What is Data Loss Prevention and How Does it Work

We live in a time where everyone—including every business and organization—everything is both product and producer of a massive amount of data that resides on one or more systems. It could be a government database, a business’ customer list, or even your cloud account, but whatever the storage site, data represents everything we are and do.

Unfortunately, data is vulnerable to getting lost, whether it’s an accidental mishandling of information or outright theft by a hacker. The explosion of data has only increased the cybersecurity stakes, requiring new methods of ensuring information integrity. To mitigate the risks associated with this, we have the field of data loss prevention (DLP) to help meet the need.

Let’s take a close look at data loss prevention, what it is, how it works, and how sensitive data gets lost in the first place. We will also address specific items such as DLP security, DLP solutions, and DLP tools.

What is Data Loss Prevention in Cybersecurity?

Or alternately, what is data leakage prevention? DLP is a set of policies, products, technologies, and techniques designed to prevent sensitive information from leaving a business or organization.

All DLP strategies must incorporate a collection of solutions that monitor, detect, and halt the unauthorized flow of data. These solutions include preventing users from accidentally destroying sensitive data as well as defending against data breaches from outside the organization.

Network DLP is focused just as much on monitoring end-users within the organization as it is protecting against breaches from external agents through network vulnerabilities. Unauthorized employees, for instance, may unwittingly alter, delete, or send out information that could damage a company.

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What Causes Data Loss?

There are three major contributors to data loss. They are:

  • In-house negligence or unintentional exposure to data. Employees sometimes get careless and lose sensitive data, which finds its way into the public domain. Also, not every organization has a consistent, comprehensive plan in place for determining who can access what data.
  • Active in-house threats. A disgruntled employee or someone who has managed to gain access to the organization’s physical location can do considerable data damage and loss.
  • Breach by outside attackers. Many hackers who break into a network look for sensitive data that they can either take for their financial benefit or alter to compromise the reputation of an individual or organization.

Remember, not every incident of data loss happens due to malice, nor are they always from a hostile external source. The most loyal, dedicated employee could cause a significant data failure just by handling information that no one told them was off-limits to them.

How Does DLP Work?

DLP technologies use a set of business rules to detect abnormal data transfers and look for sensitive data that may be a part of an end user's electronic communications. The purpose of a DLP system is to stop information such as intellectual property, financial data, customer details, or employee information from being transmitted, either unintentionally or deliberately, out of the corporate network.

For instance, if an employee tried to send out an email with a spreadsheet attachment that included sensitive corporate information, they would be denied permission by a related DLP system, in this case, an extrusion prevention system. This denial could happen even if the employee is usually allowed access to the spreadsheet, but policy restricts it from being shared outside of the organization’s network.

Why Do We Need DLP?

Data’s increased importance, unfortunately, means that the stakes are higher when individuals or organizations need to deal with data loss. Businesses collapse and die if their data becomes severely compromised. The ability to store data securely and keep it safe from has become a critical factor in consumer confidence in any given business.

Therefore, data loss prevention is increasingly popular and relevant. Businesses and organizations that want to thrive in the digital age and keep customers’ trust are dedicating more resources towards data leakage prevention and data loss protection.

Types of DLP Technology

We divide DLP solutions into three different, distinct types:

  • Data-in-Motion

    When transmitting confidential data across a network, we need DLP technologies to guarantee that it is not routed out of the organization or to an insecure storage area. That’s why data-in-motion DLP uses encryption. Email security is also imperative since so many employees use it for business communication.
  • Data-in-Use

    Data in use is data actively processed by using an application or an endpoint. Crucial data get safeguards, such as authenticating users, and controlling resource access.
  • Data-at-Rest

    Data-at-rest DLP technologies protect data found in many different storage mediums, such as the cloud or onsite servers. DLP places precise controls to guarantee that only authorized users can access this type of data and to track their access in case the information is leaked or stolen.

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What Are the Available Data Loss Prevention Solutions?

Fortunately, there are countless resources out there to help both the individual consumer and the business professional keep their information safe and uncorrupted.

Network DLP solutions focus on protecting valuable data while it is in transit. This DLP solution is installed at the enterprise networks’ perimeter and monitors network traffic. It detects any sensitive data leaks or information sent out of the company’s network. Depending on the particular DLP solution, it may monitor email traffic, instant messages, social media posts, web 2.0 applications, or SSL traffic, to name a few.

Datacenter or storage-based DLP solutions keep an eye on the data at rest in an organization’s data center infrastructure. These DLP solutions find where the confidential data resides and lets users determine if the information is stored securely. If a business has sensitive information stored on insecure platforms, it’s symptomatic of ineffective, incomplete business processes or poorly enforced data retention policies.

Endpoint-based data loss prevention solutions focus on monitoring PC-based systems such as laptops, tablets, point-of-sale devices, etc. for activities such as printing or writing to CD/DVDs, email, social media platforms, USB connections, and more. Endpoint-based solutions are typically event-driven because endpoint agent residents watch for specific user actions such as sending emails, copying files to a USB, leaking data, or printing a file. Security teams can configure endpoint-based solutions to block certain types of activities actively or just passively the network.

Data Loss Prevention Best Practices

Here is what you should do to bring a better DLP solution to your organization:

  • Decide Your Primary Data Protection Goal

    Is it to meet regulatory compliance or to protect your organization’s intellectual property? Having an established main objective makes it easier to determine the best DLP deployment architecture for your company. The four primary DLP deployment architectures are cloud, discovery, endpoint DLP, and network DLP.
  • Don’t Limit DLP to Just the Security Team

    You will need the blessing of other executives such as the CFO or CEO if you don’t have an approved DLP budget. You will need to show them how having a funded DLP program will help the company and ultimately save money and resources in the long run. You will also need to educate employees about security best practices.
  • Establish an Evaluation Criterion for Researching DLP Vendors

    • What deployment architecture types do they offer?
    • Are Windows, Linux, and OS X supported with feature parity?
    • What deployment options do they provide, and do they offer managed services?
    • What sorts of threats do you want defense against? Internal? External? Both?
    • Will you be performing content- or context-based classification and inspection? Will your users have the flexibility to self-classify their documents?
    • Do you want to focus more on protecting your structured or unstructured data?
    • Do you want to monitor and enforce data movement based on events, policies, or users?
    • Is your organization bound by specific compliance regulations, and are there any new ones coming up?
    • How soon do you need (or want) to deploy your DLP program?
    • Will you need to hire additional staff to manage the DLP program?
    • Make sure the DLP team has the proper skills to carry out all the expected responsibilities. Team members can take courses such as Ethical Hacking, CISM, CSSP, and CISA.
  • Clearly Define Everyone’s Roles and Responsibilities in the Program

    Provide checks and balanced by fleshing out each team member’s role-based duties and rights.
  • Start Your DLP Campaign with a Clearly Defined Easy Win

    Instead of shooting for an elaborate rollout, start small with a goal you can achieve quickly and easily. Choose from either the project approach by focusing on a given type of data, or the data visibility approach, focusing primarily on the discovery and automated classification of sensitive data to control egress.
  • Collaborate With Others

    Work with your organization’s business unit heads to help define the DLP policies that will govern your organization’s data. Collaboration helps inform the different business units about the new policies and how they might be affected. Your strategies must align with your corporate culture.
  • Carefully Document the DLP Processes

    Good documentation helps you achieve consistent policy application, gives you easily reviewable documentation when needed, and makes it easier to bring in new future team members or employees.
  • Define Your Success Metrics and Share the Reporting with Your Business Leaders

    Decide on your DLP’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and use them to carefully measure and monitor the success of your DLP program, as well as identifying areas that need improvement. You can show the value and positive impact of your DLP to your organization’s leaders by sharing these metrics.
  • Remember That DLP Is a Program, Not a Single Physical Product

    While there are many DLP tools available, installing one is just the first step in the data loss prevention process. Your program must continuously grow and evolve to keep up with new situations and vulnerabilities.

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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