A fifth of CIOs admit to not masking or protecting their customer data before providing it to outsourcers for mainframe application testing purposes.

At the other end of the spectrum, 82% of companies that do mask their customer data before providing it to outsourcers describe the process as "being difficult".

In addition, 56% of those that mask data say that it "negatively impacts the quality of their testing and quality assurance processes". Notably, 30% of companies do not provide their outsourcer with customer data at all - despite the fact test data should reflect production data conditions as closely as possible.

IT research agency Vanson Bourne questioned 520 CIOs worldwide on their attitudes to mainframe application testing data on behalf of Compuware. "If applications are to be tested thoroughly, particularly in the complex world of the mainframe, test data conditions should reflect live data conditions as closely as possible or the application may not perform well in production,” said Kris Manery, Compuware general manager for mainframe solutions.

Manery said: "Because the mainframe is central to the functioning of many businesses any application downtime or disruptions can be disastrous. This presents a challenge to companies working with third parties to develop and maintain such applications, as it means organisations have to hand over their customer data.

"Providing third parties with unprotected customer data not only increases the potential for data to be misused or stolen, but can also put companies in danger of violating data protection regulations."

The survey found that 87% of organisations that do not mask customer data before passing it to a third party rely on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect their customer’s data, although this doesn't prevent rogue staff from stealing or leaking it.

To avoid issues relating to data privacy, a number of organisations mask customer data or select small amounts of data rather than a full production copy, but this can be a difficult process for some.

Some do not provide any customer data to use in the testing process, forcing the need to create test data for application testing. This method can be expensive and time-consuming.

Compuware says these practices are impacting the quality of outsourced application development, as systems can’t be thoroughly tested unless test data reflects current production data as closely as possible. Compuware suggests companies move to "test data optimisation" systems, which allows them and their outsourcers to more easily create test data that can be processed efficiently while guarding against costly data breaches.