Data loss can cause tremendous damage to a business. It diminishes trust in your brand and can lead to financial losses from lawsuits, fines for non-compliance, and intellectual property theft.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is the set of practices and tools designed to prevent data leakage through intentional and unintentional misuse. These practices and tools include encryption, detection, preventative measures, educational pop-ups, and even machine learning to identify vulnerabilities.

Over time, DLP has become a core part of data protection. Although the DLP market is not new, it has grown to encompass managed services, cloud capabilities, and enhanced threat protection. All of this, combined with the rising number of data breaches, has resulted in a tremendous surge in the use of DLP to protect data from malicious attacks.

The cloud can help with DLP, but cloud security is a vast topic that can mean different things to different organizations. Cloud security is how an organization applies cybersecurity to its technology and business processes through cloud services. Cloud data loss prevention is one of the top goals when managing risks with cloud storage.

Cloud DLP solutions help keep an organization’s sensitive or critical information safe from cyberattacks, insider threats, and accidental exposure.

What is Data Loss Prevention in Cloud Computing?

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) in Cloud Computing is the safeguarding strategy that shields sensitive information from unauthorized access, sharing, or loss within cloud environments. It acts as a vigilant endpoint guardian, ensuring the security of an organization’s critical data and preventing data leaks or breaches.

By leveraging robust functionality and firewalls, DLP strategies enable security teams to discover and monitor data flows across various channels, including mobile devices and apps. 

DLP protects enterprise data and extends its shield to on-premises and cloud services. It’s a crucial defense mechanism against ransomware and exfiltration attempts, aligning with regulatory standards such as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Cloud DLP solutions, often offered by providers like Microsoft, bolster cybersecurity measures, ensuring compliance and data protection. They provide webinars to educate organizations on implementing effective DLP strategies, emphasizing the importance of securing sensitive information within cloud data and SaaS applications.

The Benefits of Using the Cloud for Data Loss Prevention

Cloud ecosystems allow employees to access files remotely and work anywhere. Although the cloud does help productivity, there’s always a risk that employees will use unapproved cloud storage and cloud apps, known as shadow IT. Organizations must protect sensitive data on their networks by providing vetted cloud services for their employees.

If your organization stores data or communicates via software-as-a-service applications in the cloud, you need cloud DLP. Using DLP in the cloud brings many advantages over perimeter-based security. DLP solutions help to implement measures that prevent and mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT.

DLP in the cloud provides other benefits, too:

Secure Integration

DLP can help assure secure integration with cloud storage providers. This activity includes scanning servers’ controls, identifying sensitive data, and encrypting the information before the file is shared in the cloud.

Deep integration with cloud applications such as G Suite and Office 365 via an Application Programming Interface (API) makes it a near-native security feature of your team’s applications.

Continuous Scanning and Auditing

Another benefit is the ability to audit existing data and classify it into established categories of sensitivity and protection. DLP enables organizations to scan data in cloud storage and audit the data continuously, including in uploaded files.

Automated Policies

DLP tools provide capabilities to automate enterprise policies that apply controls to sensitive data. Users can receive warnings, or specific actions can be blocked. Tools can automatically encrypt sensitive data before it is stored or transferred.

Instant Alerting

Between lack of awareness, unintentional user actions, system failures, and increasingly sophisticated malicious activity, there is a risk of sensitive data being exposed. DLP solutions have built-in alerts, allowing administrators and stakeholders to receive immediate warnings when data is compromised.

Maintaining Visibility

Users can circumvent gateway security protections When they disconnect from their networks and connect straight to the cloud. This can create a security gap, allowing critical data to transit outside their network.

Most DLP tools provide capabilities to ensure visibility and control within cloud ecosystems. These controls are necessary for organizations to comply with data privacy and protection regulations.

Regulatory Compliance

Various data protection regulations require you to implement measures to protect sensitive information on your network from unauthorized persons. Some of these include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Using the cloud for DLP can streamline your data protection activities and compliance with legal requirements.

Challenges of Cloud Data Protection

Safeguarding data in the cloud presents many challenges that organizations must navigate to ensure robust protection and compliance. Here’s a detailed exploration of the challenges of cloud data protection:

  1. Compliance and Regulatory Alignment: Meeting various compliance standards across multiple cloud environments can be complex and demanding.
  2. Data Visibility and Control: Maintaining oversight and control over sensitive data spread across diverse cloud platforms is challenging.
  3. Data Breach Risks: Preventing unauthorized access and data breaches amidst evolving cyber threats remains a significant concern.
  4. Encryption and Access Management: Implementing consistent encryption methods and access controls across different cloud services can be intricate.
  5. Vendor Dependence and Shared Responsibility: Understanding the shared responsibility model with cloud service providers and ensuring comprehensive data security poses challenges.

Best Practices for Cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Several techniques can help improve your cloud implementation and DLP efforts. Here are some best practices to ensure that essential tasks are performed to prevent data loss in the cloud.

Prioritize Data

Not all data is equally important. Therefore, data loss prevention efforts can be applied differently to all data and file types across the cloud. Determine which data would create the most serious problems if taken and which data will most likely be targeted by attackers.

Classify Sensitive Data

Further, classify sensitive data by putting it into categories such as “important,” “confidential,” “private,” and “sensitive.” Pre-configured regulations exist for credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Cloud DLP policies tag data into categories to help administrators locate and evaluate batches of data for proper security controls.

Monitor Data in Motion

Organizations should monitor data in motion among internal users and external third parties. This will help the business understand how sensitive data is processed and assess the scope of any issues that need to be addressed by the cloud-based DLP approach.

Communicate and Develop Controls

At first, controls will target common behaviors that seem relatively intuitive. Organizations can implement more fine-tuned controls to reduce advanced hazards as the cloud DLP program evolves. Cloud-Access Security Brokers (CASBs) allow you to apply more granular restrictions by combining context and content (data classification).

Train Your Employees

You can reduce insider data loss by training users on security policies and common social engineering scams, such as phishing attempts. Employees must often be aware that their activities can result in data loss. If they are informed, they will make better decisions on their own.

ZenGRC Helps Businesses Protect Sensitive Information

Enlisting the help of a cloud solution for data loss prevention is essential to help you manage threats in the short term while applying risk management protocols to address emerging threats over time.

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance solution that supports your cloud security program. Automate document workflows to eliminate repetitive tasks and the tracking required to ensure mandatory activities are performed.

ZenGRC can streamline compliance activities across multiple frameworks, such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR, with templates and audit management tools. Insightful reporting and dashboards operate in real-time to show you where your gaps are and what is needed to fill them.

Schedule a free demo today to see how ZenGRC will help you improve your cloud security posture.