The date? August 8, 2023. The UK Electoral Commission announced what it described as a “complex cyber-attack” in which “hostile actors” got access to the UK’s electoral registers, which are thought to hold the personal data of 40 million individuals. Suspicious activity was detected in October 2022, activity which dated to August 2021. Crimes happen (always have, always will), and it’s good that it was detected – how much better to be able to detect it earlier?
As the amount of data created and stored grows at unprecedented rates, the importance of data protection has also increased. With the rise of persistent data breaches, securing data has become a top priority for individuals and organizations alike.
With the average cost of a data breach having reached $4.45 million, data breaches can have severe financial consequences, in addition to reputational damage and legal liability. Data leaks that could result in identity theft are now publicly posted on social media accounts. Sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card information, and bank account details are now stored in cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Whether you are an individual or an organization, the practice of protecting digital information from unauthorized access, corruption, or theft throughout its lifecycle is essential.
Data security solutions like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) help organizations and individuals protect their sensitive data from being lost or stolen. DLP solutions help companies protect their data and enforce their policies in a variety of ways, including protecting data at rest, in motion, and in use, addressing multiple channels of data loss, and enforcing policies consistently.
DLP can address these and other security threats. Let’s explore a little more.
- Data breaches: DLP solutions can help organizations detect and respond to data breaches more quickly and effectively.
- Data leakage: Unauthorized or accidental data leakage is a significant concern for organizations. DLP solutions can help organizations prevent data leakage through a variety of channels which include email, web, cloud storage, and endpoint devices.
- Insider threats: Malicious or negligent insiders can pose a significant risk to an organization’s data. DLP solutions can help organizations identify and mitigate insider threats, such as malicious employees or contractors who may attempt to steal or misuse sensitive data.
- Compliance: Many industries and regions have strict data protection regulations and compliance requirements (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS). DLP assists in ensuring compliance by monitoring and protecting sensitive data in accordance with these regulations. DLP solutions can help organizations comply with a variety of data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
- Data sprawl: DLP solutions assists organizations in identifying and managing sensitive data across a variety of data silos.
- Shadow IT: Employees may use unauthorized applications and services to store or share data. DLP helps organizations identify and control the use of unsanctioned cloud applications and services.
In addition to these threats, there are several arenas where DLP can come to the rescue.
- Cloud Security: With the increasing use of cloud services and storage, protecting data in the cloud has become a must. DLP solutions extend their capabilities to cloud environments, helping organizations control and secure data stored in cloud platforms.
- Endpoint Security: Mobile devices and remote working have made endpoint security a significant challenge. DLP solutions provide endpoint protection by monitoring and controlling data transfers on laptops, smartphones, and other devices.
- Data Classification and Inventory: Understanding what data is sensitive, what requires protection, and where it is makes work more complex (and can cause headaches). DLP solutions often include data classification tools that help organizations identify and categorize sensitive information.
- Encryption: Encrypting sensitive data is essential, but managing encryption keys and ensuring consistent encryption across the organization can be complex. DLP can assist in enforcing encryption policies.
- Data Visibility: This is similar to Inventory but includes how the data is used and who accesses it. The chosen DLP solution should provide insights into data usage and access patterns.
Each company is different (and we all know this). The difficult part is making the time and expending the effort to work through how one is different while at the same time acknowledging that there are many similarities within an industry and customer base. Here are some major industries and how they might begin to address data security, and, therefore, what kind of DLP solution they need.
- A financial services company can use DLP to prevent employees from emailing customer credit card numbers to unauthorized recipients.
- A healthcare company can use DLP to prevent employees from uploading patient medical records to unauthorized cloud storage services.
- A government agency can use DLP to prevent contractors from downloading classified documents to their personal devices.
- A retail company can use DLP to ensure that customer data is only shared with authorized third-party vendors.
When sifting through DLP solutions out there, here are several principled considerations. Remember: DLP is part of a fuller data security strategy. Not everyone needs everything, but we all need something, and these bullet points should help you on your way even if they’re not on your company’s list of needs.
- Data in Motion and at Rest: DLP needs to protect data both when it’s in motion (being transferred) and at rest (stored in databases or files). This requires a holistic approach to data protection.
- Policy Tuning: DLP systems can generate false positive alerts, which can overwhelm security teams and reduce the effectiveness of the solution. Tuning DLP policies and reducing false positives is an ongoing challenge.
- User Education: Educating employees about data security best practices is essential. DLP can help by providing real-time feedback and reminders to users when they are about to engage in risky data behavior.
- Scalability: As organizations grow, their data volumes increase. Ensuring that DLP solutions can scale to handle larger datasets and more users can be a challenge.
- Integration: DLP needs to integrate with various security tools and systems, including SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems, firewalls, and authentication mechanisms, to provide comprehensive protection.
- Emerging Threats: Cyber threats are constantly changing, and DLP solutions must adapt to address new and emerging threats to data security.
All the changes in the data security field have made it difficult to understand the nuances in the market. Make sure you step away from any confusing jargon, get clarity on what it is you’re looking to do, and take the next step. There are lots of people depending on you to reliably secure their data, and DLP is one of those steps.