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What is Cloud DLP (Data Loss Prevention)?

Posted on Friday November 25, 2022

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Data loss prevention (DLP), especially in the cloud, will help keep your organization’s private data secure while it’s being used and shared.

What is Cloud DLP?

Cloud data loss prevention (DLP) is a security solution that protects private or sensitive information in the cloud from potential attacks, threats, and exposure.

Data loss prevention is a set of tools, processes, technologies, and strategies geared to mitigate threats to sensitive data in order to prevent its loss, misuse, and unwanted destruction, or access. Its overarching aim is to detect and prevent data breaches from occurring.

As its name implies, DLP is interested in safeguarding against data loss and data leakage, including illegal exfiltration of data. It encompasses mitigation strategies to reduce threats to critical data, prevent unauthorized access, and enhance data privacy protections.

The importance of data loss prevention has grown in urgency as a McKinsey report indicates. For instance, 2021 ended up being the worst year on record for breaches of enterprise data. So, the stakes have never been higher for implementing various DLP strategies.

Cloud vs Endpoint vs Network DLP

To be effective, DLP has to address multiple risks across different environments. There are three types of DLP: in addition to the cloud DLP, there is also endpoint and network DLP.

To understand how they compare to each other, it’s important to know their roles with respect to the data lifecycle stages.

As a reminder, there are three

  • Data in use: this refers to when data is in active use, such as being processed, modified, or accessed either by an application or active user.
  • Data in motion: this occurs when data is moved in transition from one point to another through a network. It is at this point that data is generally most vulnerable, especially when the medium of transmission or destination isn’t adequately secured.
  • Data at rest: This is when data is in its stored state, either on servers, computers, or endpoint devices like laptops. However, data is now more commonly stored in cloud repositories and organized by database management systems with support for unstructured data.

Endpoint DLP

Endpoint DLP prevents data loss while it’s in general use, such as at creation. Companies typically install agents to monitor endpoint devices on which data — especially corporate sensitive data — is stored, used, or moved. These include mobile phones, computers, laptops, and servers.

Endpoint protection is primarily used to safeguard proprietary information like intellectual property and ensure compliance is maintained. As a result, companies install agents to ensure predefined policies are enforced as well as block activities that violate these policies.

Network DLP

As the name indicates, network DLP monitors and protects data in an organization’s network, whether this data is in use, in motion, or at rest. In essence, it is tasked with protecting network communications and the cloud. Network DLP involves technology design to secure an organization’s network communications.

To protect the network, DLP normally scans web applications, web emails, and traditional emails. Network DLP deploys a plethora of methods, such as scanning email subject lines, attachments, and messages. It also goes the extra step by building a database that records how sensitive data is accessed, by whom, and where the data moves through the network.

Although there are some areas of overlap, the difference between the three types of DLP boils down to the state of data residing or passing through them. Network DLP is mainly concerned with protecting data in use, in motion, or at rest on corporate networks. On the other hand, endpoint DLP revolves around monitoring data on devices when the data is used, moved, or saved.

Cloud DLP is similar to both, but more especially network DLP, of which it is a subset. Since our focus is on cloud DLP, we’ll elaborate more on it.

Cloud DLP

Cloud DLP is meant to safeguard data stored in the cloud. Compared to the rest, cloud DLP is mostly stored at rest or for future use, as one of its primary use is as repositories for data storage.

In addition, cloud DLP is also the primary capability of a cloud access security broker (CASB). As a result, here are some of the security benefits and security policy enforcement points that cloud DLP provides to cloud service consumers:

  • Data inspection and monitoring: Cloud DLP automates the data discovery process to protect sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) information. It also automatically monitors, scans, detects, and audits data in the cloud, and if necessary, immediately encrypts critical information before it is introduced and stored.
  • Identify and notify: Cloud DLP proactively alerts the cybersecurity, infosec team, or whatever team is responsible for handling security incidents when anomalous activity, threats, or policy violations are detected.
  • Reducing and mitigating risks: Cloud DLP automatically inspects and classifies data for governance and policy-based findings. It creates and maintains an audit log of sensitive cloud-based data, including who and how it is accessed. This enhances the ability to audit historical data and categorize it based on sensitivity.
  • Real-time, secure data processes: In addition to data classification, cloud DLP can automatically mask, transform, and tokenize to protect it during data migrations,  workload activities, and data processing tasks.
  • Gain visibility into data: Provide end-to-end visibility for how data is stored, used, or processed in the cloud. This includes leveraging cloud platforms to create dashboards and producing audit reports.
  • Response and remediation: by contextualizing risk and streamlining incident response activities, Cloud DLP empowers security teams to prevent threats and provide the most effective remediation actions.

Steps and Best Practices For Effective Cloud DLP Implementation

Cloud platform providers have grown in sophistication, offering users a lot of in-built managed services such as help with data classification and access to sensitive data inspection tools. However, you still need to take proactive steps to ensure cloud DLP is used effectively and optimized.

Prioritize Data

While data is generally important, not all data is created equal. As a result, not all data is in need of cloud DLP protections. Organizations have to prioritize the data that is worthy of cloud DLP and their focused attention.

The most sensible way of recognizing data that should be subjected to cloud DLP safeguards is by identifying those that would cause the most harm and damage if lost, stolen, or exposed through unauthorized access.

Classify the data

The next step after prioritization starts with classifying, organizing, and collating data to separate those worthy of focused protection attention from others. In addition to evaluating its importance, data classification can sometimes entail associating it with the user or application that created or generated it.

It is self-evident and generally understood that those data items that fall within this sensitive category include people’s personal and financial information like social security numbers, credit card numbers, HIPAA information, sensitive corporate data, company proprietary information, and personally identifiable information (PII).

Protect Areas with Heightened Points of Risk

One of the primary focuses of cloud DLP is to identify and strategically implement mitigation remedies to high-risk areas. The risk to data normally rises with public-facing applications since data is easily exposed. Data is also at risk when applications or endpoints possess broad sharing permission. Cloud DLP should be applied to external or public interfaces and data usage with highly-targeted users.

Monitor Data When In Motion

There’s a need to gain insight and visibility into what’s happening with critical data at each stage of its lifecycle but especially when it’s at its most vulnerable, in motion. Monitoring data in motion allows organizations to gauge the scope of issues that their cloud DLP strategies should address.

Develop the Right Controls, Policies, and Protocols

Cloud DLP enables organizations to develop granular and fine-grained controls to reduce risks specific to their industry or environment; policies and protocols also make it easier to communicate and report on data.

How Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration Can Help With Cloud DLP

These days, organizations are seeking the most robust solutions to reduce the financial and reputational risks associated with data loss and leaks.

Learn more about how Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration extends security in DLP, like with Fortra’s Digital Guardian, here.

Tags:  Secure Collaboration

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