Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Best Practices

Data Loss Prevention encompasses various approaches, processes, and tools to protect sensitive data from unauthorized changes, destruction, sharing, theft, and loss.

Data loss prevention best practices

What data falls within the DLP scope?

Any data can be flagged by an organization to be within the scope of the DLP program, however, generally speaking, sensitive data includes financial information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, health information and other personally identifiable information (PII).

Is DLP required by laws and regulations?

Various government bodies have produced a significant number of unprecedented data protection laws and regulations. These laws cover areas such as personal data privacy, implementation of data protection controls, and various data breach requirements and data leak notification.

Data security involves preventing malicious attacks on organizations’ critical data and unauthorized access whether intentional or accidental to prevent data loss. The loss of information is not only a severe problem for the organizations but also for consumers and other third parties. To protect all parties, the government requires every organization to implement tools and processes to prevent data loss. DLP is a requirement by various laws and regulations that companies must adhere to with a set of rules and restrictions that must be followed by the employees.

What is the role of DLP in compliance?

Most people believe that their personal information is not safe and governments often publish rules and regulations to force and guide companies to protect consumer sensitive data. These laws are, sometimes overlapping, however they provide guidance on how sensitive data should be handled. Data loss prevention programs help organizations reduce their regulatory compliance risks, protect customer data, and prevent data breaches that can lead to lawsuits and fines.

What are the benefits of a DLP program?

Data loss prevention is paramount to any organization that collects, stores, and processes personal information. Data volume has undergone tremendous growth, dramatically increasing chances of data loss risk such as accidental disclosure and theft. The reality is data breach cases are hitting unprepared organizations very hard. Here are two main reasons why your organization should have data loss prevention strategies in place.

Personal information protection and regulatory compliance

If your organization’s operations involve collecting, processing, and storing personally identifiable identifiable with financial or health information, the law require you to comply with some regulations. Such regulations require you to protect your customer’s sensitive data and maintain the privacy of their private information.

Business and intellectual property data

If you are like most companies, you probably have critical business data and intellectual property and secrets that would put your company in a competitive disadvantage if the data is leaked or stolen. Therefore, your organization needs to consider the inclusion of your business data in the DLP scope in close consultation with a certified data protection expert to classify intellectual property in structured and unstructured forms.

According to Henry Bagdasarian, “taking a layered and comprehensive approach to data protection will help categorize and prioritize data, improve data security, and speed up the DLP program implementation while reducing the initial cost and hurdles.”

How can companies implement DLP?

The DLP implementation team may consider the following:

Setting data priority
This is the initial phase in the implementation of DLP. Start by figuring out the essential data in the organization. For instance, you can prioritize by PII followed by business data such as design documents and intellectual property.

Categorize data
Use classification tags to classify your data since it helps to track its usage in the DLP system.

Identify the data at risk
Data that is shared with clients and partners may pose a greater risk than data which never moves out of a secured area such as the cloud. Data moving in and out of endpoints are also cause for concern.

Consider data protection controls
This is an essential step, and you have to develop various layered controls aimed at reducing data risk. Always monitor the data of your organization to have an insight regarding threats, risks, and data protection gaps.

Deploy tools
An effective DLP program can not exist without an effective tool. Automate DLP processes as much as possible and leverage the reporting capabilities of the DLP system for maximum benefits.

What are the DLP best practices that companies must be aware of?

While cyber crime tactics evolves, cybersecurity technology has made tremendous advancements to counter cyber threats specially in the area of artificial intelligence. The following are leading practices that will work wonders in securing your organization’s data:

Respect customer privacy – According to Henry Bagdasarian:

“protecting customer information should not just be about regulatory compliance but rather a business objective to protect the business brand, earn customer loyalty and respect, avoid penalties and lawsuits, keep the focus on the business rather than deal with the aftermath of a data breach, maintain highest level of productivity, be socially responsible, and improve corporate citizenship.”

Lock down data access – If you collect and keep sensitive data, you need to take extra caution to guard it against cyber fraudsters. Besides getting stolen, there are a few accidents that can happen unintentionally and put sensitive data at risk. Therefore, it is prudent to have proper access management controls in place that only allow authorized people to access data.

Consider multifactor authentication – If you haven’t yet implemented multi-factor authentication at your organization, you might be at risk. There are various cybercrime tactics that will bypass a password in minutes. Invest in a tool to deploy multi-factor authentication in your organization.

Have data visibility – A comprehensive DLP software can go a long way in tracking and monitoring your data on networks, endpoints, and cloud. This will provide more significant insights into how individual users interact with your organization’s data.

Document and report – To be transparent and avoid conflicts with other groups like Legal and compliance, Henry Bagdasarian recommends documenting all data protection activities and periodically reporting on the state of DLP to all stakeholders for planning purposes, budgeting, sharing lessons learned, improving, and finally seeking consensus on what needs to be protected and how.

Define responsibilities – Every individual in the organization involved in the DLP program must have clear roles and responsibilities to ensure the success of the DLP program.

Identify data to protect – You must take time to understand all types of data in the organization and classify them in order to create your data protection plan.

Publish policies – Develop, publish, and communicate data protection policies and guidelines to collectively help the organization achieve its data protection objectives.

Measure and refine – In order to select the most appropriate and effective data loss prevention measures, select and use an evaluation framework. This is essential in making informed decisions about the criteria to be used for data loss prevention.

Keep it simple – To keep your DLP plan simple, apply a layered approach where you first identify the most critical data and apply targeted DLP controls for efficient and effective data protection.

Educate Employees – Educate your employees about the data protection threats, consequences of data loss, and their responsibilities for protection data in accordance with the established policies. Train employees on various approaches to how they can mitigate data risks and data loss. The training should consider your internal data protection policies and procedures.

Monitor – An effective DLP program includes monitoring of data related activities. Monitor data access, changes, and transfer.

Final thoughts on DLP implementation

  1. Before implementing a DLP solution, you need to identify critical data and how that data flows in and out of the environment, and from one system to another.
  2. Engage IT and business experts to review the data protection strategy to ensure they are viable and supported.
  3. Consider how the implementation will affect organizations’ culture.
  4. Select a tool by considering its capabilities and limitations for your needs.
  5. Consider the risks associated with third party service providers who have access to your data.

Can systems and automation help with DLP?

Data loss prevention systems can help detect data breach instances and prevent data leak or transfer trough monitoring and blocking sensitive data while in transit, in use, and at rest.

Additionally, DLP tools and software are used to filter data streams and manage data stored in the cloud. This ensures that data in motion, at rest, and in use is secure.

This software classifies essential, confidential, and regulated data within the organization’s predefined policy pack. DLP software helps classify data and gives insight into the organization’s various violations and set of policies.

After classifying the violations, the software seeks to remediate through alerts, including remedial actions and encryption.

DLP products

Some of the DLP systems and vendors in the market include:

  1. Code42
  2. Symantec
  3. Digital Guardian
  4. Checkpoint
  5. Fidelis
  6. Proofpoint email DLP
  7. Trend Micro Integrated DLP
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