What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

By on September 29, 2021

Learn about preventing data loss and the impact losing data can have on businesses.

  • Data Loss Prevention Definition
  • Impact of Data Loss on a Business
  • Data Loss Prevention Best Practices
  • Data Loss Prevention Solutions
  • Data Loss Prevention Definition

    Data loss prevention is a collection of tools, techniques, and strategies to identify and prevent the exfiltration and damage of mission-critical business information. Securing data in use, data in motion, and data at rest is the key focus of an organization’s DLP strategy.

    Impact of Data Loss on a Business

    Failing to secure sensitive data can cause severe damage to an organization and have the following consequences:

    • Loss of confidential information—such as intellectual property and trade secrets—in a data breach can be fatal for any business. It can result in hefty legal and financial penalties imposed by affected parties. 
    • Productivity disruption is a common outcome of data loss. Recovering lost files or data can take hours or even days, leading to lost sales and lower staff productivity. 
    • Damage to brand reputation is experienced by many organizations due to a data leakage incident. It also portrays them as unreliable and untrustworthy in front of clients, resulting in bad publicity. 
    • Decline in customer loyalty is another consequence organizations face after wrongfully losing client information. Getting repeat business and retaining clients who prioritize information privacy is often difficult for companies after a significant data breach incident. 
    • Permanent business failure is arguably the worst outcome of a data loss event. This is especially true for startups with limited budgets and resources. They often end up spending their available capital on data recovery operations, resulting in permanent business closure. 
    • Data compliance violations often occur when organizations lose control of sensitive information to unauthorized users. They can also face legal penalties and scrutiny from industry regulators for not having robust security controls for protecting confidential digital assets.

    Data Loss Prevention Best Practices

    • Identify your primary data protection goal: Data protection programs can have multiple objectives, such as securing intellectual property, improving data visibility, and ensuring regulatory compliance. Therefore, organizations should identify and communicate the main objective of their data loss prevention strategy to concerned parties to help avoid ambiguity at later stages. 
    • Create a robust DLP strategy: After identifying the data loss prevention goal, formulating a single, centralized DLP strategy outlining the necessary steps of sensitive data identification, collection, assessment, and prioritization is critical. It should also entail DLP program key performance indicators (KPIs) and tools for seamless execution. Additionally, senior leaders’ and business unit heads’ active involvement can increase the overall effectiveness of the DLP strategy. 
    • Define user roles and document processes carefully: DLP managers should acutely specify the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in a data loss protection program to infuse accountability. Further, they should document data security processes for auditing, compliance, and training purposes. DLP tools, such as security information and event management (SIEM) software, can help security staff quickly generate compliance reports.
    • Create robust authorization policies: This helps ensure only legitimate users can access sensitive business information. DLP solutions, such as identity and access management (IAM) software, allow security staff to set up different levels of authorization based on user roles in an organization to reduce the risk of data breaches.
    • Educate stakeholders: Make sure the stakeholders understand your DLP program through data security training, emails, workshops, and posters to reduce the risk of accidental data exposure. Having sound knowledge can encourage them to follow the data loss prevention policies and actively report malicious activity.

    Data Loss Prevention Solutions

    • SIEM software: Secure data in motion by monitoring the network traffic to detect unusual spikes or suspicious activity. This type of DLP solution can allow network admins to analyze the security logs or events in real time and help prevent incidents capable of leading to the extrusion of sensitive data. Network admins can also configure alerts and automated responses for security events. Modern SIEM software supports file integrity monitoring (FIM), allowing security teams to identify and help prevent suspicious changes on file servers. It can also act as an endpoint DLP software by frequently inspecting suspicious events at host or endpoint devices, such as malicious USB thumb drive detection.
    • Identity and access management (IAM) solutions: Security teams can audit and manage user rights to sensitive files, servers, and systems to minimize the risk of data damage or breach by using IAM solutions to visually analyze user permissions and enforce strict access controls. IAM software can generate customized reports outlining privileged user permissions for demonstrating data compliance. Likewise, it can offer standardized role-based templates for managing new user accounts. With IAM tools, IT staff can delegate permissions management tasks to the actual data owners and focus on other critical tasks. 
    • Patch management software: Help prevent data theft or loss by quickly identifying and fixing the vulnerabilities in applications, workstations, and servers with automated tools to simplify patch management. These tools can allow security teams to view and analyze patch data, including the latest updates and the status of out-of-compliance devices, through a single web interface. Having such information readily available allows network teams to quickly fix security flaws across critical IT infrastructure. Modern patch management tools also support pretested, prebuilt updates to help ensure no functionality is compromised before patch deployment. This also minimizes the potential of data leakage after significant system changes. 
    • Account takeover prevention (ATP) tools: With ATP solutions, security teams can monitor customer and employee accounts’ credentials for exposure in third-party data breaches and take appropriate action before bad actors exploit the information to launch an attack. Security staff can configure ATP software to track exposed company domains, IP addresses, and even the personal email addresses of privileged users, such as CEOs and CTOs, on the internet—including the dark web. Likewise, IT staff can implement multiple security measures to avoid sensitive data loss using such tools, such as blocking IP addresses, limiting login attempts, and changing passwords.

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