Data Loss Prevention a Critical Strategy

The importance of data has never been greater and neither have the threats to the security of the information that it contains. Ensuring that we do not “lose” it is crucial and should be the top of any company’s priority list.

Data loss prevention (DLP) technology is nothing new with solutions in place for the last 20 years, but in that time the way we use data has changed significantly. Now our data must be available to ever more distributed workforces, stored in many locations and the huge demand to share and collaborate have all introduced significant challenges and an increased threat of data loss.

The data loss risk cannot be taken lightly or seen as a cost of doing business. How then, do we effectively mitigate the risk? This year I have done some extensive research into this subject to better understand how we build an effective data loss prevention approach suitable for today’s business and I would like to share some of the key findings here.

Think Strategically
The most important thing to appreciate is that data loss prevention is not about technology alone. An effective strategy is built around three components’ People, Process and Technology, getting each of these components right is key to reducing risk.

People
Too often people are seen as the biggest risk. But it should not be that way. Invest in the education and training of your workforce and make them your best defence against data loss.

Process
Be clear in all your data processes because lack of clarity vastly increases our risk of data loss. Get policies and processes clear on how we should use data, what constitutes risk and how to deal with a potential breach.

Technology
To effectively enable our strategy needs appropriate technology. As the risk has changed significantly, so has the technology to help reduce it. What then should we look for in a modern DLP solution?

General Considerations
The way we need to use data has to be supported by our technology, while data security is crucial and the risk of loss real, it does not change that we need to share and collaborate, data needs portability, we are going to use the cloud and mobile devices. Therefore, what we need, is not something that blocks but something that empowers our use of data, so we can use it as needed, but do so safely and securely.

Understanding Context
Because our approach should enable as much as prevent loss then our technology needs to understand the context. Modern DLP must understand that just because data is sensitive, it does not mean it can’t be shared or used. To do this our tools must understand data usage context. Rather than just understanding sensitivity it should also have a picture of who is using it, why and when. With this context, our approach can be more nuanced and much more effective.

Understanding our data use wherever it is

Perhaps the biggest of data loss risks is the broad spectrum of locations that our data may reside in from datacentre to SaaS platforms, from servers to mobile devices our data will live in some or all of these during its lifecycle. Therefore, we need visibility of them all. We need to understand how our data moves between them, how it is used in each repository and whether those locations handle our data in line with our processes and policies?

Be Smart – Be Helpful
The size of the challenge is huge and the demands it puts on our security teams is significant. Expecting those teams to manually capture risk is unrealistic. We need to provide tools that apply intelligence and understanding. Tools that send endless alerts to a SIEM hoping that someone will spot a risk is no good to us. We need systems that use intelligence and learning to narrow down and effectively highlight risk and perhaps mitigate it for us, without such intelligence you may well be fighting a losing battle.

With all that in mind where would I suggest you start? By educating your people on how they use data and why its security is critical if you get that right, then delivering effective measures will be much easier. When it comes to technology remember to find technology that understands context, can see our data in a broad range of locations and have the intelligence to help us to deal with risk when it occurs.

The need for a robust data loss prevention strategy is crucial in today’s environment, hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how you can build an effective approach based on people, processes, and technology.

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