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What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Find out what a data loss prevention solution is, how it works, and when you should consider adopting a DLP solution.

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data Loss Prevention solutions are security tools that help organizations to ensure that sensitive or critical business information does not get outside the corporate network or to a user without access. With DLP software, companies can defend against data theft, loss, and exfiltration as well as make a difference in the process of data protection. By implementing one, it becomes possible to better identify, manage, and protect valuable business information and assets. Data Loss Prevention solutions can safeguard both data that is in motion on the network, and the data that is at rest in storage areas or on desktops, laptops, etc.

With digital transformation and the explosion of digital data production, both in volume and velocity, new security risks appeared concerning sensitive information, and DLP tools became a core component of a company’s cybersecurity strategy.

Why deploy a DLP solution?

In the last six years, the global average cost of a data breach grew by 12%, totaling $3.92 million/breach in 2019 according to Cost of a Data Breach Report released by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security. Lost business was the most significant contributor to data breach costs, with customer turnover increasing to as much as 3.9% in the wake of security incidents.

Data breaches imply many consequences like reputational risk, economic losses, and legal problems, and companies must adopt a mindset of cyber resilience.

When should you adopt a DLP solution?

We’ve gathered some of the most relevant use cases when organizations should consider implementing a Data Loss Prevention software.

Mitigate insider threats

Representing a key cybersecurity threat regardless of the size and industry of the business, companies adopting a DLP tool can ensure protection against both malicious and inadvertent insider attacks.

Many of today’s most harmful security threats are not cyberattacks conducted by malicious outsiders or malware, but instead, originate from insiders who have access to sensitive data. Internal threats include mishandling or misusing company or customer information by end-users, using unauthorized storage devices, removing confidential information from premises for unauthorized or unknown reasons, copying company, or classified information unnecessarily, etc. As employees from different departments access and interact with sensitive data, sometimes they have to move it to their laptops, USB devices, or computers, use file-sharing applications, email or cloud, that might not be as protected as the database was.

By deploying a DLP solution, organizations can set security policies and ensure that critical data is accessed only by authorized personnel, thus preventing a data leakage, or data theft and the consequences that such an incident would imply.

Safeguard customer data

With data breaches on the rise and regulations being in full swing, customer data protection should be prioritized more than ever by companies.

A DLP solution can protect different types of sensitive data, including Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as name, Social Security Number, phone number, financial data like credit card numbers, medical or health information, etc. Regardless of the size or industry, every organization owns confidential data like employees’ records, customer data base, financial records, etc. that, without a Data Loss Prevention software can easily be stolen by a disgruntled employee, or leaked because of human error.

Intellectual Property protection

Intellectual Property (IP) is one of the most critical assets that organizations have and includes business plans, trade secrets, software code, product designs, know-how, etc. All businesses, including multinational companies, as well as SMBs and recently established startups, should be aware of the threats facing intellectual property and take the necessary steps to safeguard it.

Organizations should know where their IP is, where it is going, who has access to it, and how to prevent from leaking or loss. DLP solutions can identify and locate where IP lives as well as protect it from wrongful exposure. They also allow companies to define their own categories of sensitive data based on their specific industry needs. Some tools even provide predefined profiles for IP, such as source code or media files.

Ensure regulatory compliance

Compliance is a complex issue that companies need to prioritize to avoid steep fines and data breaches as well as to preserve their reputation. By deploying DLP software, organizations can reach easier the compliance requirements of different data protection regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, PCI DSS, SOX, etc. DLP solutions can find, monitor, and control sensitive information, as well as help, ensure that employees cannot transfer, copy, or upload data classified as personal information under data protection laws.

The wave of regulations signals a fundamental change in the way organizations collect, process, and use data, with responsibility laid squarely on companies’ shoulders. As data transparency is a key element of any compliance effort, companies must be aware of where sensitive data is stored, who has access to it as well as how it moves in and outside their networks. Noncompliance penalties and data breach notifying laws (like the ones within the GDPR) are growing continuously. With a DLP solution, companies can set sensitive data policies, scan all data transfers, report or block unauthorized data transfers, generate detailed reports, etc.

How does a DLP solution work?

Data Loss Prevention solutions address several issues that fall outside the scope of traditional data protection tools that focus on outside threats. By protecting sensitive categories of data directly and supporting data transparency efforts, DLP tools offer policies that can control how and where sensitive data can be transferred and used and by whom. The DLP policies define the action to be taken when a given condition is met, such as blocking the transfer or reporting the event to the security administrator.

Besides policy creation, these products include centralized management and enforcement workflow. By deploying one, enterprises can identify, monitor, and control the data that they need to protect, as well as better understand their data. A DLP software typically performs both content inspection and contextual analysis of data sent over the network, in use on a managed endpoint device, and at rest in on-premises file servers or cloud storage. It also allows administrators to take action when people are trying to copy or transfer sensitive information to portable storage devices or send it through email, web browser, instant messaging applications, cloud services, social media, or other exit points.

Protecting the three states of data

Sensitive data has three different states – at rest, in use, and in motion, with different levels of vulnerability and challenges when it comes to their protection.

  • Data at rest is static data stored on a desktop, laptop, server, or in cloud storage that is archived or not often accessed or modified.
  • Data in use refers to data that is frequently updated by multiple users within a network and is active.
  • Data in motion is digital information that is being transferred outside the network, e.g., from desktop to cloud, portable devices, or other exit points.

Data at rest solutions perform in-depth searches of data stored on desktops, laptops, and other devices. These solutions offer visibility for companies by scanning hard drives and locating sensitive data based on predefined or custom content, file name, or a particular compliance profile. To ensure that information is protected from potential breaches, DLP software can then encrypt or delete the data based on the results.

Data in motion also referred to as data in transit, has to contend with a wide range of threats, including human error, network failures, insecure file sharing, malicious actions, and more. Due to the digitalization of businesses as well as the increased mobility of workers, data travels more and more in order to enable collaboration. However, the benefits of improved productivity, flexibility, and availability shouldn’t come at the cost of data protection and security. DLP tools usually address the threats data in motion faces from breaches and human error during its transit. Data in motion solutions scan network traffic for sensitive information, and they don’t let critical information leave the organization’s environment.

Data in use is usually addressed by DLP solutions that monitor data as users interact with it, and are capable of blocking transfers, as well as other actions such as copy and paste, or using sensitive data in an unapproved application.

Network and endpoint DLPs

There are different types of DLP solutions, each focused on a specific purpose, but with the same goal: to prevent data loss. The two major types are network and endpoint DLPs.

Network DLPs are designed to protect data in transit, and they are used to stop data loss over email, webmail, web applications, etc. Once deployed, these solutions monitor all data in motion on the network. Network DLPs are efficient and easy to implement, but they can only protect data when computers are connected to the company network and cannot prevent data transfers onto portable devices.

Endpoint DLPs offer more extensive coverage when it comes to data security. These solutions provide content discovery on the endpoint, can prevent data leakage through storage devices, such as USBs, and can safeguard data when a device is outside the corporate network. As today’s workforce is becoming more and more mobile, it is essential to protect data regardless of an endpoint’s physical location.

With the widespread adoption of cloud apps and services, a new threat vector appeared that required the extension of DLP capabilities into the cloud. With Cloud DLPs, companies can monitor and protect sensitive data across cloud apps and emails with centralized policies and prevent data leaks through real-time data protection actions such as data encryption or data deletion.

Dedicated DLP and integrated DLP

Dedicated DLP solutions are comprehensive tools, specifically built and designed to protect data for loss, leak, and theft. They offer protection for both data at rest and in motion, content and contextual scanning capabilities, device control options, and, in some cases, encryption options. Dedicated DLPs usually have predefined profiles for sensitive data but also allow companies to build their own policies based on their needs.

Integrated DLP solutions provide data loss prevention capabilities as part of another security tool by maintaining key features and eliminating the complexities needed for large scale networks. They are easy and quick to deploy, they cost considerably less than a dedicated DLP and require no additional software or hardware installation. The risk of integrated DLP is that they have limited customization options and reduced capabilities.

Why Endpoint Protector?

Endpoint Protector is an advanced Data Loss Prevention solution that puts an end to data leaks, data loss, and data theft while offering control of portable storage devices and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations. It is designed to protect confidential data against insider threats while maintaining productivity and making work more convenient, secure, and enjoyable.

Endpoint Protector is an award-winning solution, recognized in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Data Loss Prevention.

Check out some of its top-rated features:

Cross-platform
The solution offers the same security features and levels of protection for a computer running on Windows, macOS, or Linux operating systems.

Easy to install and to manage
Endpoint Protector can be up and running in 30 minutes. It is easy to run by both technical and non-technical personnel.

Granular policies
The solution offers granular access rights for removable devices and peripheral ports, as well as easy-to-define security policies for users, computers, and groups.

Flexible deployment options
Endpoint Protector offers multiple deployment options, depending on the needs and existing infrastructure of the company.

Single console control
Data loss prevention policies can be easily set for the entire network from Endpoint Protector’s centralized dashboard that offers an enhanced user experience.

Modular approach to DLP
The solution has a modular format that allows organizations to mix and match the right tools to serve their specific needs.

Detailed reports of user activity
With Endpoint Protector, it is possible to track, report, and get valuable insights about what sensitive data is being transferred where and by whom.

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Data Loss Prevention Best Practices

Helping IT Managers, IT Administrators and data security staff understand the concept and purpose of DLP and how to easily implement it.

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