What is Data Obfuscation? Methods and Techniques

What is Obfuscation?

Obfuscation is the process of making something difficult to comprehend. Programming code is frequently obfuscated to protect individual property or confidential info and prevent an intruder from reverse engineering a proprietary software application.

One form of obfuscation is to encrypt all or some of a program's code. Other ways include removing potentially revealing information from an application script, rewriting class and variable names with irrelevant labels, and adding redundant or useless code to an application script. An obfuscator is a tool that will automatically turn simple source code into a program that functions the same way but is harder to read and comprehend.

Malicious code writers also employ these ways to avoid detection by antimalware solutions.

Obfuscation can be reverse engineered using deobfuscation techniques. Program slicing is one of these strategies, which includes reducing the program code to only the essential statements at a certain point in the program. Compiler optimization and program synthesis are two alternative methods of deobfuscation.

How Does Obfuscation Work

Obfuscation in computer code employs complex roundabout language and repetitive logic to make the code harder to comprehend for the reader. The purpose is to divert the reader with intricate grammar, making it extremely difficult for them to identify the real meaning of the message.

The computer code reader might be a human, computing equipment, or another program. Obfuscation is also used to deceive antivirus software and other systems that significantly rely on digital signatures to read code. Languages such as Java, operating systems such as Android and iOS, and development platforms such as.NET all have decompilers available. They can automatically reverse engineer source code; obfuscation seeks to make it harder for these programs to do the decompiling.

Data Obfuscation Methods and Features

Here we will discuss some of the most popular techniques used for obfuscation.

Data Masking

Data masking replaces realistic but fake data with actual data. Testing, training, development, and support teams may work with a dataset using masked data without risking the real data. Data masking is also known as data scrambling, data blinding or data shuffling.

There is no technique for recovering masked data's original values. permanently removing personal identifiable information (PII) from sensitive data is known as data anonymization or data sanitization.


Encryption is exceptionally safe, but it prevents you from working with or analysing data while it is encrypted. The more complicated the data encryption technique, the less vulnerable the data is to unwanted access. Encryption is an excellent obfuscation strategy if you need to safely store or communicate sensitive information.


Tokenization replaces sensitive information with a meaningless value, and this procedure cannot be undone. You may, however, transfer the token return to the initial data. Tokenized data enables tasks such as processing a credit card transaction without disclosing the credit card number. The actual data never leaves the company and cannot be accessed or encrypted by a third-party processor.

Some More Obfuscation Techniques

Listed below are some more examples of common obfuscation techniques −

  • Packing − This compresses the whole program making it unusable.

  • Control Flow − The decompiled program code resembles spaghetti logic, which is unstructured and complicated to maintain. The results of this code are unclear, and it's hard to know what the objective of the code is by looking at it.

  • Instruction Pattern Transformation − This method switches out standard instructions generated by the compiler for more complicated, less frequent instructions that achieve the same function.

  • Insertion of a dummy code − Dummy code can be introduced to a program to make it more challenging to understand and reverse engineer, but it does not affect the logic or conclusion.

  • Metadata removal − Unused code and metadata provide the reader with additional information about the program, similar to notes on a Word document, which can aid in reading and debugging. When metadata and unused codes are removed, the reader is left with little information about the program and its code.

  • Opaque predicate insertion − In programming, a predicate is a logical phrase that is either true or false. Opaque predicates are contingent or if-then statements – whose outcomes are difficult to predict statistically. Opaque predicate insertion introduces extra code that will never be executed but perplexes the reader attempting to comprehend the decompiled output.

  • Anti-debug − Debug tools are used by legitimate software professionals and hackers to analyse code line by line. Software developers can use these tools to detect bugs in the code, and attackers can use them to reverse engineer it. IT security professionals can use Anti-debug tools to detect when an attacker uses debug software. Hackers can employ anti-debug tools to see if a debug tool is used to identify modifications to the code.

Updated on: 04-May-2022


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