As organizations migrate to digital ecosystems, they encounter various threats and risks where sensitive data stored in your IT systems can be stolen, breached, or leaked.

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of technologies and tools that detect and prevent data breaches, exfiltration, and unwanted destruction of sensitive data. Organizations must promote security awareness to train employees and combat cybersecurity threats.

Most data is private or sensitive. If your organization stores personally identifiable information (PII) or payment card information (PCI) with DLP solutions, you can use technologies to block attempts to steal vulnerable data. This prevents potential data leaks that could harm you or your business.

Businesses use DLP to protect and secure their data while still adhering to rules. Data is saved in three areas when DLP technology is used: when authorized workers are using it, when it is in motion, and when it is at rest.

DLP software helps classify regulated, confidential, and business-critical data. It detects policy violations set by businesses in a predefined policy package, often driven by regulatory compliance requirements such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or GDPR.

It’s also important to remember that data security refers to the process of securing data so that only authorized individuals can access or modify it. A robust cybersecurity plan protects your organization from ransomware attacks, phishing schemes, privacy breaches, malicious insiders, and other yet unimagined threats.

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a component of data security, comprising a set of technologies that perform content inspection and search for solutions. It executes responses based on defined policies to mitigate the risk of sensitive data being leaked or inadvertently exposed to unauthorized channels.

Types of Data Loss Prevention

When starting a DLP project, you should know the different DLP solutions and the terminology involved. There are different types of data loss prevention software: endpoint, network, and cloud. Each of these provides data protection with distinct functionalities.

Endpoint Data Loss Prevention

Endpoint DLP does not operate on the network where the data is in motion; it is installed on each device, where the network endpoints reside. Therefore it 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 and rests on these devices, no matter where they are or how they link to the network or the Internet. It can even tell if you’re storing sensitive information in device files that aren’t encrypted.

Network Data Loss Prevention

As the name implies, network DLP establishes a secure perimeter around data in motion on the network. This solution tracks and monitors data as it moves across the enterprise network. It allows all inbound and outbound data from any device connected to the network in question to be monitored, blocked, protected, or prevented from traveling.

So for example, if a user attempts to email sensitive information while on the enterprise network, the network DLP security would perform one or more pre-programmed actions, such as encrypting, blocking, quarantining, or auditing the email. It also notifies the administrator of an attempt to send information via email.

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, enable much greater DLP visibility and protection of sensitive data as they 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.

Best Practices to Prevent Data Loss

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

Identify and Classify Sensitive Data

To preserve data successfully, you must first understand what types of data you have. Data discovery and data classification technology will search and report on your data repositories, giving you visibility into the content you need to preserve and protect.

Data classifications can be updated as information is changed, created, stored, or transported. Safeguards must be in place, however, to prevent users from modifying categorization levels. For example, only privileged users should be able to lower data categorization.

Assess Internal Resources

To build and implement a DLP plan, organizations must identify required DLP skills and activities, 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.

Implement in Phases

DLP is a long-term program that works best when done in stages. Therefore, an effective strategy prioritizes various data types and communication channels.

Likewise, you may also implement DLP software components or modules as needed, based on organizational priorities, rather than all at once. Performing comprehensive risk analysis and data inventory at the start will help establish these priorities.

Establish Data Management Policies

Develop policies for managing the different categories of data and communication types. Government requirements specify requirements for DLP policies regarding the handling of sensitive data and remediation plans if data loss occurs. DLP personnel can then customize policies based on the needs of the organization.

DLP solutions apply pre-configured rules or procedures based on various regulations, such as HIPAA or GDPR. DLP software and enforcement products, such as McAfee DLP Prevent, monitor outbound channels and provide options to address potential security breaches. Machine learning features automate these checks to ensure consistent protection.

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 that will 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 all 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. System security starts with assuring that the operating system configuration is secure. Most operating systems come with unnecessary services that give attackers additional avenues of compromise. The programs and services that are essential for employees to do their jobs should be enabled.

ZenGRC Helps Secure Your Data

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

ZenGRC automatically updates 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.