5 Top Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Best Practices

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The 2021 Global Data Risk Report by Varonis revealed some interesting insights about why data loss happens. In the report, they found that, on average, 33 percent of the total number of folders used by companies is open to everyone. Now, contrast this with the well-known Cost of Data Breach Report 2020 by the Ponemon Institute that estimates the average cost of a data breach around $3.86 million.

With data breaches growing more lucrative by the hour, hackers have maximized on the lack of adequate data loss prevention (DLP) practices at companies worldwide to make breaches a regular occurrence instead of an anomaly. This is further complicated by the fact that on average, it takes business organizations nearly 191 days to identify data breaches. With breaches growing in severity and impact, multiple industry and government data regulation policies have now come into play to regulate secure handling of different types of data, like healthcare information (HIPAA) or, credit card data (PCI). Failure to meet those regulations with inadequate data loss prevention at any business can attract heavy punitive fines in addition to the financial and reputation damages resulting from data loss. Houston IT Support can help you navigate the increasingly stricter compliance regimes and help set up effective DLP tools and protocols as per your business needs.

Understanding the complexity of data management and the need for DLP software

Clearly, we need to do more with our data protection practices than what we have been doing. But the problem with managing data at any organization is the sheer number of stakeholders involved in any business. At any given point, your business is interacting with partners, customers, vendors, remote employees, other legitimate users and more. Trying to spot unauthorized users in this vast pool can be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Moreover, most of these legitimate users use multiple communication channels—authorized and unauthorized—to communicate data about your business. The channels can include email, instant messaging, shared folders (online and offline), team collaboration and meeting software, texting, social channels, and more. Business data also gets stored in office and personal electronic devices including cloud backups, desktop, laptop, PDA, smartphone, file servers, proprietary databases, and more. The consequent lack of visibility into overarching data flow is not hard to imagine. It’s very hard for businesses to track specific data leaving the organization – making it highly complicated to effectively prevent data loss.

What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data loss prevention (DLP) are tools and processes that businesses can use to protect sensitive data. DLP software effectively identifies and classifies regulated, confidential, and mission-critical data. It also immediately alerts administrators to any instance of violation of pre-defined policies by organizations. In general, these policies are based on meeting and excelling standard regulatory compliance parameters as laid down by data protection laws, such as, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or GDPR.

On identification of policy violation, DLP automatically initiates alerts, encryption, and a host of other defensive strategies as defined by the business needs of the organization to prevent accidental or malicious data sharing and data loss. DLP proactively monitors and controls endpoint activities, cloud activities and even employs data filters to secure your business data and meet compliance needs. DLP reporting can also help businesses with forensic analysis of data movement anomalies, identify vulnerabilities, put in place effective incident response mechanisms, and meet audit requirements. 

5 Top Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Best Practices

The following DLP – data loss prevention important practices will help you protect your crucial data from internal and external threats:

Put in place a single, centralized DLP program

Ad hoc DLP practices and technologies across departments and business units result in effective data protection and lack of visibility into data assets. Moreover, if you are inconsistent about implementing DLP practices, employees and stakeholders are unlikely to take it seriously either.

Evaluate internal resources

Some data protection regimes like, the GDPR, mandate employing an internal resource with requisite DLP expertise or engaging the help of competent third-party DLP services provider. Managed IT Services Houston can help you implement highly effective, proven DLP tools and policies for businesses in Houston.

In any case, the data protection officer (DPO) must be qualified and experience to carry out DPO responsibilities, including critical compliance audits, monitor DLP functioning, raising awareness internally on compliance requirements, and serving as a liaison with compliance authorities. S/he needs to have the expertise to craft and implement an effective DLP plan, conduct DLP risk analysis, craft an effective data breach response and reporting structure, keep up with evolving data protection legalities and compliance requirements, and conduct effective DLP training and awareness.

Conduct an inventory and assessment of your data

The amount of data at rest, in motion and in use in your business is vast and the first step towards creating an effective DLP framework involves evaluating and classifying the types of data and their value to your business. This involves identification of all relevant data, charting out their storage, and levels of sensitivity – deciding whether the data falls under regulated data, intellectual property, or confidential information. You need to evaluate the risks that each type of data may attract including data exit points and cost of data loss. This will help regulate security parameters around different types of data.

Research Multiple Vendors

Before you go ahead and hire internal resources or managed services providers for DLP, it may serve you better to list out your expectations for DLP in your business. You can even ask around and find business leaders/ owners who have employed DLP practices and find out their experiences, challenges, and pain points. You can use Gartner as a predictor for DLP vendor performance or, just evaluate satisfaction levels at businesses using DLP services with support, incident workflow, and data security confidence levels.

Set up policies and test them

DLP tools often provide businesses with many pre-configured-rules and policies that can be adapted and implemented across your network. Once the policies are implemented, it regulates the sharing of sensitive data through potentially unsecure channels including IMs, email, file sharing, and cloud services. It can even be used to delete or encrypt sensitive data on unauthorized computers. These policies are highly customizable and organizations should employ multiple rounds of testing and evaluate results based on bast judgment for the exact desired outcome.

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Scott Young

Scott Young is the president of PennComp LLC, an IT consulting Houston Company. Being a CPA, Six Sigma Master Blackbelt, Change Management Certified and Myers Briggs Qualified, Scott's expertise is reflected in PennComp as a leading IT company for computer services and network integration. PennComp utilizes Six Sigma methodologies and practices in their service delivery and offers state-of-the-art monitoring and management tools to their clients.