What is Data Loss Prevention Technology?
Data Loss Prevention Technology Defined
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology protects sensitive and confidential information from being accidentally or maliciously lost, destroyed, leaked or sent outside an organization’s network.
DLP technology provides tools that enable IT teams to identify private or sensitive data and create policies to protect it. DLP solutions then apply policies by monitoring and tracking data stored, accessed, used and moved throughout an IT environment.
Data Loss Prevention technology helps protect private customer information, credit card numbers, personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), trade secrets, financial data, account credentials, business plans and other important data. By monitoring and tracking data at rest, in use, and motion, Data Loss Prevention solutions can block unauthorized file transfers, enforce encryption for email attachments, stop unauthorized copy/paste/print actions and prevent many other common incidents in which data is lost or leaked.
Why Organizations Need DLP Technology
Data loss and leaks represent enormous threats to an organization. For example, when a cyberattack exposes credit card info, Social Security numbers or login credentials for millions of customers, companies may be subject to stiff regulatory penalties, legal action, reputational damage and a severe loss of customer trust. The unauthorized leaks of intellectual property or business plans can severely hinder competitiveness.
Regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS and many others have placed strict requirements on storing, using and accessing private data. At the same time, highly distributed IT networks, work-from-home employees, BYOD and other aspects of digital transformation have made it harder for IT teams to protect sensitive information.
By monitoring activity and automatically applying security policies to flag or block suspicious activity, Data Loss Prevention technology can help organizations avoid regulatory fines, legal action, damage to business reputation and the loss of customer trust that can adversely impact profitability and competitiveness.
Common Causes of Data Loss and Leaks
Data can be lost or leaked in several ways.
- Unintentional leaks occur when employees fail to follow security guidelines or make mistakes when handling, sending, storing or accessing data. Employees may send a confidential email to the wrong recipient list, fail to encrypt an email attachment or lose a USB flash drive with sensitive business records. IT teams may fail to correctly configure security controls, accidentally allowing sensitive data to be accessed by anyone.
- Insider threats occur when employees or others with access privileges send sensitive data outside the network. This may include employees who send intellectual property to a competitor or copy sensitive customer information to sell on the dark web.
- External threats are cyberattacks designed to access an IT environment and exfiltrate sensitive data. Criminals often use social engineering attacks like phishing scams to steal credentials that provide unauthorized access to a network and its high-value data assets.
Data Loss Prevention vendors offer several solutions to address each scenario.
- Network DLP technology monitors user activity and data movement throughout the network and connected devices, enforcing DLP policies to block, flag or remediate suspicious actions.
- Cloud Data Loss Prevention technology monitors and audits data moving to and from cloud assets, controlling access and providing end-to-end visibility of data stored and used in the cloud.
- Endpoint Data Loss Prevention software monitors activity and controls access to data on servers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other devices.
- Email Data Loss Prevention technology helps prevent inadvertent and malicious leaks via email while blocking phishing scams and other social engineering techniques.
Techniques used by Data Loss Prevention technology
Data Loss Prevention technologies use content awareness and contextual analysis to determine whether DLP policies should protect data. Content awareness scans data for matches with specific keywords and strings, such as payment information or Social Security numbers. The contextual analysis examines metadata like headers, file size and other properties.
Techniques for analysis content to search for sensitive data include:
- Rule-based searches. This technique analyzes content for rules such as 16-digit credit cards or 9-digit Social Security numbers. This is often the initial layer of Data Loss Prevention technology.
- Data fingerprinting. This technique analyzes database information for specific sensitive data to see if it’s adequately protected and to ensure it hasn’t been accessed or altered without authorization.
- Partial data matching. This approach enables DLP protection of documents with multiple versions, such as a form edited by different users.
- Statistical analysis. This mechanism uses machine learning to understand and identify sensitive data that can’t be spotted using other methods.
- File checksum analysis. With hashes of file data, this technique compares hashes based on when the file was saved to determine if the content was changed.
- Lexicon matches. Dictionary terms and other role-based matches can help detect sensitive information within unstructured data.
- Pre-built categorization. This technique relies on pre-defined categories with rules and dictionaries that define common types of sensitive data.
Data Loss Prevention technology from Forcepoint
Forcepoint Data Loss Prevention enables businesses to intuitively discover, classify, monitor, and protect data with zero friction to the user experience.
Forcepoint simplifies DLP by providing IT teams with a panoramic view of unstructured data across the organization. Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, Forcepoint Data Loss Prevention technology enables teams to develop greater accuracy and efficiency when classifying data. Risk-Adaptive Protection automatically adjusts policies based on user behavior, making it easy to adapt in real-time to emerging risks.
With Forcepoint DLP, organizations can:
- Control all data with a single policy, replacing broad, sweeping rules with individualized, adaptive security that won’t slow down employees.
- Simplify compliance with policies from the industry’s most extensive pre-defined policy library.
- Protect IP with unsurpassed accuracy, tracking data in structured and unstructured forms and stopping low and slow data theft even when users are off-network.
- Automatically prevent data breaches by blocking actions based on a user’s risk level.