Data Loss Prevention and why it is essential for your business

Wed 26th Oct 2022 | Cyber Security, IT Outsourcing

In our modern digital landscape, data is key. Now, more than ever, organisations need to properly consider their information security. Data Loss Prevention solutions give information security teams & IT staff the power to monitor, detect and effectively react to data breaches and leaks.

Data threats and loss can occur in any organisation, but small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are most susceptible to data loss incidents. According to Verizon, small businesses are the victims of 43% of data leaks and breaches. This is because cybercriminals often choose smaller businesses as easy targets, they are more likely to have a mixture of inadequate security infrastructure and insufficient staff training making them particularly vulnerable to data incidents.

The average total cost of a data breach increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital transformation that occurred to remote working. According to IBM, the average cost of a data leak in 2021 stood at $4.24 million – or $161 per lost record. And, perhaps more shockingly, The average time it took to identify a data breach inside an organisation was 206 days. But, the discovery time and costs were significantly lower for organisations with a more comprehensive security setup.
That’s where data loss prevention (DLP) solutions come in. Data Loss Prevention is vital for information security and helps protect your critical information from data leakages.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of data loss protection and cover why your small-to-medium business needs to invest in a DLP solution.

What is Data Loss Prevention?

Many businesses have to handle sensitive information such as customer data, financial information, health records etc. that should never be lost or find its way into the wrong hands. Data Loss Prevention – or DLP – is all about ensuring that this sensitive data is not leaked, lost or accessed by unauthorised users. The aim is to protect sensitive data and prevent employees from sharing it with unauthorised users.

DLP solutions are software packages that scan your network and detect potential data breaches and threat and help information security personnel look for unauthorised destruction of sensitive data.

The primary responsibilities of such a solution are as follows:

  • Monitoring: A DLP solution will continually scan your network and show information security teams where and with who sensitive data is being accessed and shared.
  • Analysis & Automation: DLP solutions recognise patterns of suspicious behaviour to prevent & predict data breaches.
  • Reporting & Alerting: DLP solutions alert information security teams of incidents and provide detailed reports on the pattern of threats overall data security of the organisation.
  • Filter: DLP solutions are designed to recognise what information is being shared and filter traffic based on DLP policies.

What are the causes of data leaks?

However, to properly optimise your data loss prevention solution, it’s important to understand why and how data leaks occur. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Human error & negligence: IBM found that 24% of data breaches occur due to human error, either by employees or negligent contractors. This is often down to poor training or bad data security habits.
  • Employees can be subject to social engineering attacks, where hackers gain access to sensitive data by deceiving them. The damage of these attacks can be mitigated by monitoring data use and looking out for patterns & signs a user may be inadvertently (or otherwise) sharing data with attackers.
  • Misconfigured databases and access permissions are a huge culprit in this – causing over 3.2 billion recorded exposures within a six-month period in 2019.System glitches & bad security settings: IBM found that 25% of data breaches are caused by glitches in systems and databases or errors in firewalls & security tools, leading to unauthorised access to sensitive data.
  • Insider attacks: Surprisingly common – especially in sectors such as healthcare – where an insider abuses their access permissions to leak sensitive information. Security Metrics believes that 40% of data incidents in healthcare had some insider involvement.
  • Extrusion by cybercriminals: Arguably, this is the largest source of data breaches. Networks and databases are often penetrated by phishing attacks, malware and “back-doors”. The danger of these attacks is that it can take quite some time for companies to find and plug these gaps – especially without a DLP solution.

How does a DLP Solution Work?

Generally, DLP solutions can use two different approaches: content awareness and context analysis.

A content-aware DLP will read, parse and analyse the content of documents and messages to look for sensitive data – whereas a context analysis DLP will only look at metadata – such as headers, format, size, and timestamps etc. to detect suspicious activity.

A modern DLP solution will blend these approaches. Context analysis screening is a lean way to detect threats, whereas content analysis uses more resources to take a deeper dive into content.

How does a DLP analyse content? Firstly, a rule-based filter is used to detect sensitive data – for example filtering out 16-digit credit card numbers or national insurance numbers.

Exact data matching is a technique used to detect database dumping – where DLP solutions look for exact matches to records to intercept any unauthorised leaking of database records.

The same result can be achieved for files through exact file matching. This process uses hash values, a unique value that corresponds to the content of the file. Here, file hashes of communications are matched against known hashes. However, this technique can be circumvented easily, by duplicating files and thus generating new file hashes. Content matching can instead be used to compare partial content to analyse documents.

Why is Data Loss Prevention important?

As previously mentioned, data breaches are extremely costly. The average cost to businesses of a data breach rose to £3.39m in 2021 – with each record lost costing an organisation on average £128.80.

IBM describe four major cost considerations driving up this loss:

  • Lost business: Data breaches lead to system downtime and loss of customer confidence. Organisations that have mishandled or leaked customer data are likely to need to find new clients – leading to customer acquisition costs.
  • Detection and escalation: This includes recognising an attack, and escalating threats to crisis management.
  • Notification: Data subjects and regulators will need to be notified of a data breach or leak. Communication with affected parties requires time and money.
  • Post-breach response: The recovery from a data breach is costly and time-consuming.

An effective data loss prevention solution eliminates these costs in the following ways:

Improves detection and reaction

DLP solutions afford information security teams the necessary visibility to detect and react to data threats.

Policy Enforcement

Given that damage is often caused by employee negligence and inexperience, enforcement of DLP policies is key to ensuring a watertight information security strategy. The key to doing this with scale is to use an adaptive DLP policy enforcement option – with the ability to automatically adjust and create new policies based on new threats and behaviour patterns.

Regulatory Compliance

A DLP solution is also crucial for maintaining regulatory compliance – most notably with the strict European GDPR legislation.

Take control of your information security with Data Loss Prevention

Want to learn more about how a DLP solution can help your business? Get in touch with us today to explore how we can help you take control of your information security once and for all. We can carry out an IT System Audit so that we can design and implement an IT Security and backup system to suit you and your business.

Fast, reliable IT Support

How can we help you?