Data loss prevention is a mandatory component of any successful business today. As more business processes transition into cloud-based solutions, the amount of sensitive business data in stored or transmitted digitally has skyrocketed. Any businesses that manage client-sensitive information, must ensure keeping data secure is of utmost importance else losing any will impact not only reputation, but financially as well. Just one major leak is enough to severely damage the way customers perceive your brand, and the cost associated with these damages can be heavy. Fortunately, there are a wide range of data loss prevention strategies and solutions that your business or brand can implement to keep your data safe in the digital realm.

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data loss prevention is a solution that keeps important or sensitive business data secure. DLP prevents both data loss and data leakage, two similar terms but different in that data loss of sensitive information results from a breach related to cyber attacks or system errors, while data leakage results from vulnerabilities in your systems being exploited that reveal data to unauthorized parties.

Data leaks and losses are common due to poor protections. DLP ensures that no sensitive data is transferred inside or outside the network without the proper authorization. The three areas where data leaks or losses occur are endpoints (including all network-connected devices like laptops, computers, phones, and IoT), networks, and the cloud. DLP solutions will monitor data exchange points such as email, messaging platforms, file transfers, and more, detecting any unauthorized flow of sensitive data to ensure none is sent illicitly.

DLP solutions are also extremely important for businesses that need to comply with regional and global regulations regarding customer privacy. DLP solutions ensure that the business holds its own and its customers' sensitive data securely across all on-premise and cloud-based systems and alert if data is accessed inappropriately.

DLP (Data Loss Prevention)

How does Data Loss Prevention DLP work?

Data loss prevention solutions monitor data exchanges on networks, data streams, endpoints, in the cloud, emails, printing, and every other channel by which data can be transferred. DLP solutions actively monitor data in three different states:

  • Data at rest: Data at rest is data that is not being processed or transferred at that point in time. This data, despite not being involved in any processes, is still vulnerable to unauthorized access or data breaches from cyber attacks. DLP solutions are programmed to monitor this data, manage who and when they can access it, encrypt it if necessary, and other protective measures to ensure that it is not leaked or lost. 
  • Data being processed: Many data leaks or data loss incidents occur as data is being processed or in use by a user or application. By actively controlling and monitoring the process and who is accessing it, DLP solutions ensure that sensitive information is kept secure. 
  • Data in transit: Another common vector for data leaks is when data is being transferred over networks. Properly encrypting data ensures that even if the data is intercepted travelling across networks, it is unusable without the proper decryption keys.

Given that there are so many ways information can be stored, processed, and transferred, different data loss prevention solutions may be needed depending on which state the data is in. However, all DLP solutions follow these three basic principles:

  • Step #1: Identifying and classifying all sensitive or important data. All DLP solutions start here. It is the most fundamental building block of any solution as without knowing which pieces of data are sensitive, where they reside, who they were created by, who can access them, etc., DLP solutions would not be able to defend against malicious or accidental breaches and leaks. 
  • Step #2: Monitoring the data to detect potential leaks or losses. Next, data loss prevention solutions will monitor the data and ensure that only authorized personnel are accessing it, and that it is only transferred over approved networks or processed by approved endpoints and applications. DLP solutions monitor data using content-aware filters, whereby certain words or datasets are flagged when suspicious or risky activities are initiated. 
  • Step #3: Responding to security violations in real-time. Should an access violation be found during step #2, the DLP solution will respond in real-time to prevent any potential damages. Response can range from encrypting the data, halting the processes, alerting system administrators or operators, etc. 

What are some data loss prevention solutions you should look into?

Again, there is no data loss prevention solution that can cover all aspects of your business’ or organization’s digital data landscape. The good news is that many data loss prevention solutions are not complex. Some may already be implemented in your security systems against other threats. Think of antivirus software, firewalls, and other cyber security solutions that protect your networks and endpoints from a huge array of cyber attacks. All of these solutions protect your business from attacks and therefore data breaches and leaks.

DLP solutions will protect one of three areas:

  1. Networks. Network-based DLP solutions like Sangfor Secure Internet Access (SIA) are deployed at the perimeter of your business networks. SIA will scan for any sensitive data that are sent through a variety of communication channels and web applications. Cloud DLP is a subset of Network DLP specifically designed to protect organizations that utilize cloud repositories for data storage. It provides specialized security measures to safeguard sensitive information and prevent data exposure within cloud services.
  2. Storage. Other data loss prevention solutions focus on the storage component of your data. Whether it is stored on-premise or in the cloud, these solutions ensure that your data is kept in a secure location and possibly encrypt it without the threat of leaks or vulnerabilities to attacks. 
  3. Endpoints. Endpoints are one of the most common sources of data leaks when it comes to file transfers, downloads, printing, etc. An endpoint DLP solution will monitor these actions and alert when potentially suspicious activity is detected. 

What threats does data loss prevention protect you from?

There are several benefits to having a strong data loss prevention solution in place. We’ve talked plenty about how they work, so let’s take a closer look at the types of DLP and what they are protecting you from. 

  1. Insider threats. Nobody likes to think that someone from within their own business or organization will be the cause of a data exfiltration or attack, but it happens, so it is vital to be protected from disgruntled or compromised employees. Worse, malicious insiders have a greater chance of successfully launching cyber attacks that exploit internal weaknesses to gain access to data they would otherwise not have access to. 
  2. External threats. Cyber attacks are ever increasing around the world, and almost all attacks target data. External attackers are using advanced persistent threats (APTs) such as ransomware to gain entry into organizations and access data. Ransomware groups have been known to release private data to ensure ransoms are paid.
  3. Accidental leaks. Sometimes, data leaks are entirely accidental and not malicious in nature. Many accidental leaks stem from users within your network not being properly educated on data privacy techniques or from negligence. DLP solutions can detect, notify, and stop costly accidental leaks. 

Who can benefit from data loss prevention?

All businesses - small, medium, and large enterprises alike - will benefit from data loss prevention solutions. No matter the size of your business, protecting customer data should always be a top priority. More importantly, businesses that must comply with data privacy or security regulations will hugely benefit from DLP solutions. In many cases, they are necessary to pass regulatory audits and to not incur hefty fines. Furthermore, DLP solutions are not only essential for protecting intellectual property (IP), but they also provide significant visibility into the access of IP data - imperative for seeing if data within your organization is being moved or accessed without authorization.

Sangfor IAG Solution

Sangfor IAG ensures that any sensitive data leaving your network (outbound) is secure. Watch the video and learn how Sangfor IAG helps an IT manager at a luxury fashion design company enhance data security and preserve their competitive edge. If you want to see how you can improve your data’s security or simply want to learn more about data loss prevention (DLP), don’t hesitate to get in touch with a specialist from Sangfor.

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