Establishing a Data Loss Prevention Strategy

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) typically refers to the detection and prevention of any type of data breach, exfiltration or unintended destruction of data. From a cybersecurity perspective, DLP is also commonly used by organizations to protect themselves from data loss due to ransomware attacks.

In addition to this, there are a number of different reasons why enterprise organizations will need to adopt DLP best practices. This includes the need to protect an organization’s intellectual property, secure business secrets in a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) setup, protect customer information in the age of GDPR, and to keep data secure on the cloud.

Here is a set of to-do’s that organizations must look into when it comes to their DLP strategy.

Segment your data

The first step in preventing any data loss is to establish a comprehensive catalog of all your data and segmenting them. Enterprise data is typically stored on-premise, in the cloud, or on physical devices - including laptops, mobile phones and hard drives. 

Once you have identified all the data sources, segment the data found in each of these sources based on how secure it is. You may, for instance, categorize data into PII (personally identifiable information), PCI (payment card information), IP (intellectual property), CI (customer information), and public domain. 

Segmenting helps you stay aware of the kinds of data at your disposal and is thus the essential first step in DLP.

Ensure regulatory compliance

DLP at most organizations is about two things - protecting intellectual property from third party access, and regulatory compliance. A healthcare organization in the US, for instance, will need to adhere to HIPAA regulations when it comes to data storage and processing. Organizations dealing with EU customers comply with GDPR regulations in terms of data security. There are variations of other regulations like FERPA and COPPA in every country that governs how data across different industries need to be handled.

Competitive DLP

Besides regulatory data protection, businesses also fervently seek to protect other confidential business data that could give them a competitive edge. This includes intellectual property as well as financial reports, customer buying patterns and internal reports. A lot of such data is hidden within email chains and in the local hard drives of your individual employees. 

This decentralization can make it difficult to protect your data. One way to overcome this challenge is by moving all your organization data to the cloud. Google Drive, Dropbox and other enterprise storage tools make it possible for organizations to upload and access all organizational data from one location which makes it easier to segment and protect data.

Put user permissions in place

In large organizations, confidential business data (like customer data, sales numbers, etc.) is often accessible by a large chunk of employees that it is often difficult to pinpoint the source of a potential data loss. 

A centralized data repository makes it possible for your organization to put effective user permissions in place. This is possible with the help of document management applications that come with clear user access controls. This allows employees access to only a subset of information that they will need to carry out their role. Also, through effective digital signatures, the source of any data loss can be tracked effectively.

Building a DLP policy

Enterprises deal with new types of data every once in a while and a sustainable DLP strategy comes with a solid rules and policy in place. Invest in a DLP platform that lets you set these rules clearly and effectively. In addition to letting users create permissions for access to specific files, a DLP platform also sets up rules that govern how a particular file or folder cannot be used. 

Building a DLP policy however needs to account for all the different use-cases. As a best practice, you may start with a lenient policy in place and add rules incrementally over time. This avoids creating bureaucratic red tape where they are not required.

Also, an effective DLP policy mandates a rigorous training of all your staff on a continuing basis. You may include your DLP policy as part of your employee onboarding manual as well as in periodic training modules. This ensures that DLP remains part of your core data protection strategy in the long term.


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