There are few companies in the digital world that don’t keep digital records of important data. Whether it be employee information, important business documents or the personal information of customers, all businesses collect and store a large amount of data. That data has to be protected.

Some data such as personally identifiable information (PII) is protected by laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), while other data could fall under industry specific regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

To comply with those regulations and avoid hefty fines and lawsuits, it’s important that you are doing everything you can to protect that data from being breached by third parties. While firewalls and antivirus solutions can help you against external security threats, they do not address internal threats. 

That’s where a data loss prevention strategy is crucial. 

What is data loss prevention?

A data loss prevention strategy, commonly known by its acronym DLP, is a collection of technologies and processes that monitor and protect a company’s data from unauthorized access and data leak.

It aims to protect businesses from:

  • Insider threats and poor controls around who has access to data.
  • Malicious cyber threats, such as phishing, malware and code injections. 
  • Unintentional or negligent data exposure. 

DLP protects data in three places, while it is being used by authorized personnel, while it is being transferred from one location to another, and while it is “resting” (saved) in a specific location. 

A data loss prevention strategy focuses on the protection of valuable, sensitive or regulated data through the protection of personally identifiable information, data visibility, employee best practices and data classification. 

With that in mind, here are 8 data loss prevention best practices that will help your business better secure its sensitive data. 

Data loss prevention best practices

#1 - Evaluate your internal capabilities

To plan, build and execute a successful data loss prevention strategy, businesses need IT or cybersecurity specialists with DLP knowledge and experience. That includes everything from data loss prevention risk analysis, data breach response and reporting, and knowledge of data protection laws. 

In fact, some regulations, such as GDPR, dictate that a business must have personnel with DLP expertise. The GDPR mandates a data protection officer (DPO), or staff that can assume DPO responsibilities, with one of the tasks including “monitoring DLP performance”.

If your business doesn’t have the expertise or resources to implement its own data loss prevention strategy, it’s important that you look for external help instead and work with an MSSP who can build you an effective program. 

#2 - Gain visibility into your data inventory

When it comes to data loss prevention, many organizations think data loss prevention strategy and data loss technology are the same. Unfortunately, simply implementing data loss prevention technology doesn’t decrease a company’s data loss risk. To improve data loss prevention, it’s first crucial to understand what data your company has and where it lives.

A data discovery platform, such as Cavelo, will scan your organization’s entire environment to uncover what sensitive data you have and where it lives. Your organization is in a far better position to stop data loss when you have complete visibility into the data you have.

#3 - Create a system for data classification

Before your business can start building and implementing its data loss prevention policies and procedures, you’ll first need to build a system for data classification for both unstructured and structured data. 

Data classification is the process of injecting metadata into the data you want to classify based on things such as its sensitivity, the file format, the author of the data, what regulation its governed by or its date of creation. While this may sound like a tedious task, there are data classification solutions that your business can use to automate both data discovery and data classification.

Data classification helps your business determine where it should focus its monitoring and data security efforts, and there are a number of ways you can categorize data to help with this - such as its relation to compliance regulations or its level of risk. 

#4 - Establish policies for handling data

Now that your data is categorized, it's time to establish some rules, policies and procedures around how employees should handle data as it pertains to its classification. For example, data that is governed by GDPR will have to be handled differently to data that is governed by HIPAA, and as a result data that fall into these two regulations should be separated into categories that define those rules. 

#5 - Only store data you actually need

The more data that your organization has stored, the higher your company’s level of risk is. Any successful data loss prevention strategy should ensure that only essential data is saved. You can’t lose data that you don’t have.

#6 - Educate and train your employees

Just like with all cybersecurity strategies, the success of a company’s data loss prevention strategy largely comes down to the knowledge, acceptance, and willingness to follow, of their employees. If teams don’t follow the policies and procedures laid out in the data loss prevention strategy, then data loss and data leaks are likely to still occur. 

That’s why employee education and training efforts are crucial. Employees should undergo regular training and best practice sessions to ensure they are following the recommended DLP best practices and policies set out by your business. 

#7 - Set different levels of authorization

Access to sensitive data should be limited to employees who need it depending on their job description. There are a range of data loss prevention tools that allow admins to set up different levels of authorization for end users across a company’s network. This authorization is typically based on individual users, devices, groups, or departments. 

By setting different levels of authorization, a business is able to ensure that employees who do not need access to sensitive data to complete their job have no (or limited) access to it, while individuals that do need access to sensitive data have it. 

#8 - Measure the performance of your data loss prevention strategy

As with any business process, the key to success is measuring its performance and fine-tuning your strategy over time. That’s why businesses must always be measuring and optimizing their data loss prevention strategy.

To do so, consider measuring some key metrics such as:

  • The percentage of false positives
  • The number of incidents
  • The mean time taken to respond to data loss prevention alerts

Interested in enhancing your company’s data loss prevention strategy? Get a virtual demo of Cavelo. Our innovative data protection platform has been designed to ensure businesses gain full visibility into what data they have and where it lives, simplifying data loss prevention, data protection and data compliance.

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