Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Best Practices & Strategies

Exchanging data across networks and within enterprises requires security measures to protect the data from being lost or stolen. How do you ensure that your company’s sensitive data isn’t vulnerable to theft or unauthorized access? It all starts with understanding what data loss prevention is, and why it’s important for your business.

What is Data Loss Prevention?

DLP is a set of policies and procedures designed to protect sensitive data from being inappropriately accessed, used, or disclosed.  The objective of DLP is to minimize any possibility of information breaches.  DLP policies and solutions can help mitigate data losses through encryption and authentication services as well as via encryption key management, intrusion detection systems, and vulnerability scanners. Data loss prevention helps ensure compliance with security regulations such as SOX, HIPAA, and PCIDSS

Causes of Data Loss

Data processing is a serious business, but if done carelessly, it can put the company at great risk. Here are some major causes of data loss. 

  • Unauthorized access: When accessing data from multiple points without proper authentication, you leave yourself open to fraud and identity theft. 
  • Equipment failure: Hardware can fail or be damaged beyond repair, sometimes by human error or simply due to wear and tear over time. 
  • Human error: Accidentally deleting data while trying to free up space on a server or external hard drive can take away critical information.
  • Virus/Malware infection: These digital threats can infect data storage, corrupt valuable information, or block access altogether.

Also read: Five Tips for Managing Compliance on Enterprise Networks

Best Practices for Implementing DLP

Data loss prevention isn’t just about preventing leakage of specific data. Rather, it’s about managing risks to all information assets so that data is secure at every stage of its lifecycle. From writing a strong security policy to implementing technologies that support DLP measures.

Evaluate your current data security capabilities 

Even if you think you have an airtight data-security strategy in place, it’s important to get an outside perspective by speaking with industry experts and conducting data-breach simulations. These steps can help identify weaknesses, allowing you time to make adjustments before a real security breach occurs. 

Manage risks to sensitive data at every stage of its lifecycle

If any information leaves an organization — no matter what format it is in — it’s critical to include DLP measures as part of its security policy. No matter how sensitive data is protected initially, there will always be potential for risk as long as it exists somewhere within or outside the organization. 

Rely on technologies that support DLP measures

Tools like intrusion detection systems, data encryption, and strong access control all play key roles in keeping data secure, so they should all be included as part of your comprehensive data security plan.

Enable employees to take part in data security

If employees aren’t actively taking part in protecting data, your entire data security program will struggle. For instance, employees need to know about all relevant policies, as well as signs that indicate their company has been hacked and what to do if those signs appear. 

Adapt data security policies as business needs change

You can never be too prepared when it comes to data security. Although some things may remain relatively unchanged for months, even years, other areas may require new data-security procedures on an almost daily basis. 

Review data security solutions regularly

After completing each review of your data security solutions, you’ll probably discover changes that need to be made, don’t wait until another year goes by before updating these solutions again. 

Ways Enterprise can Use DLP

Several industries can benefit from data loss prevention solutions. Whether an organization is a healthcare provider, financial institution, or governmental agency, it would be wise to integrate data loss prevention controls in their technology environment. 

  • Logical protection controls. Logical protection controls protect data before it’s even stored on storage systems. These include encryption, data masking, and data anonymization. These protections are designed to prevent unauthorized users from accessing data when they shouldn’t be able to see it in its unencrypted state. 
  • User activity monitoring. User activity monitoring logs all user activity at critical control points such as file servers and databases where sensitive information is accessed and processed daily across every computer system in an enterprise network. This type of protection helps ensure there is no unauthorized access to data.  
  • Cloud data security.  Cloud data security extends DLP capabilities to cloud environments through integration with SaaS and other cloud-based services running within an enterprise’s private clouds. 
  • Compliance. The ability to prove compliance with industry regulations like SOX and PCI-DSS is important and many enterprises depend on data loss prevention technologies to comply with requirements. 
  • Endpoint data protection. With so much focus placed on protecting data during transmission, endpoint data protection provides another layer of defense by detecting malware infections at workstations, so they cannot cause further damage. 
  • Encryption. Encryption prevents sensitive information from being viewed by hackers or unauthorized users if it were ever stolen or lost. Integrating encryption with DLP tools creates multiple layers of protection against data theft. 

Also read: Object Storage vs. Block Storage: Which is Right for Your Enterprise?

Steps to Developing an Effective Data Protection Strategy

The right DLP software can make a significant difference in protecting organizations from costly security breaches. Below are strategies for implementing DLP solutions to help enterprises stay safe.  

Identify what data is at risk

An effective data protection strategy starts with understanding what data you need to protect most — and where it is located within your network. This includes knowing which users have access to sensitive data and how often they access it, so you can focus on securing critical data sets accordingly. 

Create rules that are easy to follow

All rules must be enforceable, otherwise, they lose their power. You also don’t want to overwhelm your staff with overly restrictive policies that hinder productivity. When creating policies for data at rest and data in motion across all platforms, create rules that are easy to follow while still keeping data secure — so use cases are not restricted unnecessarily. 

Make sure employees are adequately trained

DLP training helps keep staff informed about protocols and procedures that keep company data safe when sharing internally or externally with clients.

Monitor data proactively

Establishing monitoring tools such as data leak detection software gives you insight into how data flows throughout the organization and who has access to it. With more control over data flow, you can safeguard against possible vulnerabilities before they become full-blown incidents. 

Protect your network and devices

In addition to safeguarding data, you want to ensure that your data is secure when it’s in transit. To do so, invest in enterprise-grade DLP software that protects all devices connecting to your network — including mobile devices and PCs. 

Deploy a centralized platform for data management

Although it’s helpful to deploy DLP software on every device, having a centralized platform for managing these apps is vital for businesses with large user bases. Regardless of where users access data — from a laptop or smartphone, and on-premises, or in the cloud — having a central location for managing and deploying policies makes it easier to manage your DLP strategy. 

Encrypt sensitive data

If you’re looking to secure data both at rest and in motion, encryption is key. Whether you choose a cloud-based or on-premises encryption solution. Having an enterprise-class encryption solution keeps your data safe even if it falls into unauthorized hands. 

Have a data recovery plan

Sometimes data gets into places it shouldn’t be. When that happens, you want to have a plan for recovering from an incident quickly and effectively. Know how to recover from common DLP breach scenarios, including identifying malicious insiders who want to steal confidential data or attackers who are trying to disrupt operations. These plans can go a long way toward reducing IT costs associated with responding to data breaches.

Getting Started With DLP

The first step in combating data loss is implementing an effective DLP policy that lays out a strategy for preventing, detecting, and responding to potential data losses. A DLP program may not be your first response to a data breach, but if data loss occurs, you’ll want to have a system in place. DLP should be deployed before, rather than after, a breach. It’s not only a good idea but a necessity to implement a DLP program to prevent any form of sensitive data from being lost, stolen, or hacked. 

Read next: Best Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software & Tools

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an award-winning public speaker and a passionate writer. He writes to edutain (educate + entertain) his reader about business, technology, growth, and everything in-between. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook. Aminu loves to inspire greatness in the people around him through his actions and inactions.

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