Data Loss Prevention (DLP): A Complete Guide

Data Loss Prevention - Complete Guide

Data loss prevention (DLP) – also known as data leak prevention, extrusion prevention, and information loss prevention – is a stack of strategies, products, techniques, and technologies to prevent unauthorized users from accessing or misusing critical information. It also makes sure the workforce doesn’t send confidential data beyond corporate boundaries.

DLP software classifies confidential, regulated, and business-critical information and recognizes policy breaches specified by the organizations or within a preset policy package, usually backed by regulatory adherence, including PCI-DSS, HIPAA, or GDPR. After identifying those breaches, DLP enforces recovery with encryption, alerts, and other preventive measures to prevent end-users from maliciously or accidentally sharing information that can put the business at risk.

The adoption of DLP is scaling up. As per a report, by 2021, 90% of businesses will have employed at least one sort of integrated DLP – up from 50% in 2017.

Causes of Data Leaks

Let’s look at some of the most common data leaks causes:

Device Theft or Loss

Remote work and the ‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) models have been useful to businesses – especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – with regard to upfront expenses and efficiency. But, they can also pose security risks. Employees commuting or working between various locations are more likely to misplace or lose their devices.

Malware Attacks

Often, cybercriminals kick off malware attacks to fulfill their vindictive goals. Some of the most prevalent ones include RAM scraping, in which the memory of the targeted devices is inspected for gathering critical data. In addition, some malware attacks install tools, such as keystroke logging, to collect keystrokes for stealing passwords or other confidential data.

Social Engineering

About 25% of data infringements are carried out by utilizing social engineering. Often, cybercriminals act as if they belong to a particular business or organization and later grab confidential details from undoubting users. Also, the fraudsters use WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and even SMS to deceive relevant stakeholders.

Weak Credentials

8 out of 10 data infringements occur due to weak or stolen credentials. Passwords that are easily cracked, such as personal details (your pet’s name), or used across numerous websites, will put your data at stake.

Outdated Software

Out-of-date software makes cybercrime simple for any hacker. Without routine software updates and the latest security patch installs, your devices and systems won’t maintain the guard they need to block malicious intrusions.

How Does DLP Work?

Data Loss Prevention relies on several technologies (broadly split into two categories, i.e., integrated DLP and Enterprise DLP). The policy violations can be activated through different content analysis techniques. 

Rule-based/regular expressions are one of the most common analysis techniques, considered as a first-pass filter. It involves content analysis by the engine for specific rules like 16-digital credit card numbers. Database fingerprinting or Exact Data Matching involves looking at exact matches from a live database or database dump. Statistical analysis uses machine learning and other methods to trigger policy violations. Conceptual/lexicon can alert on unstructured ideas using a combination of dictionaries, rules, and more.

There are many different techniques now that are effective for different types of inspection, right from pre-built categories to partial document matching. Therefore, when choosing a DLP solution provider, it's essential to consider, among other factors, the type of techniques they employ, the technologies they use, and whether they have their own content engines or rely on third-party solutions.

How to Prevent Data Loss?

As data leaks can be quite costly, it’s crucial to invest resources in ensuring they don’t happen. Here are some ways to help you prevent data loss and secure your business from cybercrime:

Encrypt Sensitive Data

End-to-end encryption levels up data protection no matter if the data is in a cloud (public or private), on-site, or in transit. Data encryption provides confidentiality and drives vital security processes, including authorization, authentication, non-repudiation, and integrity. 

Data Backup

One of the strongest defenses in DLP is data backup, especially for ransomware attacks. Devise a data backup plan that can safeguard your business by helping recover the data that has been lost or corrupted. Make sure you have solid backups and offline backups too. For help, consider contacting a third party for managed backup services.

Secure all Endpoints

Now, with several businesses adopting the remote work model, endpoints have become scattered (at times even internationally), making them tougher to safeguard. Virtual private networks (VPN) and firewalls offer a foundation layer of endpoint security, but they aren’t enough. Often, employees get tricked into introducing malware into an environment to evade these security walls. So, do a thorough audit and come up with defined ways to secure all endpoints.

Impose Access Control

Your business’s critical data can currently be accessed by users who don’t need it. As an early response, you should evaluate all permissions to ensure access isn’t being granted to unauthorized parties. After verifying this, all confidential information should be divided into various sensitivity levels to control access to multiple data clusters. Only trustworthy employees with essential requisites should have access to highly confidential data.

Patch and Update your Software

Patching should be a core part of your business’s DLP strategy, no matter if you're running a large enterprise with many devices and users or a small business with a few devices and software. Software updates help safeguard your data from unsanctioned users or intruders by resolving security loopholes present in the software. Regular software updates protect your business from the threat and effect of data loss – in terms of cost, risk, and severity.  

Data Leakage Prevention Best Practices

Use the following data loss prevention best practices to protect your sensitive information from external and internal threats:

Train your Workforce  

Did you know, more than 90% of data infringements happen due to human error? As fraudsters love to exploit unsuspicious staff, you need to offer mandatory cybersecurity awareness training for your workforce.

Classify Critical Data

Data classification helps you control user data access and prevent storing confidential data in unsafe locations thus curbing the risk of data loss. All critical data should be properly labeled with a digital signature that indicates its classification so you can safeguard it based on its value to the business.

Use Data Encryption

As mentioned earlier, encrypted information can only be accessed by users with the correct encryption key. Simply put, data encryption keeps your business data from getting stolen by unsanctioned users.

Limit User Privileges

Again, by limiting access to your business data, you are reducing the risk of data loss and security breaches. Staff should only be allowed to access data critical to task completion.

Keep only What you Need

Track all the information you keep on your computers or servers and regularly discard what is unnecessary.     

How can Data Loss Prevention Solutions Help Secure your Data?

Data loss prevention tools don’t just limit user access to critical data but also keep track of which data is going where, who’s leveraging it, and so on. However, conventional DLP tools can be hard to execute and configure as they don’t offer flexibility in the way policies are deployed and managed.

Adaptive solutions for disaster recovery and managed backup from Ace Data provide much more than just basic capabilities. The solutions mitigate the risk of data loss to secure critical information while decreasing the impact on routine operations and ensuring seamless business continuity. Contact Ace Data today, and let’s talk.

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