Data Loss Prevention

Understanding the Importance of Data Loss Prevention

Let’s start with a simple definition of data loss prevention (DLP). DLP is a strategy that prevents individuals from accessing sensitive information that they do not need or those with nefarious intentions. It also ensures that employees do not send sensitive or critical information (either intentionally or inadvertently) outside the company’s network.

Data loss prevention typically consists of a package of tools and processes designed to discover, monitor and control critical information. Organizations or businesses use DLP to prevent data breaches and comply with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc. It classifies data as regulated, confidential, or business-critical and then determines policy violations defined by the organization or business itself.

Consider an example of the importance of DLP tools or software in protecting a medical practice or insurance company. In the healthcare industry, HIPAA ensures tight security in protecting the privacy and security of certain health information. If you are a Healthcare or personal records, you are not allowed to leave the health provider’s or companion’s premises, unless it is encrypted or transmitted to secure and authorized channels. Medical practices and companies associated with healthcare use DLP tools and software to prevent unauthorized access.

Things get more complicated when considering all the places that confidential data can reside in today’s workplace structures. Since confidential data can reside on a variety of devices (physical or virtual servers, file servers, databases, laptops, point-of-sale devices, flash drives, mobile devices, and more) and move through a variety of network access points (wireless, VPNs, etc.), you must employ a wide range of solutions to fully protect these against data leaks.

Why Do Businesses and Organizations Need a Data Loss Prevention Strategy?

In today’s business environment, many people (including employees, contractors, customers, and more) need varying levels of access to your company’s data. However, allowing ever-increasing access means your data is at an ever-increasing risk of exposure due to negligent or malicious user behavior. Establishing a DLP plan provides more visibility and tracking for your data⁠—including who accesses your sensitive data, how they use it, and when and where they access it⁠—to offer greater insights for information control and to reduce data loss.

An accompanying data loss prevention policy works by defining rules to identify sensitive data at every entry and exit point across an organization’s IT infrastructure. These defined rules help teams track sensitive data across the organization, while contextual analysis allows the DLP software to understand appropriate usage, label data, and recognize abnormalities. When sensitive data is discovered at an exit point, properly programmed DLP software will detect irregular activity, block the transfer, and alert the user and the IT team.

How Does DLP Software Work?

There are some rules in DLP software and tools that you can use to help you meet compliance requirements and reporting needs. This properly stores and encrypts your data for security. There are also other rules and security policies that you can implement to address risky behavior, like prohibiting the use of USB devices for data transfer. All of these rules are enforced to ultimately identify suspicious behavior and block potential malicious activity from insider threats and external cyber-attackers.

Effective DLP rules and software must monitor data across three states:

  1. During in transit across your IT infrastructure (network traffic),
  2. While it’s in use (endpoint usage), and
  3. When it’s stored in a file or database (data/cloud storage).

No DLP software is one-size-fits-all, but most have elements that monitor the data as noted above.

Types of DLP

Network DLP: This is a type of DLP software that effectively puts a shield around your business’s network and tracks the data through the system. When a credentialed user/employer employee tries to send information outside the network, the system either encrypts, blocks, or simply reports the message based on settings.

Endpoint DLP: Endpoint DLP software adds protection to each device connected to the business’s network. This could include a wide spectrum of devices such as desktops and laptops, databases, credit card processors, phones, and more. It also provides more specific protection to the devices employees are using on a daily basis.

Cloud DLP: Cloud DLP software protects the organization’s networks by enforcing the rules of a DLP policy the company creates on cloud accounts like Office 365 or Google Workspace. This allows employees to use cloud-based apps without the fear of data loss or breaches.

Additionally, DLP software will often use artificial intelligence to look for suspicious behavior, in a similar way that it would for virus activity. This approach helps to ensure that you can stop anything outside of normal parameters before it causes costly damages or worst loss to data. Moreover, this will quickly alert your IT security team to any possible danger.

Data loss prevention is all about being proactive rather than reactive in preventing data loss.

Does Your Company Really Need Data Loss Prevention?

With the significant emphasis that most companies already place on online security, do you really need to be worri about data loss prevention? Generally, yes.

Though companies can have many reasons to emphasize data loss prevention as a crucial part of their overall online security, here are three of the most prevalent concerns a company or organization should consider. If you can answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, DLP should definitely be on your radar.

  • Do you have an airtight policy (and execution) regarding your company’s confidential data management ?
  • Even though many companies have plans for protecting data from external intruders/cybercriminals, does your company effectively protect against theft and accidental disclosure of sensitive information by employees and consultants?
  • Are you confident in your organization’s level of protection for confidential data in cloud applications?
  • Do you have a fear of involving your company in a data breach?

Now you’ll likely have plenty of reasons why your business or organization needs data loss prevention.

There is a lot of significant repercussions that can happen to your business as a result of a data loss. That may include penalties from regulatory agencies, lawsuits from the people whom personal information, public relations-related damage to your organization’s reputation, and a hit to your bottom line. Properly integrated DLP controls and processes can be an enormous safeguard in preventing the movement and use of data outside of defined boundaries. DLP also helps you meet compliance standards, enforce security policies, and protect against data breaches. Your deskside team can discuss what DLP options might be the best fit for your organization’s needs and how they fit within your overall IT security efforts.

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