Organizations move their operations to digital ecosystems all the time — and then promptly encounter various vulnerabilities that risk your data being breached, leaked, or stolen. It’s a fact of modern business life.

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of technologies and tools that detect and prevent data breaches, exfiltration, and other unwanted tampering with confidential data. If your business stores personally identifiable information (PII) or other confidential data online, then you need to embrace DLP as a strategy to protect those assets. It is a crucial part of your overall data security, and success as a business. 

This article will explore how DLP can work for your business, and the best practices in DLP that you should embrace.

Types of Data Loss Prevention

When undertaking a DLP project, you should understand the different DLP solutions and the terminology involved. Let’s start with a quick tour of those concepts.

Endpoint Data Loss Prevention

Endpoint DLP doesn’t operate on the network where the data is in motion; as the name implies, endpoint solutions are installed on each device that resides on the network. Endpoint DLP requires software installation on an endpoint — computers, mobile devices, or other devices with network access — to monitor and protect data.

Endpoint DLP security keeps track of data as it moves onto these devices, no matter where the devices are or how they link to the network or the internet. Endpoint security can even tell whether you’re storing sensitive information in device files that aren’t encrypted.

Network Data Loss Prevention

Network DLP establishes a secure perimeter around data in motion across your enterprise network. It monitors inbound and outbound data; and then takes predefined actions if sensitive information is detected, such as encryption, blocking, or auditing.

Network DLP solutions are effective when a computer is connected to a network, but their safety net does not extend to laptops and devices on the move outside the network.

Cloud Data Loss Prevention

Cloud DLP is like endpoint DLP, but it enforces DLP rules and policies on selected accounts in the cloud storage.

Cloud services solutions, such as those integrated into Google Workspace, allow much greater DLP visibility and protection of sensitive data because these solutions are applied at the SaaS and IaaS levels. This could include emails, documents, and other files, including credit card numbers or intellectual property that should not be accessible to others.

Cloud DLP solutions allow your staff the convenience and security of using cloud applications and storage without risk of data breach or loss.

Why Is a Data Loss Prevention Policy Important?

A robust Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy is indispensable for organizations looking to safeguard their valuable data assets and avoid data breaches. DLP policies are pivotal in assuring that your organization aligns its regulatory compliance efforts with data protection regulations including HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR. This helps organizations avoid potential legal consequences and demonstrates their commitment to protecting sensitive information.

Beyond compliance, DLP policies are instrumental in risk mitigation. Data breaches can wreak havoc on an organization’s finances and reputation. A well-structured DLP policy empowers organizations to identify and address potential data loss risks before they escalate into costly and damaging data breaches.

Moreover, DLP policies facilitate effective data classification, which allows organizations to categorize data based on sensitivity. A comprehensive DLP policy fosters a culture of data governance, enhancing overall data security efforts and helping organizations to avoid data leakage.

Best Practices for Data Loss Prevention

Below are some best practices every security team should follow in its DLP strategy and when considering DLP tools.

Identify and Classify Sensitive Data

Identify what type of data you have. It can be sensitive information or confidential data. Assign clear labels and metadata to assure proper handling and protection.

Data classifications can be updated as information is changed, created, stored, or transported. That said, safeguards must exist to prevent users from modifying categorization levels. For example, only privileged users should be able to lower data categorization.

Assess Internal Resources

Organizations must identify required Data Loss Prevention (DLP) skills and activities to build and implement a DLP plan. You will need people able to juggle issues such as risk analysis, data breach response, reporting, data protection laws, and DLP training and awareness. Some government regulations compel corporations to seek outside consultants or hire data protection professionals on staff.

For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) includes laws that apply to firms that sell goods. The GDPR also requires the designation of a Data Protection Officer (DPO), who will be in charge of compliance audits and DLP performance monitoring.

Data Encryption

Data encryption is a cornerstone of modern data security and any robust Data Loss Prevention (DLP) strategy. At its core, encryption transforms sensitive information into an unreadable format that can only be deciphered with the appropriate decryption key. 

Establish Metrics

Evaluating the effectiveness of your DLP strategy is essential. Establish measurable metrics, such as tracking the percentage of false positives, monitoring the number of incidents, and calculating the mean time to incident response. These metrics provide valuable insights into the performance of your DLP measures, which allows you to make timely adjustments and improvements. Adequate data protection relies on data-driven assessments to continuously adapt and enhance your security posture.

Train Your Employees

Employee awareness and adherence to security policies and procedures are critical to DLP. Training and education, such as classes, online training, periodic emails, and posters, will improve employee understanding of the importance of data security and increase their ability to follow recommended DLP best practices.

Tools for Data Loss Prevention

As we have seen, every organization, regardless of size or industry, needs a DLP program. A robust program includes all the tools to help a company prevent its data from being lost, mishandled, or accessed by someone who should not have access to it.

  • Hardware-based encryption. A Trusted Platform Module (TPM) can be enabled in the advanced configuration settings of several setup menus. Cryptographic keys, passwords, and certificates can be stored on this chip. In addition, a TPM can help generate hash keys and safeguard devices other than computers, such as smartphones.
  • Access control lists. An access control list (ACL) specifies who has permission to access which resources and at what level. It could be a component of an operating system or a program. An ACL, for example, may be used in a custom application to specify which users have specific permissions on the system.
  • Operating system baseline. Operating systems are frequently shipped to end-use customers (that’s you) with extra services — services that inadvertently provide potential cyberattack avenues. It is imperative to streamline the configuration by enabling only the essential programs and services for employees to perform their job functions. This approach mitigates vulnerabilities and fortifies the organization’s overall security posture.

What are the five steps to successfully implement data loss prevention?

Implementing DLP requires a structured approach:

  1. Identify data. Begin by categorizing your data according to its sensitivity. This step provides the groundwork for all DLP actions, assuring you can effectively tailor security measures to each data type.
  2. Resource assessment. Determine the necessary skills and activities to implement DLP successfully. The right personnel and resources are essential for robust data protection.
  3. Incremental implementation. Prioritize data types and communication channels based on their associated risks and your organizational needs. This phased implementation allows for better risk analysis and strategic planning.
  4. Policy library. Develop clear data policies that align with relevant regulatory requirements. These policies create a structured framework for consistent data protection measures, making DLP implementation more organized.
  5. Monitoring data usage. Implement mechanisms to continuously monitor how data is used within your organization. This step helps in real-time threat detection and allows you to respond swiftly to potential data security incidents.

ZenGRC Helps Secure Your Data

RiskOptics ZenGRC provides security teams with intuitive, easy-to-understand risk management software. Templates, frameworks, and workflows allow you to identify and address high-risk areas.

ZenGRC automatically updates in real-time with compliance regulation changes, so you don’t have to. Policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find in the document repository. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.

With Zen, you’ll always know where you stand and be able to address compliance gaps as soon as they occur. Request a free demo today to see how ZenGRC is part of a broader data security strategy.