Data is the lifeblood of your business. How do you protect it?

Data Loss Prevention

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

With information security theft on the rise, enterprises must find effective ways to protect their data, and many such enterprises are turning to data loss prevention (DLP) implementations to secure their networks. Data loss is a serious issue for any business of any size. Losing files means losing time and money to restore or recover information that is essential to your business. Data loss occurs when data is accidentally deleted, stolen, or corrupted. Viruses, physical damage to memory devices or formatting errors can render data unreadable by either humans or software. Losing files and documents often have a lasting impact on your company’s financial health.

Some data is recoverable, but this process can require the assistance of IT professionals and will cost time and resources the business could apply elsewhere. In some instances, lost files and information cannot be recovered, making data loss prevention even more essential. You can minimize your business’s potential for data loss by understanding what leads to data loss.

DLP is also a policy issue

Identify where the existing data resides and how this data is classified. Examine controls and data stores currently in place. Focus on first protecting the most sensitive category of data. In a large enterprise, it is advisable to start with a small segment of the network, rather than tackle the network as a whole. Only when the most sensitive category of data has been protected throughout the enterprise is it safe to move to the next tier.

The focus of DLP is to prevent confidential information from leaving the organization and from being accessed by unapproved recipients. At the very least, DLP should be able to detect when such an event occurs. This is assuming that the organization has boundaries; with the implementation of a document classification matrix and with strong policies in effect, confidential data is likely to be segmented into secure data stores (rather than being copied to the cloud), thereby implementing boundaries.

Effects of Data Loss on Businesses

Data loss is a major inconvenience that disrupts the day-to-day function of any business. When important files and documents are lost, your business must spend time and resources recreating or recovering these files to fill the gaps left by loss. While you may be able to locate hard copies of information, these may not be as up-to-date as the digital copies that were lost. Data loss caused by corruption or viruses poses particular problems as the extent of data loss caused can sometimes be difficult to determine. It can be costly for your business to weed out and repair damaged files.

Data Loss Prevention Strategies

With information security theft on the rise, enterprises must find effective ways to protect their data, and many such enterprises are turning to DLP implementations to secure their networks. Data Loss Prevention strategies have been evolving for several years. Successful implementation of DLP requires that it be approached as part of an overall program, rather than as a technology solution. DLP protection is limited to documents within the perimeter of the enterprise, or those documents stored on enterprise-managed hardware.

Since data is everywhere in the Enterprise there is no one tool by itself that can fully protect your data. To implement an effective Data Loss Prevention solution multiple layers of policy, procedures, and toolsets are required. Many of these seem like common sense, and most are basic to normal operations of a functioning Enterprise. The trick is to make sure that they all overlap with no holes for data to leak thru. Since data can only be fully protected and controlled by maintaining the location of your data; behind your firewall with all of the multiple layers of data protection that you can provide.

Operational Integrity

  • Monthly Computer Hygiene: Defrag HD, Delete duplicate/unnecessary files, run anti-virus/anti-malware
  • Patch Management
  • Software Upgrades
  • Endpoint protection: Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware-keep them updated
  • Monthly Server Maintenance
  • Server/workstation Backup: 3 backups-2 different mediums-1 offsite (all encrypted) monthly back-up testing

Layered Cybersecurity

Antivirus Software

Cybersecurity technology starts with antivirus software. Antivirus is designed to detect, block, and remove viruses and malware. Use products that are also designed to detect other threats, such as malicious URLs, phishing attacks, social engineering techniques, identity theft, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.


Firewalls are designed to monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of configurable rules—separating your secure internal network from the Internet. Minimizing the number of open ports Firewalls are deployed as an appliance on the network and may offer additional functionality, of virtual private network (VPN) for remote workers.

Patch Management

Criminals design their attacks around vulnerabilities in software products such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Flash Player. As vulnerabilities are exploited, software vendors issue updates to address them. Using outdated versions of software products will expose your business to security risks.

Password Management

Weak passwords are at the heart of the rise in cyber theft, causing 76% of data breaches. Adopt strong passwords, 8 + alphanumeric characters.

Data Protection Technologies

These data loss prevention measures protect against a wide array of cyber-attacks. However, because threats like ransomware are always evolving, security solutions are just one part of an effective defense strategy. You also need solutions in place that enable you to return to operations quickly if you do suffer a cyber-attack. Data protection technologies are an essential second layer of defense against cybercrime.

Controlled Access to Data

Ensure that only the authorized user has access to data on your Network. Use Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and Single-Sign On (SSO) tools in conjunction with Data Leak Prevention to limit external access, add watermarks and prevent printing or clipboard access.

When accessing corporate data remotely ensure data is encrypted when in motion and at rest. There are multiple technologies that will achieve these results, the key is to choose the one that is the securest, easiest to implement and maintain, and the most economical for your needs.

Occam’s razor essentially states that simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones. Applying this theory to Cybersecurity, it would state, “The easiest technology to use will be the one most used and thus the most effective”.

VPNs are complex and expensive to maintain and are frequently ignored when the user is stressed and pressed for time (ever been in an airport?). The next level in expense and complexity for remote file access is the virtual desktop technology. Deploying virtual desktops is a costly and difficult solution requiring extensive hardware and software investment. Supporting this technology requires dedicated engineering support and significant training for your end-users and support staff. Research, research, research; measure twice buy once. To avoid complex VPN’s and remote desktop support companies are employing web based file management software to enable secure file access with DLP features built-in avoiding the complexity and expense of VPN software.

Sources: Exabeam, Digital Guardian, NSS Labs

Bill Vann has more than 25 years of experience in IT and business technologies. He received his bachelor’s degree in Business and a master’s degree in Entrepreneurial Management from National University in San Diego, CA. Bill has been an active member and contributor of local associations such as AGC, NECA, and CFMA.