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Data Loss Prevention (DLP): What Startups and SMEs Must Know?

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Posted May 16, 2019

Data Loss Prevention, also known as Data Leak Prevention, is one of the most crucial policies for an organization since any enterprise — big or small — can’t risk losing its or its customers’ confidential data. It’s highly important, however, it’s not uncommon to see data breaches or leakages among institutions.

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For instance, Health Sciences Authority (Singapore), in March 2019, ‘accidentally leakedpersonal data of 0.8M blood donors on the Internet. What happened? One of its vendors, Secur Solutions Group, placed the data on an unsecured database without ample safety mechanisms to avert unauthorized access.

Isn’t it traumatic? I believe no institution or its customers shall experience such a disaster. Though the big corporations aren’t as secure as we expect and trust them, small companies and startups pose a greater risk — mostly due to inexpertise — if they don’t opt for sufficient safeguards to avoid data leaks.

What’s the solution? As a small and medium‑sized enterprise, you must opt for a solution for averting data leaks or losses. These solutions are known as Data Loss Prevention Solutions. However; foremost, you must understand Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and its importance in depth. So, let’s get started; shall we?

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is the practice of detecting and preventing data breaches, exfiltration, or unwanted destruction of sensitive data.

Data Leak Prevention is mainly utilized by corporations to protect corporate and customer information, comply with government and industry standards, and secure their intellectual property. Essentially, it’s a standard practice that helps institutions protect and secure their and their users’ confidential data.

Why is it Important for Your Organization?

Before we can understand the importance of Data Loss Prevention (DLP), we need to understand the term itself. The term refers to prevention against two types of accidents involving restricted or sensitive data, namely:

  1. Data loss. It refers to the accidents in which crucial data of a corporation is lost. For example, a startup getting ready for a product launch may have setbacks if the going-to-be-launched product’s data is lost.
  2. Data leakage. It cites to the events in which sensitive data of a company is leaked. For example, a conglomerate may lose its customers’ trust if their email accounts or passwords are leaked from the organization.

Since now you apprehend the types of accidents that can happen without Data Leak Prevention, you’ll understand its importance. It helps your corporation to avoid data leaks or losses that may otherwise harm its business or reputation among its customers. That’s not a risk any institution can take, right?

Now, let me ask you — CEO, CSO, or a member of a startup or a conglomerate: would you risk your company’s or your customers’ identifiable or sensitive data to get into the wrong hands? I believe your answer is “no, of course not.” In this case, you now know the significance of Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

Causes or Sources of Data Leaks or Losses

Okay, you now know its importance, but do you know it’s not easy to set up Data Loss Prevention? Why is it so? Before getting to know it, you must understand the possible causes or sources of data leaks or causes in an institution.

Insider threats

An insider threat is a malicious person (an ex-employee or a contractor) within the organization, who has inside knowledge about the security practices and systems. He can compromise the system by leveraging this information or some privilege account, then gain access to leak data out of the corporation.

Cyber attacks

A cyber attack or hack is an attempt to gain unauthorized access to a computer connected to a network or the Internet. After obtaining access, the malicious person can alter, expose, steal, or destroy data — even sensitive data including your products’ price charts and your customers’ personal information.

Negligence

A negligent employee is a person who is not vigilant at restricting data per the company policies or who is negligent enough to leak sensitive data to the public or on the Internet. For instance, a research by Shred-it in 2018 revealed that more than 40% of security breaches are due to employee negligence.

As you noticed above, there are many origins or exit points that may cause a data leak or loss inside a corporation. That’s why it’s just impossible for traditional security systems to monitor and prevent data leaks or data losses.

Moreover, your company data can be stored on a range of devices (physical or virtual servers, computers, databases, and mobile devices) and move between various devices (flash drives) or exit points (wired or wireless networks). Thus, it’s not easy for a single traditional security tool to safeguard the data.

So, it brings us to the question: what’s the solution then? There are specialized security systems for this task called Data Loss Prevention Solutions.

What is a Data Loss Prevention Solution?

A Data Loss Prevention Solution is a process or solution that identifies and tracks confidential data while it moves in, between, and out of the corporation. Then, it also guards against the unauthorized leakage or loss of data by creating and imposing relevant data security policies. Thus, it prevents data loss.

That’s the reason a Data Leak Prevention Solution is comprised of a collection of standard security tools to safeguard data. For example, an antivirus can protect against attackers from compromising your sensitive systems. Similarly, a firewall can prohibit unauthorized access to the servers having confidential data.

However, these two security tools can’t provide complete security on their own, but a package of such protection tools is much more effective against data loss or leakage in any corporation — small or medium-sized enterprises. That’s why a Data Leak Prevention Solution is the key to prevent data leakage or loss.

Features of a Data Loss Prevention Solution

A Data Loss Prevention Solution comprises of numerous features and tools that check multiple entry and exit points of sensitive data. That said, a solution is good only if it covers almost all points and offers the following features:

  • Identifying sensitive data. It is important to identify the type of data since all data is not sensitive enough to protect it. It can be categorized as confidential or sensitive by using metadata and rules (a manual operation) or using machine learning algorithms (an automatic process).
  • Protecting data in use. DLP solutions can monitor active data and point out unauthorized activities, which might have performed intentionally or unintentionally by a user while interacting with the data. It’s the same as an antivirus tool checks for harmful activities by running apps.
  • Protecting data at rest. A solution must create and incorporate access control, data encryption, and data retention policies to secure data at rest. For example, archived or persistently stored data of a company.
  • Protecting data in motion. DLP solutions monitor the complete network and analyze incoming and outgoing traffic to detect a transfer of sensitive data. Then, they flag the transfer as well as try to secure the data if it is sent against the configured security policies of the organization.
  • Protecting exit points. A solution has exit-point-based tools to control and secure data transfer among internal users or external parties. Also, such tools can block such data exports in real time and flag and report about the transfer to the security staff for processing it further.
  • Detecting data leaks. DLP solutions along with security tools like IDS, IPS, and SIEM identify irregular or suspicious data transfers. Such solutions also send alerts to the security staff about probable data leaks.

What Must be Done to Prevent Data Loss?

We hope this post helps you to understand Data Leak or Loss Protection (DLP) and take appropriate measures to safeguard your organization’s and your customers’ corporate, personal, or other sensitive data. We suggest opting for a DLP solution since it’s a complex task to monitor and track all the data otherwise.

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