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What Is Data Loss Prevention And How Does It Work?


In today’s data-driven digital world, data loss is a severe problem. Consider how much data we generate personally—and then imagine what that looks like, multiplied by thousands or millions of people.

In this context, data loss prevention should be a high priority for any company. Even the slightest error could prevent systems from working correctly and impact business continuity. Downtime is costly, so data loss protection is a critical concern.

All businesses need to protect themselves from data loss, which we will discuss today.

What is Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention, or DLP or data loss protection, is a software strategy most businesses use today. DLP encompasses a set of tools and best practices designed to protect an organization’s data from loss, corruption, or unauthorized access by employees or anyone outside the network.

One of DLP's most significant components is classifying data and applying policies, many of which are driven by compliance regulations like the GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS. If the DLP software detects policy violations, it initializes a remediation process, including enforcing or imposing encryption, alerts, and data isolation to prevent sharing, downloading, or transferring sensitive data from the network.

Data loss prevention solutions are also used to monitor access and activity within the system, such as through email or instant messaging. By doing so, organizations mitigate the risk of accidental or intentional exposure of sensitive data beyond authorized channels. If a leak or breach is detected, the DLP system applies pre-set protocols to encrypt, isolate, and protect company data, even after it’s left the system.

Gartner estimates that 90% of all businesses will have implemented a DLP strategy by the end of 2021, a significant and relatively recent gain when you consider only 50% of companies were doing so in 2017.

Why is Data Loss Prevention Important?

Data loss prevention is a critical business practice today. Any data loss could be disastrous, from health records to payment card information and personally identifiable customer information. There are stringent international laws governing data protection and data privacy. Should a breach occur, an organization could be liable for millions of dollars in fines—and that’s just the beginning.

If data loss happens for any reason, companies face a loss of brand reputation and could be forced to cease operations.

Even if the data loss was not connected to any personally identifiable information, it might impact a company’s ability to operate. For example, something as innocent as an accidentally deleted file could prevent an ecommerce website from working correctly. As a result, people would be unable to purchase items and would probably jump ship and take their money elsewhere.

Another critical barrier to data protection is that most employees use their own devices today, and many work from home. It’s common to use multiple communication channels to send and receive data using shared online drives, instant messaging, email, productivity apps, SMS, social media, etc. Data could be stored anywhere, on a laptop, desktop, a mobile phone, in legacy enterprise systems, the cloud, removable drives, and more. Inadequate visibility increases the risk of data loss and makes data protection more urgent.

How Does Data Loss Prevention Work?

DLP is generally divided into two categories—enterprise DLP and integrated DLP. Enterprise DLP is a dedicated, comprehensive, standalone solution that addresses the complex needs of today’s enterprise. Enterprise DLP is packaged into software for servers, desktops, and virtual appliances to monitor email and networks.

Integrated DLP is more essential and designed to work with existing cybersecurity tools. Integrated DLP's primary focus is enforcing policies, ensuring compliance, and preventing unauthorized users from accessing certain digital assets. Integrated DLP is used only on secure web gateways, secure email gateways, enterprise content management systems, and various data classification and discovery tools.

DLP tools inspect and analyze content and perform contextual analysis of data sent through email, messaging apps, on managed devices, in motion over the network, at rest in local drives and servers, and cloud servers and storage. Data protection rules are applied, and data is encrypted or isolated from movement beyond allowed systems based on those rules.

Do I Need Data Loss Prevention?

Nearly half of all users have lost data in the cloud. According to our 2020 Data Protection Survey Report, 8% of those who had lost data could not recover. Almost 30% of these companies reported it took 25 hours to get their systems back online—more than an entire day.

When you think about how your business operates and what’s riding on your online systems, that’s a significant amount of time—and time is money! So, if you depend on your online assets to operate or do any business online, data loss protection should be a priority.

But the need for data loss prevention is more than just with ecommerce. Financial services, healthcare organizations, or companies with distributed teams rely on digital data to operate. As such, they need robust data protection and loss prevention protocols to ensure continuity.

When you consider today’s data privacy compliance mandates, our increasing dependence on cloud computing and third-party software-as-a-service (SaaS), and the evolving threat environment, that ought to be enough of a rationale, but there’s more.

We’re producing and handling more data than ever, and those volumes are growing; therefore, there is more to steal. Stolen data is worth a lot on the dark web, where malicious actors can purchase and use the information for their purposes. It doesn’t help that the world faces a severe cybersecurity talent shortage.

It all boils down to this: no matter what business you’re in or where you’re located worldwide, you need data loss prevention and protection. DLP tools make that possible, providing you with advanced solutions that help protect your data against loss, corruption, and disaster in whatever form it takes.

Data Loss Prevention Best Practices

Data loss prevention solves four common objectives: data loss protection, compliance, data loss prevention, and data visibility. DLP also addresses various other problems, including internal threats, SaaS data security, user activity analysis, entity analysis, and advanced threat detection.

Here are a few data loss prevention best practices, many of which you can implement immediately.

1. Enforce a centralized data loss protection protocol.

Deploy the system and DLP best practices throughout the enterprise. Most data loss prevention initiatives fail due to a lack of consistency. When everybody is on board, it’s easier to maintain control.

2. Enlist a DLP specialist.

Data loss prevention in the enterprise is a complex task. I suggest working with a data loss protection specialist to help you set policies and deploy the right DLP tools. Some data protection legislation (like the GDPR) requires organizations to have data security specialists on staff or contracts.

3. Classify your data.

Before deploying a data loss prevention strategy, you’ll need to classify your structured and unstructured data. Confidential data, internal data, personally identifiable data, financial data, intellectual property, and internal data are just a few categories. You will then use these categories to establish policies.

4. Establish policies.

Could you create policies for handling your categories of data? DLP tools generally apply pre-set rules based on regulatory standards for handling those data types. Those rules can then be customized to the organization’s needs. For example, you might want to prevent employees from downloading unapproved documents or software. Or perhaps they’ll get a pop-up asking them to encrypt a file when sending an attachment that contains sensitive data. Or the system could redirect the email to a manager who would take it from there.

5. Implement data loss prevention in stages.

Data loss prevention is a long-term practice that will evolve. As your company grows and your data needs change, you may need to adapt some of your DLP policies to align with those changes. In best practice, I'd like you to implement phase changes to ensure a successful deployment.

6. Make employee education a priority.

Employee awareness and organizational adoption are critical to any data loss prevention strategy. I'd appreciate your ongoing training, tips, webinars, and coaching to ensure compliance. Reward data loss prevention champions and consider penalties for non-compliance as a deterrent.

7. Create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

Data loss protection is just one component of a comprehensive disaster recovery plan (DRP). A solid DRP will ensure your business continuity no matter what happens. From malicious attacks to extreme weather, loss of premises, or system failure, a DRP will help you get back up and running quickly.

Data Loss Prevention Tools and Solutions

Data loss prevention is a primary concern no matter what industry niche you operate in. However, the right data loss prevention tools and policies assure business continuity and reputation.

Data protection is a complex topic, but DLP tools support the process and make it easy to manage. There are many such tools on the market, but it’s essential to consider your needs, budget, and workflows, as every company is different.

Could you look at how data leaves your organization and all the endpoints you must protect? Consider how your employees access and share company files. You want a solution that provides data protection without hindering or slowing down their workflows. Most modern DLP tools can detect and respond to risk and prevent it.

Look for a DLP solution that offers:

  • Endpoint protection
  • Compliance
  • Protects personal information
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Insider threat protection
  • Data Visibility

And to ensure your continuity, no matter what happens, your devices, drives, systems, and all the data they contain must be backed up regularly. If disaster strikes, a backup lets you quickly restore your systems, maintain continuity, and avoid costly downtime.

Rewind offers comprehensive and continuous online backup solutions for Shopify, BigCommerce, QuickBooks Online, GitHub, and Trello. Rewind’s dedicated backup and recovery apps integrate directly with the platform, allowing you to back up and recover your data, including dependencies, metadata, images, theme code, and more.

Special thanks to our friends at Rewind for their insights on this topic.
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