-Internal and Table-To-Table. Synchronization is something of an advanced topic and it is probable you will need this sort of operation. However, if you are just starting out with the Data Masker software, you might wish to skip this topic and return to it when you get to step 7 below.
- Have a look at the pre-built masking sets. Sample masking sets for the standard Sql Server Pubs and Northwind demo databases are supplied with every installation of Data Masker.
- View the Opening and Running Masking Sets tutorial [local] [internet]
- Start the Data Masker client, open the Pubs.DMSSet sample set (it is in the Masking Sets folder) and have a look at the masking rules it contains. Read through the rules in the masking set, noting the various types and how they operate. The first part of the Pubs Masking Set Rules page discusses the existing rules in detail. An entity relationship diagram for the Pubs database is also available in the Masking Sets directory.
- Open the Northwind.DMSSet sample set (it is in the Masking Sets folder) and have a look at the masking rules it contains. Read through the rules in the masking set, noting the various types and how they operate. The first part of the Northwind Masking Set Rules page discusses the existing rules in detail. An entity relationship diagram for the Northwind database is also available in the Masking Sets directory.
- Try running the sample masking sets. Choose a test Sql Server instance containing the Pubs and/or Northwind databases.
- Run the Pubs.DMSSet and Northwind.DMSSet sample masking sets. You will need to edit the rule controllers in each masking set (double click on them) so that the masking operations are conducted on the correct Sql Server instance - take care to get this right. It is a good idea to examine the contents of the database tables before and after the masking operations so that you can see the changes which have been made.
- Build a new masking set.
- View the Creating a New Masking Set tutorial [local] [internet]
- Build a new masking set for the Pubs database. Create the basic structure of the masking set using
the New Masking Set Wizard button and then add rules which are copies of the rules already in place
in the sample Pubs.DMSSet masking set. Note: it is possible to open two instances of the Data Masker software if you wish to compare your masking set to the sample Pubs.DMSSet.
- Build a new masking set for the Northwind database. As with the Pubs database above, create the basic structure and then add rules to create a copy of the supplied Northwind.DMSSet.
- Try adding more rules to the sample masking sets. Adding new rules to the existing masking set will enable you to get some practice with making decisions regarding the table columns to mask and the best type of masking rule to use on them. When you run the rules, be sure to observe the before and after effect of the masking operations on the data.
- Add some extra rules to the Pubs.DMSSet sample masking set. If you would like suggestions for additional rules, please have a look at the bottom part of the Pubs Masking Set Rules page. A useful ER diagram for Pubs is available.
- Add some extra rules to the Northwind.DMSSet sample masking set. If you would like suggestions for additional rules, please have a look at the bottom part of the Northwind Masking Set Rules page. A useful ER diagram for Northwind is available.
- Examine the advanced rules in the DMTest masking set. These rules involve synchronization of
data within tables and also the use of Rule Blocks and Dependencies to control the execution order of
Note: Synchronization, Rule Blocks and Dependencies are important new concepts - do not skip this step.
Use the scripts in the SampleDatabase directory to build and populate the Data Masker sample
tables in a test database of your choice. View the Readme.txt file in the SampleDatabase for
more information about how to run the sample database files.
- Read the Rule Blocks and Dependencies help page and view the Using Rule Blocks and Dependencies tutorial to understand how to explicitly control the execution order of the masking rules. [local] [internet]
- Review the rules in the DMTest.DMSSet sample masking set and run it if you wish. Be sure to read the DMTest Masking Set Rules page which discusses the existing rules in detail. As with the Pubs and Northwind databases, a useful ER diagram for DMTest is available.
- Build a new masking set for the DMTest database. Make decisions about which columns in the DMTest database should be masked and the techniques you wish to use to mask them. Rebuild the existing rules and add new ones. Suggestions for possible masking rules can be found towards the bottom of the DMTest Masking Rules page.
- Run the newly created masking set. Observe the before and after effect of the masking rules on the test data.
- Build masking sets for your own databases. You are now in a position to build a set of masking rules
for the tables in your own Sql Server databases. We suggest you take the following steps:
- Before you mask any data, think about the database structure and make a plan: which tables and columns need to be masked, which datasets should be used, do the masked columns require synchronization? Are there any other issues which need to be taken into consideration? We highly recommend reading the
Data Scrambling Issues white paper. It discusses numerous, non-obvious and subtle factors which must be taken into consideration.
- Build a new masking set for your database.
- Add some masking rules. Carefully test the new rules, add some more, test again and repeat until the masking set is complete.
- Test the masked database.
Thank you for taking the time to read the Data Masker Quick Start Guide. Hopefully your experience with the Data Masker software will be an enjoyable one. We at Net 2000 Ltd. are happy to provide assistance. Please do email us at the following address if you have any questions or need more information: Support@DataMasker.com
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