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5 Pillars of a Strong Data Loss Prevention Strategy

Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions can play a pivotal role in protecting your most sensitive data assets. But, if you procure a leading DLP software, such as Endpoint Protector by CoSoSys, you still must have an effective accompanying data loss prevention strategy to get the most protection.

So, this begs the question, what exactly does a strong strategy look like? Get the lowdown here on the five pillars that define the foundation for any robust DLP strategy. Safeguarding sensitive data in your IT ecosystem might just depend on how your strategy looks (or if you even have one).

Why is Data Loss Prevention So Important in Cybersecurity?

As a brief reminder, here is why DLP tools are so important for addressing the most pressing security risks in today’s cyber threat landscape (and also helping CISOs sleep more soundly!).

Threat actors prize data above all else

Today’s threat actors have a laser-like focus on exfiltrating sensitive data assets in their cyber attacks. Prizing data above all else makes sense for financially motivated hackers seeking to maximize their windfalls.

The evolution of ransomware demonstrates how companies are more likely to take drastic actions when their sensitive data is under threat. Initially, ransomware only encrypted data and systems. But when threat actors started exfiltrating data from corporate networks and threatening to publish it in addition to encrypting key IT assets, average ransom payments skyrocketed by 71 percent.

DLP has a cornerstone place in information security if you want to prevent critical data from leaving your network. It’s prudent to assume that threat actors will eventually exploit vulnerabilities or bait an employee with phishing than to think security teams can always keep out the bad guys. DLP ensures you have another layer of defense in place in the event that an intruder gets unauthorized access to critical information and tries to leave with your intellectual property or files containing personal data.

Increasingly strict data privacy regulations

Increasingly, strict data privacy and data protection regulations also drive the need for better discovery, monitoring, and security of sensitive data:

  • GDPR protects the personal data of EU citizens and residents
  • CCPA, CPRA, and other emerging US state laws protect personally identifiable information (PII), including Social Security numbers and email addresses
  • PCI-DSS protects cardholder data, like credit card numbers
  • HIPAA protects healthcare data

A valuable use case of leading DLP tools is that they help you stay compliant with relevant industry regulations and avoid costly data breaches. Severe penalties and lasting reputational damage are usually the outcomes of a breach; you probably want to avoid them. DLP’s ability to restrict data movement helps to protect against loss/theft. Look for solutions that work across all platforms (Windows, macOS Linux, iOS, Android) and all types of endpoint devices (i.e., employee laptops, on-premise workstations).

Combating the human threat

The human threat to sensitive information stems from both human error and insider threats. Any security program’s approach to data security must reflect the human threat and bake in defenses against unauthorized data transfers or mistakes. DLP providers deliver tools that can lock down devices, scan cloud services, and protect against hardware- and software-based exfiltration attempts in real time.

Pillars of an Effective DLP Strategy

Now that you’ve been reminded of how valuable DLP solutions are for risk management, here are five pillars upon which to base an effective DLP strategy.

1. Discover and classify your data

Any DLP strategy should begin with identifying all sensitive or confidential data across your IT ecosystem, including in cloud storage and services as well as source code repositories. A big part of why data leaks or theft occur is that companies have important data assets in their environment that they don’t know about, left unprotected, or forgotten. Endpoint Protector can scan your data at rest (and in transit) to help locate where your sensitive data lives. Whether or not your DLP solution helps you discover data, this is an important pillar of your strategy since you can’t protect what you don’t know about.

Data classification initiatives help you to prioritize different types of data based on their sensitivity or importance. Classification helps you avoid gaps in protection and also understand which storage methodologies and defenses are best suited to particular databases and data types.

2. Control data access

Any DLP strategy goes further in protecting data when based on the principles of effective access control. This means giving employees, contractors, and other users the least permissions necessary for their daily tasks and workflows so that you reduce the number of unauthorized users with access to all types of data assets.

With a strong push towards zero trust from the federal US government, don’t let access control stagnate. Consider evolving towards continually verifying user access requests through adaptive authentication. Next, removing default levels of trust in users or devices on your network is helpful for mitigating insider threats and data exfiltration from account takeover.

3. Enforce policies and processes

Policies and procedures should be put in place to ensure that all your employees understand their role in safeguarding sensitive data. Enforce these security policies through regular reminders, and audits. Additionally, don’t overlook the value of employee training and awareness as a process that reduces the risk of data loss due to human error. DLP tools complement your policies through policy-based automation and rules commonly known as a DLP policy.

4. Monitor and analyze data access/usage

Armed with an accurate inventory of data assets, you are well-placed to monitor data access and usage. Using this analysis, you can create a baseline of normal access and patterns of user interaction with data assets and flag deviations from this baseline as suspicious. Use complementary tools and hardware to monitor data access and usage, such as Active Directory logs or SSL visibility appliances.

Monitoring also provides you with insightful metrics about how risks to data arise as users go about their daily tasks. These metrics can flag an employee accessing a folder or file that nobody in their department ever accessed, unexpected file downloads, or users logging in outside of their normal hours without any notice. Using the metrics you gather about data risks, target the most common risky behaviors while generating support from relevant business departments. As your DLP strategy evolves, you can enhance controls and tailor them to address specific risks with greater precision. With Endpoint Protector, you can view in-depth reports and see what files users are accessing.

5. Have an incident response plan

When security teams receive notifications or alerts about incidents on the network, an effective incident response plan quickly gets the gears in motion to prevent data loss. Whether it’s a newly discovered vulnerability, malware, or unauthorized access to sensitive data, swift remediation reduces risks to your data. Your response plan should include procedures for containment, investigation, and notification of key stakeholders.

Strategy and Tools for Success

Basing your DLP strategy on these five pillars sets you up well for success in reducing the risk of data loss and theft. Equipping your business with a leading DLP solution, like Endpoint Protector, supercharges your strategy.

Endpoint Protector is a multi-OS DLP solution that comes with device control, content-aware protection, enforced encryption, and data discovery features. It can successfully protect your organization’s data from a data breach or data leakage. Endpoint Protector also helps you comply with data protection regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks associated with DLP?
If not complemented by a robust strategy, the risks of DLP include inadequate coverage of data you haven’t discovered, increased IT complexity, and user resistance.
What are the steps for implementing a successful DLP strategy?
The steps for implementing a successful DLP strategy are 1) finding and classifying your data, 2) understanding the risks to data, 3) developing policies and procedures, 4) procuring a DLP solution, and 5) monitoring data usage.
How do user access controls help reduce data loss?
User access controls reduce data loss by preventing unnecessary access to sensitive data, helping to enforce data security policies, and limiting the transfer or sharing of data.

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