Data Loss Prevention: What It Is and Why You Need It

Spoiler alert: data loss prevention is critical for any business.

In modern data-driven digital times, data breaches and data leakage are much-discussed topics and issues. Such problems affect the availability and reliability of services and products. Even slight errors may provoke systems to perform inappropriately, and the downtime may require high costs. That makes data protection a necessary component to ensure business continuity.

What Is Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention (DLP) serves as a software strategy widely used by multiple businesses today. DLP software covers a suite of tools and various best practices. It allows protecting the company’s information from loss, corruption, and unauthorized access by staff or third parties outside the network. According to Gartner, 90% of organizations will apply DLP software by the end of 2021. That proves its significant influence on the overall performance. 

Among the most valuable elements of data loss prevention strategy is the ability to classify data. DLP software ensures you stay compliant with global data protection regulations, including GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS. For example, if DLP software products detect policy violations, they initialize a relevant remediation process. This process involves enforcing or imposing encryption, alerts, or data isolation. Basically, it eliminates the opportunity to share, download, or transfer sensitive data out of the network.

In addition, data loss prevention software is often used for monitoring access and different activities within the system. Companies can mitigate the risks of accidents or intentional exposure of customer-sensitive data beyond pre-defined authorized channels. Thus, in the case of detecting a data leak or breach, your DLP software implements pre-set protocols. Such protocols allow encrypting, isolating, and protecting the organization’s data.

How Does Data Loss Prevention Work?

The appropriate DLP software depends on content inspection that applies several methods to detect policy violations.

  • Primarily, content inspection involves rule-based expressions that lead to subsequent actions. The most classic example is one of 16-digit credit card numbers. Companies can establish specific rules. For example, they may state if users intend to email their credit card numbers, your DLP system will automate encryption.
  • Secondly, there can be exact file matching (aka data fingerprinting.) That defines files in use or motion, along with the files where content matches the indexed file correctly. 
  • Thirdly, the content analysis may include conceptual/lexicon analysis using a suite of dictionaries or different lists and rules. That way, you identify unwanted behavior, including specific internet searches and sharing trade data with people outside the network. 
  • Lastly, content analysis helps your company incorporate sophisticated statistical analysis techniques. At the same time, statistical methods may apply machine learning algorithms for protecting necessary pieces of data.

Among the main trends of data loss prevention are the following:

  • The increasing role of CISO. Today, companies appoint chief information security officers (CISOs). These people are responsible for leaks and apply a data loss prevention strategy to gain visibility and report organizational information. 
  • Emerging compliance requirements. New legal acts are established all the time. Thanks to data loss prevention policies, companies can comply with different emerging regulations. 
  • More options for data protection. Modern companies implement tools that are difficult to manage or monitor, like supply chain networks. That can’t make data loss prevention a smooth process. Thus, organizations should know which information crosses its boundaries to prevent misuse. 
  • Data exfiltration. Customer sensitive data serves as an attractive target for multiple cyberattacks. Unfortunately, the number of both attempted and successful breaches at companies of different sizes is rapidly increasing. 
  • Insider threats. Data breaches or leaks are often caused by malicious insiders. Other popular causes are compromised privileged accounts and accidental information sharing. 
  • Stolen information is expensive. The dark web allows buying and selling stolen data. That makes data theft quite a profitable business. 
  • Shortage in security talents. Many organizations find it hard to fill security-related positions. That makes automated tools such as DLP software more attractive.

What Are the Benefits of Data Loss Prevention?

Legal compliance

Implementing data loss prevention approaches ensures legal compliance. It means that your organization always knows where the personal information is and how the system shares and handles such data. After all, data loss prevention systems can block or restrict transferring customers’ sensitive data to the wrong places.

Prevent data breaches

Data breaches may be malicious and intentional, but, in most cases, they are caused by human errors. Despite the intent, thanks to well-configured data loss prevention practices, your organization will stop mistakes from becoming breaches.

Cut down on the part of the post-issue fixing operations

Since data breaches are always expensive, the cleanup of breached information may have a significant price tag. For instance, companies that provide clients with free credit monitoring may spend millions of dollars on this activity alone. Apart from that, data subjects often take legal action against organizations that have put their information at risk. Such legal actions may be crippling considering the scale of a particular breach.

No doubt that the short-term financial influence may become a burden. But cleaning brand reputation would take much more time. However, different problems related to failures to comply with data protection laws can eclipse both issues.

What Are the Limitations of Data Loss Prevention?

Among the most frustrating aspects of applying typical data loss prevention tactics is the lack of flexibility. Besides, the false positives can be incredibly high. Thus, IT administrators often find it hard to create various rules for various users in the specialized software. But they also can’t scale across medium and large organizations, and it requires time to implement. In most cases, that provokes data loss prevention rules to relax over time and weakens the company’s security posture. 

In addition, average DLP software can’t stop all data leaks and breaches, including phishing scams or misdirected emails. Of course, identifying lexicons of words and flagging incoming emails as suspicious ones help to a particular degree. However, such practices cannot protect your organization from 100% of phishing accidents. Also, they cannot stop sending emails with sensitive data to the wrong people within or outside your company.

What Are the Data Loss Prevention Tools?

Data protection is an essential concern. And your business continuity must be supported by the appropriate DLP tools and practices in place. Such tools maintain the data loss prevention process effectively and make it much easier to manage.

Nowadays, there are multiple DLP tools available on the market. However, you should analyze your requirements, budget, and workflows before choosing the one for your company. 

Consider the ways information leaves your business, along with other endpoints your organization has to protect. Besides, you must think about how staff members access and share various files within the company. Ultimately, you need a solution that can ensure data protection and does not hinder or slow down the workflows. 

The majority of modern DLP tools allow detecting and responding to risks in addition to preventing them. They also offer:

  • Endpoint protection
  • Compliance with legal regulations
  • Personal data protection
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Insider threat protection
  • Data visibility

At the same time, your solution must provide a data backup service. The ability to backup your data from various devices and systems is essential to ensure your continuity. In the case of disasters, a backup means that you can restore all your systems quickly and avoid expensive downtime.

5 Ways to Prevent Data Loss

  1. Always backup your data. Your organization should implement a well-structured backup strategy and constantly back up its files. An efficient backup plan involves different levels of information you maintain, along with the schedule to backup them.
  2. Diversify backups. Companies always need more than only one backup system. For example, the standard rule is 3-2-1. They must have three backups of everything that is very critical. Such information must be backed up in 2 various formats. Finally, organizations should have an off-site backup.
  3. Address data security. Organizations must ensure they can wipe their devices in the case of loss by using a remote device management system. Besides, they should apply mobile device systems that encrypt information.
  4. Encrypt sensitive information. You should invest in a backup tool that allows encrypting all backups automatically. That ensures complete data protection and makes it impossible to access.
  5. Use an antivirus. Among the biggest threats to information are email threats, including hacking, phishing, and ransomware. But the appropriate antivirus, along with a security system, allows avoiding malicious emails.

To Conclude

Since IT systems are growing in size and complexity, companies find it harder to secure them consistently. Unfortunately, that makes different security breaches inevitable. But thanks to remaining informed about cloud security issues and applying cloud best practices, you can minimize the risk of data loss. Ultimately, the ability to focus on preventing accidents and analyzing the mistakes made by other businesses is crucial.

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