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Data Isolation

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About Data Isolation

Qualtrics’ most important concern is the protection of customer data. We protect our servers using Akamai’s Cloud Security Suite and high-end firewall systems. We regularly perform scans and penetration tests to ensure that any vulnerabilities are quickly found and patched, and we only allow trusted data centers, independently audited using the industry standard SSAE16 method, to host our services.

For customers with even more stringent security needs, Qualtrics offers Data Isolation, which takes our world-class security one step further by offering an extra layer of data encryption.

Acquiring Data Isolation

Data Isolation is a premium feature. If you are interested in purchasing it or learning more, talk to your Account Executive or Customer Success Representative.

Note that you can only purchase access to Data Isolation for a whole brand, not just one account, and that you must be a Brand Administrator to ask for this feature.

Qtip: Data Isolation is part of an Enterprise Security Package that also includes the Security Tab, a feature that lets you monitor and manage user activity on your brand. For more information, see the attached support page, or talk to your Account Executive or Customer Success Representative.

Encryption Methods

Qualtrics Data Isolation has separate processes for the collection of data and for the access of data.

Encrypting Response Collection

A flow chart depicting the encryption of data collection

  1. A respondent takes a survey and the response is submitted to Qualtrics short-term response storage over HTTPS.
  2. The unique customer ID for the survey is referenced to determine whether or not the
    customer uses Qualtrics Data Isolation. If the customer uses Data Isolation, all data for every survey collected by that customer are encrypted.
  3. If Data Isolation is used, the Encryption Service uses the customer-specific Master Key in Amazon KMS service to retrieve the survey’s AES 256-bit data encryption key from the Amazon Key Management Service.
  4. The Encryption Service uses the key, plus a response-specific initialization vector, to encrypt the data and write it to the Qualtrics Response Database.
  5. When the response information is eventually recorded to backup in an offsite data center, backup data are still in its encrypted form and an extra layer of encryption is applied to the entire disc.

Encrypting Data Access

A flow chart depicting the encryption of data access

  1. The user authenticates to Qualtrics.
  2. The user makes a request to response storage to get data for a particular survey.
  3. The unique customer ID for the survey is referenced to determine whether or not the customer uses Qualtrics Data Isolation.
  4. If Data Isolation is used, the Encryption Service uses the customer-specific Master Key in Amazon KMS service to retrieve the survey’s AES 256-bit data encryption key from the Amazon Key Management Service.
  5. The encrypted data are retrieved from the Qualtrics Response Cache and/or Response Database and then decrypted with the customer’s key and the response’s unique initialization vector.
  6. The data are returned in plaintext to the user over HTTPS.

Highlights, Specs, and Benefits

Here are some of the features you can expect from Qualtrics Data Isolation:

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption (14 cycles of repetition)
  • Symmetric Key is encrypted using Master and Data
  • Encryption Keys through by Amazon KMS
  • Data are encrypted when stored in a database
  • Customer specific encryption keys are unique
  • Each survey has a unique Initialization Vector (IV). We use IVs per survey to preserve important product functionality, such as filtering.
  • Off-site backups are double encrypted
  • Full audit trail for all accesses to customer encryption key
  • Although the persistence service is a multi-tenant solution, the data are encrypted at rest and can only be decrypted by an authenticated internal service. Even physical access to the disk does not represent
    a security risk to the customer

Data Isolation Limitations

While the majority of features work the same for brands with and without Data Isolation, there are a few limitations that data isolated brands have. We work hard to ensure that Data Isolation customers have equivalent features, but the nature of individual record encryption limits the availability of a few features:

  • Substring Searches: “Contains” keyword searches do not support substring matches (i.e. partial words) when searching text responses. This includes “contains” searches in filtering data, reports, and CX dashboards as well as “contains” searches launched by clicking on a Word Cloud widget. Additionally, substring searches for contacts in the XM Directory are not supported if your brand has data isolation.
    Qtip: For example, if you have a text response that reads, “Qualtrics is the best company!” the keywords “Qualtrics” and “company” are supported while the substring “Qual” is not.
    Qtip: If you’re searching for a field in your XM Directory that has multiple words in its name or field values, you will need to search by the full field name or value. For example, if you want to find the Embedded Data field “Company Name” in your directory, you need to enter the entire field name. If you search just “Company” or just “Name”, you will not see “Company Name” in your search results. Similarly, if you’re filtering for the contact with the first name “Sara Ann”, you will need to enter “Sara Ann” for her to appear in your results; searching by just “Sara” or just “Ann” will not display the contact you’re looking for.
  • Non-Numeric Fields Sorting: Many widgets and data visualizations allow you to sort your data based on certain criteria (i.e. A-Z sorting). Data Isolation fields do not allow you to sort by non-numeric fields.
    Qtip: You’ll be able to sort by fields that are in a numeric format, which includes fields saved as a Numeric Value, Number Set, or Date. Read the Field Types section for more information on field types.
  • Non-English Sentiment Analysis and Comment Translation: Since comments are sent to a third-party for processing, these features are disabled by default on Data Isolation brands. However, they can be enabled by turning on Allow Third Party Services in Text iQ in the brand’s Organization Settings.
  • Employee Experience projects: Employee Experience projects currently do not support Data Isolation.
    Qtip: If you would like to acquire Data Isolation as soon as possible and have access to these project types, consider splitting your projects into different brands. If you have questions about splitting your Qualtrics license into multiple brands, reach out to your Customer Success Representative. Otherwise, we are working on making sure all EX project types are supported in the future.
  • Impact on Performance: Since Data Isolation adds an extra layer of encryption to your data, there is additional processing time that needs to be taken into consideration when displaying data. You may notice that your dashboards take more time to load, and this is due to the extra step of decrypting the data before it can be displayed.

Example Situations

Unauthorized user gets physical access to Qualtrics database.
Qualtrics databases are housed in secure, guarded facilities. In the unlikely case that an unauthorized user acquired physical access to a Qualtrics database and extracted the data from the discs, the data would not be readable for a customer using Qualtrics Data Isolation because all of that customer’s data on the drive would still be encrypted with industry standard, secure encryption algorithms.
Unauthorized user gets physical access to Qualtrics data.
Qualtrics takes data security seriously. In the unlikely case that data from one Qualtrics customer was made available to another through a hack or error, data from a Data Isolation customer would be illegible to the second customer because the data are all encrypted with a unique customer key. The second customer would simply see the unreadable, encrypted strings.

FAQs