While the number of serious data breaches worldwide continues to rise, and businesses are facing new data protection challenges that come with remote work and increasingly popular BYOD policies, data protection laws and regulations are becoming more complex and rigorous than ever.
It’s no wonder that more and more companies are looking to create or improve their DLP strategies. According to Mordor Intelligence’s Data Loss Prevention Market – Growth, Trends, And Forecast report, the data loss prevention market is expected to grow by 23.59 percent by 2025.
But what exactly is data loss prevention and how can you implement it into your organization?
What is DLP
Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of strategies that are created to prevent sensitive data from leaving an organization.
There are many ways this data can end up in the wrong hands — through email communication, instant messaging platforms, website forms, etc.
That’s why it’s important to use tools that monitor, filter, detect, and report suspicious activity that could lead to data exposure.
Companies can use enterprise-level email archiving solutions that rely on previously set rules to track if sensitive information is being shared via electronic communications and to detect abnormal data transfers.
Such tools can help companies stop private information such as financial data, healthcare data, customer, or employee details from being exposed outside the corporate network, whether it’s by accident or on purpose.
Why do you need DLP
Some of the main reasons why every company needs a DLP strategy are to:
- Ensure compliance with industry-specific regulations such as GDPR, HIPPA, and PCI DSS regarding data protection
- Protect intangible assets such as intellectual property and company secrets
- Improve data visibility, and help companies keep track of where the data is located, who is using it, and how it’s being used
Best practices to Implement DLP
-Classification is key
Knowing exactly what types of data you’re storing is essential for effective data protection. Using data discovery technology will help you search through your data repositories and give you insight into which data needs the most protection.
Having an accurate data classification system will help you avoid vulnerable data on unsecured storage locations, limit and control access to sensitive data, and thus reduce the risk of data breaches and data loss.
All your data should be clearly labeled according to the classification, from public data to the most sensitive information that needs the most protection. Once you have classified and labeled your data, you can proceed to implement relevant protection measures according to the level of sensitivity of the data in question.
As new data gets added or the old one gets modified, you should also update your classification accordingly.
-Protect the most sensitive data
Data loss prevention is a complex process, and with vast amounts of data companies store nowadays, it can be difficult to go “all-in” right away. Instead, after you’ve created a classification system, you should focus on securing the most sensitive data first.
Once you’ve refined this strategy and gained confidence in the system, you can implement the DLP solution across the board and extend it to all of your data subsets.
What your most sensitive data is will depend largely on the industry you operate in. Also, keep in mind that there are many industry-specific regulations regarding data protection that you need to comply with, from HIPAA for the healthcare industry, PCI DSS for credit card companies, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, GDPR, and many others.
-Archive your data
In order to ensure compliance, you should create detailed rules for data archiving. You should clearly define email retention periods and automatically archive emails that correspond to a certain policy.
Archiving your emails will also help you proactively monitor internal communication and ensure that sensitive data isn’t being shared with external parties.
Setting up certain keywords that will trigger a warning can help you detect suspicious communication patterns and prevent vulnerable data from being exposed.
– Allocate roles
In order to minimize the risk of data loss, you should have clearly defined roles for everyone who has access to your most sensitive data.
Segregating roles based on who creates a data loss prevention policy, who implements the rules into your system, and who is responsible for maintaining your DLP software, will help you streamline the entire DLP software and ensure that every single detail is taken care of.
Having clearly defined roles will also help you swiftly respond to data breaches, by knowing exactly who’s responsible for executing each step of your incident response plan.
– Specify access levels
Once you’ve clearly defined roles, you should create an access control list (ACL). This is a list of employees who can access sensitive data and at what level.
It can be integrated into an operating system or application, determining which users have what permissions within the system.
You can opt for two different approaches to ACLs — whitelisting or blacklisting.
Whitelists are more common, and they consist of items that are permitted, for example, websites employees are allowed to visit on company devices or third-party software they can install. On the other hand, blacklists are lists of prohibited websites, software, and applications.
-Educate your employees
Finally, in order to successfully implement your DLP strategy, it’s crucial that your employees understand the need for data security practices, DLP tools, as well as the consequences of a data breach.
Proactively monitoring your data can help you detect blind spots in your employees’ behavior and design training that would help them understand and implement more effective data security practices.
By creating realistic exercises and providing applicable examples your employees come across in their daily work, you can raise awareness about negligent practices and equip your employees with the right tools and information that will help them make better decisions in threatening situations.
Understanding the importance of data loss prevention and implementing it correctly is essential, not only to prevent financial losses but to protect your reputation as well.
Data breaches, data loss, and data downtime can cause serious trust issues between you and your customers, and once that trust is broken, it can be difficult to recover.
Make sure to follow these steps and create a DLP strategy that will help you protect your data and keep your reputation intact.