Data Loss Prevention: What Is DLP and Why Is It Important?

Data is the lifeblood of today’s information-based business. Have you ever wondered what would happen to your business if it was cut off from the most important thing that keeps your business running? Your business would cease to exist. Data loss can result from system failure, human error, data corruption, cyberattack or natural disaster, and can be detrimental to your business.

In recent times, the adoption of cloud-based SaaS applications, such as Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce, has dramatically increased to improve remote workforce productivity and enable better team collaboration. As a result, more and more data is being stored in the cloud each day. However, let’s not forget that the cloud is not immune to data loss, as is the case with hardware-based storage. According to the HIPAA Journal, 70% of companies have suffered a public cloud data breach in the past year. Due to growing concerns regarding issues, such as data breaches, cyberattacks, corporate espionage and data privacy regulations, data loss prevention (DLP) technologies have become an essential component of today’s business.

Read on to discover what DLP is, its importance and how to implement a robust DLP program for your business.

A shield representing elements of data loss prevention.

What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Data loss prevention, also known as data leak prevention, is a program that combines technologies, strategies and processes to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing an organization’s sensitive information. DLP also refers to tools and techniques that help network administrators monitor and manage the data being transmitted. This helps in preventing employees from sending confidential data outside an organization.

DLP technologies help protect your data while it is in use, in motion and at rest.

  • Data in Use: Securing data in endpoints or applications while it is being actively processed by authenticating users and controlling access to sensitive data.
  • Data in Motion: Ensuring confidential data is protected while it is transmitted across a network by encrypting the information or using email and messaging security tools.
  • Data at Rest: Protecting data stored in the cloud, databases or other storage mediums, such as backup tapes and endpoint devices, through access control, encryption and data retention policies.

How Does Data Loss Prevention Work?

Businesses today deploy advanced DLP tools and technologies that help monitor, detect and block confidential information from being transmitted outside a company’s network. DLP products use algorithms that help determine which data transfers must be blocked. For instance, a DLP software would deny permission to users who go against company policy and who attempt to send sensitive information outside the organization. Additionally, DLP software can prevent unauthorized data transfer to an external storage drive by disabling employee endpoints from reading and writing certain information.

DLP products monitor incoming emails to look for malicious attachments or suspicious links. These tools allow you to either flag off inconsistent content so employees can manually assess it, or block it in its tracks upon detection. You can set rules as per your company’s policies to classify data, such as financial data, mission-critical data or intellectual property, and establish appropriate levels of security based on the type of content and value to the business. DLP products interact with other systems, such as a content management system (CMS), to determine the content they need to block to prevent unauthorized file transfer or information dissemination.

Why Is Data Loss Prevention Important for Organizations?

Data loss can be devastating for businesses of all sizes. The harsh truth is that no company is immune to data loss. It is estimated that a business will fall victim to a cyberattack every 11 seconds in 2021. External threats are not the only cause for concern for companies. The Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that more than 20% of security incidents involved insiders.

Data loss can impact the financial health of your business. As indicated by the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, global average data breach costs rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million in 2021. Apart from financial losses, data loss can result in loss of productivity, revenue and clients. It can also damage your company’s reputation — a long-term negative impact of data loss.

Therefore, a data loss prevention strategy is vital to secure your data, protect intellectual property and stay compliant with regulations. DLP systems ensure that your company’s confidential/classified data is not lost, mishandled or accessed by unauthorized users.

What Are the 3 Types of Data Loss Prevention?

The three main types of data loss prevention software include network DLP, endpoint DLP and Cloud DLP.

Network DLP

Network DLP solutions provide greater visibility into your company’s network, thereby allowing you to monitor and control the flow of information via the company’s network, email or web. DLP software helps you analyze network traffic and establish security policies to mitigate data loss risks while ensuring you remain compliant with regulations. By enforcing security policies, DLP software can perform certain pre-set actions, such as allow, block, flag, audit, encrypt or quarantine suspicious activities that violate your company’s information security policies.

Endpoint DLP

Endpoint devices, such as desktops and laptops, are the primary tools of modern business. New research by vArmour revealed that 76% of U.S. employees have inappropriate access to sensitive data. Endpoint DLP solutions monitor endpoint devices, such as servers, computers, laptops and mobile devices, on which your company’s critical information is used, moved and stored. This helps prevent your sensitive data from loss or being misused by unauthorized individuals.

Cloud DLP

With companies increasingly moving their business data and applications to a cloud environment, cloud DLP is vital to ensure business-critical workloads are not leaked, lost or mishandled. Cloud DLP solutions protect your data stored in the cloud by encrypting sensitive data and ensuring that the data is sent to only those cloud applications that are authorized by your company. Today’s advanced cloud DLP technologies are capable of identifying, classifying, removing or modifying confidential data before it is shared to a cloud environment to protect your data from cyberthreats, malicious insiders and accidental exposure.

Best Practices for Data Loss Prevention

  • Determine Your Objective: Clearly define what you are trying to achieve with your data loss prevention program, whether it is protecting intellectual property, better visibility and control of your data, or meeting regulatory requirements. Having a clear objective will help you determine what type of DLP solutions to include in your data loss prevention strategy — network, endpoint or cloud DLP.
  • Identify and Classify Data: All data isn’t the same. To better protect your data, you must first identify the data that is critical for your business, such as client information, financial records, source codes, blueprints, etc., and classify them based on their criticality levels.
  • Define Data Security Policies: Develop comprehensive data security rules and policies and establish them across your company’s network. DLP technologies can perform actions based on pre-programmed rules to track, analyze and block sensitive files from being shared via unsecure sources.
  • Manage Access: Restrict access to sensitive data. Access to and use of critical information should be limited based on user roles and responsibilities. By using DLP tools, your system administrators can assign appropriate levels of authorization to users depending on the type of data they handle and their access levels.
  • Educate and Train Employees: Data loss prevention is a continuous process, and your employees are a vital part of the program. Therefore, educating and training your employees on the importance of data security and the implications of data loss on your business, will play an important role in the success of your DLP program. After all, humans are considered the weakest link in cybersecurity.

Data Loss Prevention With Spanning 360

Regardless of how robust your DLP strategy is, the unfortunate truth is that data loss is inevitable. Your data is constantly at risk from threats such as human error, illegitimate deletion, phishing, programmatic errors, malicious insiders, cyberattacks and more. You must ensure that your company’s sensitive data is securely backed up and recoverable at all times to maintain business continuity when such instances do occur.

Protect your business and data with Spanning 360. Spanning 360 is the industry’s only enterprise-class, end-to-end protection solution for Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, with advanced capabilities to help prevent, anticipate and mitigate account compromise and data loss.

Spanning 360 enables you to detect and block even the most sophisticated email threats with three layers of defense powered by patented AI technology that monitors communication patterns between people, devices and networks to reveal untrustworthy emails.

Spanning Dark Web Monitoring allows you to secure accounts at risk before data loss occurs. It combines human expertise and sophisticated dark web intelligence with comprehensive search capabilities to identify, analyze and proactively monitor your organization’s compromised or stolen credentials.

Additionally, with Spanning Backup, your end users as well as administrators can quickly find and restore data to its original state in just a few clicks.

Check out Spanning 360 for complete Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace data protection.

Learn more about Spanning 360