A general Data Loss Prevention definition (DLP) would be a strategy for stopping end users (such as company employees) from sending sensitive data outside the corporate network.
A DLP tool may use several different technologies and tools in order to protect data so that it cannot be accidentally or maliciously shared with people outside the company or uploaded to private cloud storage.
DLP software uses rules set up by the organization to determine which data should be kept confidential, and can detect activities that may risk the security of this data.
Cloud DLP extends these data protection rules from company servers and devices to files and data that is stored in the cloud. Cloud data loss prevention services ensure that sensitive data does not end up in the cloud without sufficient encryption and protection and sensitive data may be removed before files are sent to the cloud.
As more organizations are moving their data and operations to the cloud, it is important that a cloud DLP policy is considered and technological solutions are used to protect sensitive corporate files and prevent data leaks.
What is DLP Security?
While traditional IT security systems are designed to act as a barrier against outsiders from accessing sensitive data, data loss prevention technology is more concerned with insider threats.
Modern businesses need to have a comprehensive approach to security that considers all the different ways in which data loss or breaches may occur.
While external attacks are still more common than attacks due to malicious insiders, internal attacks tend to be more costly for businesses and most data breaches are actually due to a combination of internal and external factors.
It is important for companies to regularly audit their internal data policies in terms of the data that employees have access to, use of confidential information, tools that are used to share files, and what, if any, data loss prevention solutions are in place to both detect and prevent data breaches.
How Does Data Loss Prevention Work?
Before choosing a DLP software tool or service, it is vital to define a DLP strategy for the entire organization, including general security practices and responsibilities for employees at all levels.
Often the first step is to classify all corporate data and regulate its access, use, and acceptable methods of sharing based on this classification.
Unclassified or poorly classified sensitive data may be more at risk of breaches due to cybercrime, insider misuse, or accidental loss, because it has not been adequately protected.
Of course data classification is not always an easy task and is made more complicated by the fact that many different people may be responsible for classification (creators, owners, users, etc.) and the amount of data in any organization is growing all the time.
Automated data classification can help and this is often a feature of DLP tools. Staff should also be trained on how to properly classify data they create and a strict policy should be in place for how this data is used and shared both internally and outside the organization.
Once there is an appropriate method of classifying data in place and clear policies surrounding its usage, the task of how to protect it will become clearer.
A very basic DLP policy could include guidelines such as secure methods for sharing sensitive data, clear rules on the use of BYOD and apps that have access to company data, and tight controls on physical transfer of data via USB stick or other insecure methods.
Having these guidelines in place can greatly reduce the risk of data leak, as many high profile cases of data leaks were caused by careless employees or as the result of insufficient training because the employee did not realize they were putting data at risk.
However even with well-written data protection policies in place and diligent staff training, data will still frequently be put at risk by employees ignoring these guidelines either for malicious reasons or because they believe the risks of using third-party cloud storage and other insecure practices are overblown.
This is where DLP services can come in by helping to detect risky employee behaviors and prevent sensitive data from leaving the corporate network.
The Main Steps of DLP Security Process:
Every DLP security process will be slightly different for each organization, but there are a series of general steps that are taken to implement a DLP service:
- All data is classified. Each item of data in the organization is tagged with a meaningful description. There may be several levels of classification. A basic example would be: “public”, “internal”, or “confidential”.
- Based on the classification of the data, confidentiality markers are created. These can be specific phrases in the text that sign confidentiality such as “private and confidential” or “top secret”, a pattern-match such as a credit card number, or full snapshots of confidential documents. There may be hundreds or thousands of confidentiality markers for each organization.
- Based on the confidentiality markers, security rules are created. These rules provide guidelines of the actions that should be taken if a trigger for a specific marker occurs. Actions can be divided into 2 parts:
- Active – if a trigger occurs, confidential information transmission is stopped automatically.
- Passive – if a trigger occurs, transmission does not stop but an incident alert is sent.
- The incidents triggered by a rule break are then processed and analyzed by the security department. False-positive incidents are investigated and algorithms are adjusted to prevent false triggers in future.
- New data is constantly classified as needed.
Choosing a Data Loss Prevention Service
It’s important to choose a DLP provider that aligns with the needs of your organization and integrates with the current IT tools that are in use for the normal everyday functioning of your business.
While it’s important that any DLP tool has full features and capabilities, it’s equally important to choose a service that can be easily deployed and managed.
Other points to consider when comparing different services include:
- Where is sensitive data detected – just on local client machines, or also in transfer across the network and in the cloud?
- How easily can DLP rules be created and edited?
- How does the software deal with a DLP rule break – exactly what data is reported?
- How are admins notified of DLP rule breaks?
- What reporting and analysis capabilities are included?
- Are risky activities blocked or just reported?
- What platforms are supported?
- Does the service protect against internal threats, external threats, or both?
- How often is the service updated and new features added?
Data Loss Prevention is an important component of the data security policy for every organization and should be treated with accuracy and thorough analysis by organizations of all sizes.
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