Data loss prevention (DLP) is a strategy that helps organizations protect their sensitive data. Data Loss Prevention technologies – which can be both hardware and software – are used to protect sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure by identifying, monitoring, filtering, encrypting, and responding to suspicious movements of data, in real time.
What is a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Policy?
A Data Loss Prevention policy is a set of rules and regulations that an organization has in place in order to protect the company’s assets from unauthorized access or use. A Data Loss Prevention policy will typically cover what types of information are considered confidential, and how that information should be protected. Data Loss Prevention can be used to protect personally identifiable information (PII), internal information such as employee records and financial documents, intellectual property (IP), and more. The policy may also include requirements for encrypting certain types of data when it is stored outside of the company’s premises.
Why is a Data Loss Prevention Policy Important?
Data loss prevention policies are important because they help to protect the sensitive information that is shared by employees with other employees or clients. These policies help to prevent data breaches, which can lead to a company losing its customers or even going out of business. Data loss prevention policies also help companies comply with relevant data privacy laws, such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and more. This in turn will help them avoid legal issues, such as fines and lawsuits.
How to Create a Data Loss Prevention Policy
The first step in creating a Data Loss Prevention policy is to select the information you want to protect from unauthorized viewing or use. This could include contact information, financial data, intellectual property, or any other confidential material. Once you’ve identified what you want to be protected, you’ll need to identify who has access to it and where it’s stored. The next step is setting up the rules for how this information should be protected. This includes defining what types of files are allowed to leave your network; determining what type of encryption will be used; specifying whether content can be printed; and so on. You could think of a DLP policy as a checklist that covers all of the potential risks associated with confidential data.
How do Data Loss Prevention Solutions Work?
Data Loss Prevention solutions can monitor emails, file transfers, and other types of communications to ensure that sensitive information doesn’t leave the network. DLP solutions generally work in the following ways:
Filtering rules: These rules allow you to specify what types of files can be transferred over the network. They can also restrict users’ access to certain sites.
Data classification: This applies labels on files based on their contents, so they can be identified as sensitive or non-sensitive when they are transferred across the network.
Encryption: Some Data Loss Prevention solutions will automatically encrypt documents according to their contents, as they are transferred across the network.
Data Loss Prevention Best Practices
Discover and classify sensitive data
In order to keep your valuable assets secure, you must know what they are and where they are located. A data classification software will automatically discover and classify specific types of data as they are found, created, or modified. Most sophisticated solutions will scan both on-premise and cloud-based repositories for sensitive data, and provide a detailed report that will assist you in setting up access controls to protect it.
Use data encryption
A simple but effective technique for preventing data loss is to ensure that all sensitive data is encrypted, both at rest and in transit. The simplest way to encrypt data in Windows is to use the Encrypting File System (EFS) tool, which allows only authorized users to view or modify the file. When they save the changes, EFS will automatically encrypt the data in the background. Using EFS, an unauthorized user will not be able to access the unencrypted data, even if they have full access to the device. Users can also use Microsoft BitLocker as an additional layer of protection, in case a device gets lost or stolen.
Restrict access to sensitive data
One of the most effective ways to prevent data loss is to ensure that users are only granted access to the data they need to perform their role. If a user requires more access, they should submit a request to the relevant personnel, who can grant access on a time-limited basis.
Harden your systems
Make sure that your operating system is as secure as possible. Remove any unnecessary apps and services that may create vulnerabilities. You may want to consider creating a baseline image of your operating system for your employees, and then enable additional functionality if necessary. It is also important that you don’t store any unnecessary data, as that may result in false positives, thus making it harder to protect the data that is actually valuable.
Monitor all valuable data
You will need to keep track of all confidential data, including who has access to it, how, when, why and from where. Anytime sensitive data is accessed, moved, modified, or destroyed, administrators must have a record of it, and receive real-time alerts when user activity deviates from a pre-established baseline.
Keep everything up-to-date
In order to prevent zero-day vulnerabilities, and other cyber-attacks that may lead to data loss, it is crucially important that you keep all systems up-to-date. This includes operating systems, applications, firmware, and so on. Updates are typically rolled out automatically; however, it may still be worth considering using an automated patch management solution to give you more visibility into what/when/how/why patches are installed.
Use Automation whenever possible
It is good practice to automate as many security functions as possible. This is especially true for large companies whose IT environment is spread across multiple physical locations. Automation can be used to detect and respond to anomalous activity, perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks, install updates, enforce policies, and so on.
Educate your employees
Ensuring that all employees receive periodic security awareness training is one of the best ways to prevent data loss. At the very least, they should be trained to identify suspicious emails, SMS messages, and phone calls, choose strong passwords, and know how to securely access the company network remotely.
Continuously monitor and refine policies
Your security policies must be constantly monitored, and refined when necessary. Any changes made to your security policies must be clearly documented, and all relevant employees must be informed of these changes. You will also need to review your security policies anytime important changes are made to your business. Carry out frequent tests on your environment, and look for patterns to determine the effectiveness of your policies.
If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can assist you with your data loss prevention strategy, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.