10 Considerations for Implementing a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solution

Recently, industry analysts have noticed a massive resurgence in the demand for DLP solutions. In light of the growing need for DLP solutions, organizations will need to remain vigilant to a defense-in-depth framework. There must be a balance between security and usability as well as a trade-off between threat probability and ramification. Appropriate DLP practices are more important now than ever, and this trend will continue well into 2017 and beyond. That said, with data breach incidents looming large across the globe, enterprises today first need to consider all the aspects and issues before implementing a DLP solution.

So what really must be considered for implementing the best DLP solution?

DLP solutions are designed to reduce the risks related to information loss by proactively locating and controlling sensitive data. Answering the following questions in detail will help organizations implement a foolproof DLP solution to protect their sensitive data and evaluate the approach followed by a DLP solution provider:

  • What types of data should I monitor and control?
  • What actions can I take to reduce data-related risks?
  • How can I achieve this without impacting business as usual and in a cost-effective manner?
  • Does the DLP solution address a complete range of global policies that meet my compliance and corporate-security needs?
  • Does the provider:
    • Partner with infrastructure vendors to embed DLP classification technology and policies across all elements of the infrastructure?
    • Integrate with third party controls for enforcement and with SIEM vendors to provide a single pane of glass for incident management?
    • Use a common management policy and classification framework to manage policies and incidents?

10 Key Considerations

The following 10 key considerations cover sufficient ground for organizations seeking to implement a DLP solution:

  1. Understand and identify how your sensitive data are handled—DLP is a content-centered data-protection technology that relies heavily on the proper identification and classification of sensitive data and concomitant handling within an organization. This facilitates the creation and implementation of a comprehensive data-protection strategy.
  2. Assess and analyze the need to implement a DLP solution—The “go/no-go” decision should be based on an objective risk-based assessment and analysis of the following: the data that the organization wants to protect, the security risk based on current and future security architecture, total cost, cost of data loss, total cost of implementation and management, and value-added benefits of introducing DLP.
  3. Identify and involve representatives from across the board to understand the need—The team that decides the need for establishing DLP policies must have a representative from each team to develop the requisite corporate policies (senior management), perform risk assessments (risk management), identify recent security events (IT security, legal, compliance management), and ad hoc threats/concerns. This will improve understanding of organizational and business requirements, thereby helping cover more ground for implementing the DLP system.
  4. Break decision-making and implementation of the solution into phases—Before implementing the solution, the benefits and operational impact must be understood and accepted by the organization. Only then can the organization plan to implement the solution piece by piece to avoid disruption of regular functioning. There should be sufficient checkpoints to track changes and implementation of the new system.
  5. Test the implementation in a small unit before going full scale—Policy testing in controlled environments helps understand the effectiveness of the policy and its potential impact on the business before wider deployment. Phased implementation will surely help lower the impact on performance and promote a positive user experience. The DLP infrastructure and the network capacity must also be planned adequately to minimize impact on the business.
  6. Create meaningful DLP policies and policy-management processes—After the typical DLP activities have been identified, it is imperative to create relevant and meaningful policies to monitor or block (prevent) sensitive data from leaving an organization’s network. Review processes and periodic policy modifications (to combat new risks) must form a robust, controlled process.
  7. Set up an effective response mechanism—Response rules and alerts must be defined and configured to respond in a particular way for specific events. An event review team with adequate knowledge of business risk should review critical events (in detail) with care. Furthermore, this team should take appropriate actions in a timely manner following established procedures to comply with policies, laws and regulations. Doing so prevents a negative impact to the business.
  8. Gather data for proper analysis and reporting— DLP policies trigger events that usually provide critical insight on where, when, and how the sensitive data are stored and handled within the organization. This can then be related to specific policies, departments, regions, and trends. Event profiles and trends, along with periodic reporting and its meaningful analysis (using the right metrics, patterns, and trends), help improve control practices and modify policies.
  9. Security and compliance measures must be in place— As a DLP system may collect data that are personal in nature or business sensitive, it is critical to have strict adherence to data-privacy laws and regulations of the countries in which the data are collected. Based on the scope of implementation, appropriate measures, such as employee notification and consent, must be taken (if required). The DLP team should be part of the corporate security-governance structure and work closely with other security teams to ensure data protection.
  10. Make way for legitimate sharing of data—Data sharing and cross-sectional data flow of business information is the lifeline of most organizations. Now, although organizations have to protect loss or leakage of sensitive data, they must ensure that DLP solutions do not hinder legitimate data flow inside or outside the organization This point is critical, for, if overlooked, the hindrance of legitimate data flow may lead to severe losses. Hence, there must be a team in place to review the business benefits of DLP on an ongoing basis and also verify its impact on legitimate data flow within the organization.

A comprehensive and integrated DLP solution must provide reasonable controls to protect data loss from internal sources. Management must ensure that proper measures are in place to protect sensitive corporate digital assets, including IP as well as personal and financial data. Additionally, a successful implementation of a DLP solution for large organizations requires systematic planning and execution considering the aspects discussed in this post.