Strategies for Data Loss Prevention
Data is an organization’s most valuable resource. Preventing its loss or misuse should be a high priority for all companies. This post discusses the importance of data loss prevention and offers strategies a business can implement to protect this vital asset.
Causes of Data Loss
Data loss can occur for a variety of reasons which complicates protecting it effectively. The main causes of data loss include:
- Human error resulting in inadvertent data deletion;
- Malware attacks including ransomware;
- Theft by malicious actors inside and outside the organization;
- Hardware faults;
- Lost or stolen hardware or backup media.
Data can also be deliberately or accidentally leaked when communicating through unsecured channels. This exposure can be as serious as other types of data loss.
Effects of Data Loss
Data loss can be devastating to an organization. It can also be expensive, especially when sensitive or regulated information is involved. The average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24 million. Following are some of the major effects of data loss on a business.
- Losing data can cripple a business and result in outages affecting mission-critical systems. This can lead to lost opportunities and unhappy customers.
- Consumer confidence can be shaken and the company’s reputation can be damaged in the wake of a data loss or breach affecting sensitive information. Users may look for alternate solutions resulting in the long-term loss of customers.
- Business failure can be an outcome of a data loss that results in extended system outages.
- Companies operating in regulated industries can be subjected to serious financial fines if noncompliance is involved with a data loss or breach.
Data Loss Prevention Strategies
Addressing the multiple causes of data loss requires a comprehensive approach to data loss prevention (DLP). In addition to software solutions, organizations need to develop and implement policies, procedures, and standards that focus on data protection.
Implementing the following DLP strategies will help your business protect its valuable information.
Understand your data resources
It’s impossible to effectively protect data resources if you don’t understand the type of information your organization is storing and processing. Not all data is of equal value nor does it need to be protected to the same degree. The first step is to determine if your environment includes sensitive data and identify where and how it is used.
The complete computing environment should be inventoried to locate all systems that store or process sensitive data. In many cases, this will be information that needs to be handled according to regulatory guidelines like HIPAA or the GDPR. The inventory should answer the following questions.
- What data is collected about your customers?
- Which systems contain the company’s most valuable data?
- What sensitive data resources are subject to regulatory compliance?
- Are your data resources valuable to competitors or hackers?
- How are you currently protecting your data?
- What would be the effects of data loss or leakage on the business?
Once you understand your data resources, they can often be categorized according to their sensitivity and the importance of keeping them secure. While all data should be protected, you should concentrate your DLP initiatives on your most sensitive and important information.
Develop DLP policies for sensitive information
Policies need to be developed to address the sensitive data resources that need protection. These policies apply to technological solutions as well as how employees manually handle data elements. Following are some suggested policy initiatives.
- Encrypt all sensitive information before it is transmitted over the Internet.
- Use secure email and file sharing systems.
- Implement a zero trust security policy to restrict access to sensitive data.
- Monitor access to sensitive information and redact it when possible.
- Develop procedures for safely and deleting unneeded data.
Implement digital rights management software
Digital rights management (DRM) software extends the functionality of access control lists (ACLs) in limiting user access to data resources. DRM software enables system administrators to place limitations on user activity regarding certain files or systems. A DRM solution prevents rogue users from copying or deleting sensitive data resources and adds another layer of protection to your environment.
Introduce data loss prevention software to your environment
Data loss prevention software helps control data movement inside and outside an organization. DLP software employs rules to determine the sensitivity of data resources and uses this information to apply the necessary measures to protect them. A DLP solution can drill down into encrypted or embedded data to perform its analysis.
DLP solutions use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies and multiple methods to identify data. These methods include:
- Regular expression matching which can identify items such as Social Security numbers;
- Matching precise data values from a supplied database;
- Exact file matching;
- Analyzing data to determine if it is similar to information previously marked as sensitive.
Enact comprehensive backup and recovery procedures
Backup and recovery are essential components of a DLP strategy. Businesses need the ability to quickly recover systems if data is lost or incorrectly modified. The complete environment should be recoverable in the event of an unforeseen outage, with a focus on restoring the availability of regulated and sensitive data. Backups should be taken regularly with a flexible tool that can meet the company’s longtime archival requirements. It’s important to develop a disaster recovery plan to recover business-critical systems and maintain operations.
Developing a Robust Data Loss Prevention Plan
An experienced partner like Prescient Solutions can help develop a DLP plan to protect a company’s data resources. The multiple causes of data loss can make it challenging for organizations to keep their information safe. It can be difficult to determine the best approach when implementing DLP and the most productive place to start the initiative.
Prescient’s expert team can conduct a thorough assessment of your IT environment to uncover any vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. After the assessment, Prescient will help a business determine the most effective methods available to protect its data. They will assist in implementing the right tools and processes to minimize the risks of data loss and strengthen your organization’s security standing.