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Knowing Without Seeing

Real-Time Data Anonymization with SAP HANA 2.3

by Volker Haentjes | SAPinsider, Volume 19, Issue 2

May 16, 2018

Knowing Without Seeing

In today’s digital economy, data is everywhere, but executives struggle to maintain confidence in the accuracy of their data. Whether it’s coming from external sources or patched together among various internal systems, data comes in many forms, and the ability to monetize it securely can separate thriving businesses from those that fall behind. Simply put, to leverage the full value of data, organizations must be able to trust it. With SAP HANA 2.3, data anonymization technology provides companies the ability to analyze data without compromising security and innovate with confidence that their data is accurate and actionable.

Data is the currency of digital transformation. And in today’s digital economy, data is everywhere, with new data sources appearing continually. Business leaders know that more data and agile analytics enable real-time, intelligent decisions, but only 16% of executives are confident in the accuracy of data used to make business decisions. They are also concerned about the security of sensitive customer data due to the numerous reported security breaches that have shaken peer organizations to their core. These breaches are damaging to reputations, but they also result in real financial loss: According to one study, the average consolidated total cost of a data breach is $3.62 million.

This means that trusted data is an inevitable business demand. Organizations that leverage the full value of their data, therefore, have a business advantage. Consequently, organizations must protect their data from unauthorized access to ensure business success. New rules for data privacy further enforce this trend. Not complying with these rules will put an organization’s existence at risk — both in terms of its reputation and financial stability. 

With data being more valuable than ever before, everybody wants to monetize and get value out of data, but nobody wants to be the next company to suffer data breaches that expose billions of sensitive customer records. To safeguard data while still deriving value, businesses can leverage the newest release of SAP HANA — SAP HANA 2.3 — which delivers advanced data security and privacy protection. By leveraging SAP HANA’s unique data anonymization technology, users can readily analyze data without compromising security, opening them to the innovation opportunities that are present with digital business.

Innovate with Confidence

SAP HANA is the first business data platform to anonymize data in real time on a single data set. It protects business data without duplicating it and without exposing real data to unauthorized users. With data anonymization, organizations can turn the data privacy challenge into an opportunity by exploring new data-centric, value-adding scenarios — for example, data-as-a-service, which gives businesses the option of exploring new business models of data syndication — without risking compliance. 

Special views for data protection officers help bridge the knowledge gap in their enterprise. In the past, data privacy and security regulations prohibited the use of sensitive or personal data when doing business planning. Dummy data or placeholders would be used instead, resulting in approximations and educated guesses. By using state-of-the-art anonymization technology within SAP HANA 2.3, business leaders can now have the choice of knowing without seeing. They can leverage real data that is untraceable to individuals while obtaining an accurate view of outcomes and maximizing the value of their data. Data anonymization complements SAP HANA’s comprehensive security capabilities by allowing business users to innovate while staying in complete control of their data during their digital transformation journey.

Digital Transformation with Digital Responsibility

Data anonymization is a cornerstone that supports organizations in meeting increasingly strict data protection and privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. By leveraging SAP HANA’s security and data protection functions, IT organizations can effectively support their compliance to GDPR and similar regulations — avoiding both hefty fines and reputation loss in the market — and assure their customers and users that their confidential data is protected. At the same time, these organizations can unlock the ever-increasing value of their data without violating their customers’ privacy, as properly anonymized data is no longer viewed as personal data. 

SAP HANA can anonymize data on the fly using sophisticated algorithms that are natively embedded and ensure that information cannot be traced back to an individual. SAP HANA does this in memory without the need of transferring data to third-party tools and without altering the original data. Because the anonymized data still retains its meaning and context, analysts can derive value and glean insights for better business decisions. 

Share Insights Without Trade-Offs

SAP HANA’s anonymization views are customizable and fully embedded into SAP HANA’s authorization and audit logging framework. This offers unprecedented opportunities for safe analysis and monetization of data insights without trade-offs — and it makes the job of data protection officers much easier, getting much of the value of the data itself without exposing individual users’ information (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Data flows with data anonymization in SAP HANA 2.3

For example, this is a game changer for the highly regulated healthcare sector. Providers can now safely share anonymized insights from data with insurers to maintain accurate risk profiles, calculate competitive premiums, or prevent fraud, or with researchers to target clinical trials more effectively. With real-time data anonymization, healthcare organizations can use these insights to save lives without breaching data privacy. Professional services firms and HR departments can also benefit from data anonymization capabilities within SAP HANA to optimize their resource allocation, safeguard statutory employment compliance, or analyze pay discrepancies. And these are just three examples: The business opportunities in other sectors are countless. 

A Holistic Framework for Secure Information Access

For developers looking to create their own industry- or business-specific applications, SAP application security is an integral part of SAP HANA. 

Applications built on SAP HANA can leverage the same security strategy that makes SAP HANA the trusted business data platform. Authentication and user management as well as a comprehensive authorization concept ensure that users can only access data to which they have been granted access. This, together with sophisticated encryption for data at rest and in motion, gives SAP HANA solid security against cyberattacks and unauthorized data access. Dynamic data masking for tables and views allows customized data views that display only relevant data. And last, but not least, state-of-the-art auditing capabilities give businesses full control over the data access history in case of security audits.

Learn More

Real-time data anonymization allows companies to use their data to the fullest advantage without sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. With SAP HANA 2.3, companies can innovate with confidence, knowing that their data is secure. And SAP HANA supports them in staying compliant with security regulations such as the GDPR. 

Visit to learn more about the new data anonymization capabilities of SAP HANA 2.3. To learn more about SAP HANA security in general, visit

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Volker Haentjes
Volker Haentjes

Volker Haentjes ( is Senior Director, Platform Product Marketing and does product marketing for the SAP HANA platform. He joined SAP in 1993 and has worked in various functions in SAP development and business development. Volker holds a diploma in mathematics and computer science from University of Bielefeld, Germany.

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