Data loss prevention inculcates preventing organisations against both data loss as well as data leakage.
While the hatred towards 2020 is mutual, it is being regarded as the golden age in the field of computer science. Aided by increasing technological advancements, increasing internet speeds and reducing costs of internet access, 2020 has revolutionised and transformed the ways businesses function.
With more and more businesses going online, the amount of data we generate is growing exponentially. This data, when properly studied, can help businesses understand what the consumers want and their behavioural traits and use it to expand and transform the way they work.
Clearly, with rapidly increasing digital dependency, data can be considered the currency of this modern world. Hence, businesses aim to protect not only the confidential data, as mandated by the governments, but also their business data and set up stringent measures to protect it. Since data plays such an important role in shaping the business and future of a company, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) strategies are becoming extremely popular to preserve this data and avoiding it from falling into the wrong hands.
What exactly is Data Loss Prevention?
As defined by Cisco, ‘Data loss prevention, or DLP, is a set of technologies, products, and techniques that are designed to stop sensitive information from leaving an organisation.’ Organisations rely heavily on data loss prevention techniques to comply with the government security regulations or prevent an organisation’s confidential data from illicit transfer outside the boundaries of the organisational, improving the organisation’s information security policies and protecting the businesses from data breaches.
Since the confidential data can reside in any type of computing devices (databases, flash drives, mobile devices, physical servers, virtual servers, cloud, etc.) and can flow through any type of network access points (wireless, wired, etc.), a robust DLP solution should provide a patch for all possible data loss, breaches and recovery.
Features of a Data Loss Prevention Solution:
DLPs are essentially tools which help the network administrators to monitor the data accessed and shared by the employees and other users. The common features of a DLP solution are:
- Monitoring who accesses what data, for what reasons and what do they do with the data.
- Filtering the continuous streams of data to identify suspicious activities
- Reporting instances of loss or breaches of data
- Analysis of the common vulnerabilities in the data loss prevention solutions to further make the solutions more robust.
Aim of Data Loss Prevention
DLP solutions are useful in a variety of use cases. Some of these are:
- Meeting Compliance Standards: DLP solutions helps many organisations follow security frameworks, like PCI DSS, NIST, HIPAA, etc., mandated by the government or the information security department of the organisation.
- Preserving the Organisation’s Intellectual Property and Data: The data of an organisation is its currency. DLP solutions help organisations protect intellectual properties like source codes, internal designs and documentation, etc., corporate data like financial documents, internal price lists, strategic documents, etc. and consumer’s confidential data like mobile numbers, credit card information, etc.
- Providing Role Based Access to Confidential Data: DLPs can provide role based accesses, which helps filter exhibiting confidential information based on the role and access provided to the employee. This is essentially useful to prevent data breaches due to insider threats.
- Data Visibility: With increase in computing resources, an organisation’s data can be spread widely across multiple computing platforms, making it extremely hard for the information security department to keep the data secure. Implementing DLP solutions helps provide an insight into the various data sources along with the information about the stakeholders who have access to the data and how they use it.
Causes of Data Leaks: DLP solutions help prevent data breaches since a company’s data can be extremely helpful and profitable to its competitors. The common sources of data leaks are as follows:
- Insider Threats: A malicious insider who abuses their permissions to move confidential information outside the organisation and selling it on the dark web or to the organisation’s competitors.
- Employee Negligence: Employees who might unknowingly or negligently cause data breaches by exposing sensitive data in public.
- Malicious External Attacks: Cyber attackers or hackers who try to gain access to an organisation’s confidential information by using techniques like phishing, malware, code injections, social engineering, etc.
Types of Data Loss Prevention Technologies
A DLP solution must safeguard the breach of all kinds of data and thus various types of technologies are present to achieve this:
- Data at Rest: DLP technologies should safeguard data residing in a variety of storage mediums, like servers, databases and cloud, provide access to data only to authorised professionals and track the access of this data.
- Data in Use: DLP technologies should safeguard the data that is being currently accessed by an application or a user through one of the endpoints by authenticating the source and controlling the data the source has access to.
- Data in Motion: DLP technologies should safeguard the data that is transmitted across the network by ensuring the transmission lines are secure. The most common way of doing this is by encrypting the data.
Data Loss Prevention Solutions
DLP solutions are categorised on the basis of the the type and source of the confidential data. The implemented solution can either cater to an individual source or be a hybrid model. These are:
- Network DLP: It is attached to the corporate network’s data points and traces, monitors and reports the information flowing through the different ports and protocols in the network. It is focussed on protecting the data in motion and provides a visibility into all the data in transit in the network.
- Datacenter / Storage DLP: It is focussed on protecting the data at rest by controlling the information that the stakeholders retain, access or share. It entails both on-premise and virtual storage and can trigger alerts if a data is not stored at a secure location.
- Endpoint DLP: It is focussed on protecting the data in use. This is very essential since there is a large variety of endpoints in an organisation, ranging from portable devices like USBs, mobile phones, hard drives, etc. to fixed devices like workstations. Endpoint DLP solutions are installed on all the sources that can have access to the confidential data and provides visibility into the data stored on the different endpoints location both inside or outside the organization.
- Content DLP: It is focussed on securing the data after it has been accidentally exposed to outside the authorised channels by providing functionalities like monitoring who all accessed the data, blocking the view to the content and providing the necessary remedies. This is extremely useful for the data discovery and classification.
Initiating a Successful Data Loss Prevention Deployment
There are various steps required before implementing and deploying the perfect DLP solution according to the different use cases. These steps are:
- Prioritising Data: An organisation has a variety of data and not all of it is confidential. DLP should start by preserving the integrity of the most sensitive information which is most valuable or likely to be attacked by hackers.
- Classifying Data: Since different types and sources of data need different solutions, the organisations need to classify the confidential data by its context, either by its source, network or the data store.
- Understanding Data: Different types of data are used for different purposes and each brings its own associated risks. For example, the data which moves out of the organisation is most susceptible to a breach and should require a content DLP, while one that remains in-house and intact is the most secure and should require a storage DLP.
- Monitor Data: Monitoring the access and usage of data helps an organisation prevent security breaches due to insider threats. Monitoring logs also help strengthen the DLP solutions by providing insight into the source and usage of the data.
- Develop Communication Controls: Initial DLP solutions should aim to preserve the security of the commonly used or sensitive data first and later spread out to include more granular data.
- Employee Training: The DLP solutions can only dictate the various protocols to preserve the integrity of the data but the security of the data essentially lies in the hands of the stakeholders, hence all the organisations should aim at training employees to obey the company’s data policies.
- Deployment: Once all the systems are at place, they can be safely deployed and rolled out. Over time, the DLP solutions should encompass all of the organisation’s data with minimal disruption to the business processes.
Thus, a data loss prevention system is essential to maintain the integrity of the data. Even though a DLP solution helps address the common security flaws, deploying a DLP solution isn’t a one-time effort and requires continuous efforts of all the stakeholders of the organisation to be judicious with the use and security of the data.
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By Saarthak Jain