Data loss prevention is a crucial component of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. It protects critical data from being leaked or lost in ransomware attacks or other threats. Adversaries from nation-states, cybercriminals, and malicious insiders are targeting your most essential data. DLP protects against breaches by identifying and monitoring sensitive information at rest or in transit.
DLP protects against external attacks from malicious attackers who try to exfiltrate information and internal data that should be kept private, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personal identifying information. It also helps prevent accidental data exposure, such as when an employee forwards a file to a colleague on a non-corporate device. Identifying critical data is a crucial first step to protecting it with DLP. This starts by determining the proverbial crown jewels of an organization, which may include intellectual property, customer data, and financial records. From there, DLP can help tag the data with a digital signature identifying its sensitive nature. A DLP security software uses various techniques to detect sensitive data in multiple formats, including email, files, and text, and on local client machines in transit across the network or in the cloud. Companies should understand how these detection methods work, such as pattern matching using dictionaries and taxonomies or exact data matching (which uses a database dump or a live database to search for specific pieces of information). Knowing what happens when a DLP rule breaks, such as logging the event for auditing purposes or blocking the file from being shared with unauthorized users, is essential.
Depending on the organization’s priorities, DLP solutions use different strategies to detect sensitive data. They can include pattern matching to look for specific text patterns, like 16-digit card numbers and nine-digit Social Security numbers, alongside indicators such as proximity of keywords. They can also use file checksum analysis to determine if the content has changed and exact data matching, which compares against known sensitive information. DLP solutions also use partial data match, which looks for the same data across multiple documents, and categorization, which analyzes unstructured data with dictionaries, taxonomies, and linguistic rules. DLP enables organizations to monitor and protect data at rest and in motion from all devices and locations. It prevents malicious insiders from exfiltrating information, such as customer records or product designs. It also stops accidental data exposure, such as when employees forward emails containing sensitive data. It can help ensure that data stays within the corporate network and complies with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA. DLP solutions can also detect and block USB storage device access, a critical feature as more companies employ remote workers.
Many companies need more staff to identify and monitor sensitive information. Managed DLP services are your team’s remote extensions to fill this gap. Human error contributes to the majority of data breaches. DLP solutions help minimize these incidents by ensuring that only approved people can access sensitive information. As laws and regulations like GDPR tighten, DLP solutions must be able to evolve with them. The best DLP tools offer flexible policies that can be easily adapted to fit your organization’s needs. Look for a solution that can track both at-rest and in-transit data. This way, you can prevent data from leaving your network even if someone deletes files or accidentally sends an email with sensitive information to the wrong recipient. This is especially important in the age of complex supply chain networks and cloud storage services over which you have limited control. Some DLP solutions use exact file matching to look for patterns in data, while others use lexicons and taxonomies to identify specific concepts that indicate sensitive information.
Whether used to protect data at rest or in transit, DLP tools work best when they automatically detect suspicious activity and notify cybersecurity teams. The team can then review the event and decide whether it is an actual threat or a false positive. DLP is a tool that needs to be continually evaluated and updated. Teams should also perform adversary emulation exercises and regular audits to ensure the solution works as intended. Many data breaches involve unauthorized sharing, so it’s critical to provide DLP solutions with advanced features that allow administrators to change a file’s permissions and alert users when using sensitive information. Advanced DLP tools also offer user prompting to educate employees on how their actions can put the organization at risk, which can reduce accidental data loss by insiders. DLP solutions also monitor cloud and endpoint devices to detect threats, including malicious attacks by nation-states or cyber criminals looking for corporate espionage or financial gain. They can stop the exfiltration of personally identifiable information (PII), a common target for attackers.
DLP works alongside strategies to reduce risk. Because it’s impossible to eliminate all cyber threats, a DLP solution detects sophisticated attacks that bypass your cybersecurity defenses and protects sensitive or personally identifiable information from leaving the environment through breaches, exfiltration transmissions, or unauthorized use. DLP helps you identify and protect structured or unstructured data to keep your organization secure and compliant with regulations such as Consumer Privacy Act, GDPR, and HIPAA. DLP solutions observe user activity across networks, apps, and devices to prevent insider threats to identify suspicious activities and escalation of privilege that may indicate an attack. It also contains data loss by blocking external transfers from being sent via email or copied to USB drives.