Whilst data threats and leakages can occur in any organisation, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are most susceptible to data loss incidents. Indeed, cybercriminals often target smaller businesses as ‘low-hanging fruit’ as a mixture of inadequate security infrastructure and insufficient staff training makes them particularly vulnerable to data incidents.
Data leaks are costly. According to IBM, the average data leak cost is $4.24 million – or $161 per lost record.
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.
What is Data Loss Prevention? Why is it essential for your business? What are the common causes of data leaks? How do DLP solutions work?
This article will 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?
Businesses often handle sensitive information and data such as financial information, customer data, health records, trade secrets etc, that should never be lost or be placed in the wrong hands.
Data Loss Prevention – or DLP – is vital for ensuring that this sensitive data is not leaked, accessed by unauthorised users or lost. Essentially, DLP aims to protect sensitive data and prevent employees from sharing it with unauthorised users.
DLP solutions are software packages that scan your network, detect potential data breaches or exfiltration, 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 need to continually scan your network and provide information security teams with visibility into where sensitive data is being accessed and shared – and with who.
- Analysis & Automation: DLP solutions must recognise patterns of suspicious behaviour to prevent & predict data breaches.
- Reporting & Alerting: DLP solutions must alert information security teams of incidents and provide detailed reports on the pattern of threats & the organisation’s overall data security.
- Filter: DLP solutions must recognise the shared information and filter traffic based on DLP policies.
What are the causes of data leaks?
The primary goal of implementing a data loss prevention solution is to reduce the incidence of data leaks within your organisation. However, to properly optimise your data incident response, it’s essential to understand why data leaks occur.
- Human error & negligence: IBM found that 24% of data breaches occur due to employees’ human error or negligent contractors. This is likely down to poor training & bad data security habits.
- Employees often fall for social engineering attacks. Here, hackers gain access to sensitive data by tricking your staff. The damage of such attacks can be mitigated by monitoring the use of such data and looking out for patterns & signs a user may be inadvertently (or otherwise) sharing data with attackers.
- System glitches & bad security settings: Humans aren’t always to blame. IBM found that glitches cause 25% of data breaches in systems and databases. Errors in firewalls & security tools can often lead to unauthorised access to sensitive data.
- Misconfigured databases and access permissions are a huge culprit, causing over 3.2 billion record exposures within six months in 2019.
- Insider attacks: Surprisingly common – especially in sectors such as healthcare – a malicious insider may abuse their access permissions to leak sensitive information. Security Metrics believes that 40% of data incidents in healthcare had some insider involvement.
- Extrusion by cybercriminals: Many argue that this is the largest source of data breaches. Networks and databases are often penetrated by phishing attacks, malware and “back-doors”. The danger of such routes is that it can often take years for companies to find and plug these gaps – especially without a DLP solution.
How does a DLP Solution Work?
As previously mentioned, data breaches are incredibly costly. The average data breach cost to businesses rose to $4.24 million (£3.39m) in 2021, with each record loss costing an organisation $161 (£128.80) on average.
IBM describe four major cost centres driving up this loss:
- Lost business: Data breaches lead to system downtime and loss of customer goodwill. Organisations that have mishandled or lost customer data will likely have to find new clients – leading to customer acquisition costs.
- Detection and escalation: This includes recognising an attack and escalating threats to executives and crisis management.
- Notification: Data subjects and regulators must be notified of a data breach. Communication with affected parties requires time and money.
- Post-breach response: The rebuild from a data breach is costly and time-consuming.
An effective data loss prevention solution eliminates these costs. DLP solutions give information security teams the necessary visibility to detect and neutralise data threats.
Because so much damage is 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 – to automatically adjust and create new policies based on new threats and behaviour patterns.
A DLP solution is crucial for maintaining regulatory compliance – most notably with the strict European GDPR legislation.
Take control of your information security with Data Loss Prevention
In our modern digital landscape, data is key. Now, more than ever, organisations must properly consider their information security. Data Loss Prevention solutions give information security teams & IT staff the power to monitor and detect data breaches.