How to Prevent Data Loss in 10 Different Ways
Preventing data loss is extremely important for any business. Without implementing certain procedures, your company could lose sensitive, important data.
What Are Ways To Prevent Data Loss?
Preventing data loss is crucial due to the role data has assumed in modern and business life. As the fuel that drives modern business, data needs to be protected to shore up privacy concerns and safeguard the competitive advantage it serves for businesses.
These are some of the ways to prevent data loss:
- Back up your files
- Protect your hardware
- Educate your employees about data leakage
- Keep your computer clean
- Apply antivirus and anti-malware software
- Ensure sensitive data is encrypted
- Keep software patches up-to-date
- Develop robust security policies for devices and endpoints
- Adopt a strong password policy
- Implement data loss prevention software
What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?
Data loss prevention is the practice of using tools, techniques, and technologies to prevent sensitive data from being stolen, damaged, or misused through data breaches, unauthorized access, or illegal exfiltration.
Ultimately, a comprehensive DLP strategy ensures employees, contractors, or end-users cannot intentionally or inadvertently compromise corporate data.
DLP makes it easy to enforce data security by providing mechanisms for classifying data correctly. This makes it easy to prioritize protection based on whether it’s critical business data, intellectual property, or non-sensitive personally identifiable information (PII). DLP can also help meet the regulatory compliance and governance needed for different types of data, whether it’s bound by HIPAA, GDPR, or PCI-DSS.
What Are Good Ways to Prevent Data Loss?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it nonetheless represents the vast majority of core methods and mechanisms that organizations use for DLP.
1. Back up your files
Catastrophe can strike at a moment’s notice. As a result, any responsible organization should have a disaster recovery mechanism to prevent data loss. This involves having a consistent and structured backup strategy to ensure a company’s critical data is stored correctly and can be quickly restored.
A comprehensive backup strategy should also incorporate the regular testing of backups to ensure they’re operational when needed. Whether an organization uses the cloud or its own physical servers to store its data, it should embrace the best practice of having in-built redundancy by creating multiple backups in different locations.
2. Protect your hardware
When it comes to preventing data loss, the predominant approach has been to focus on the software techniques to avert it. However, hardware security is equally important, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
While most corporate data is now stored in the cloud, hardware devices are still necessary to access it. As endpoint devices, the critical data that resides on them can be lost when damaged or compromised. Since an organization cannot effectively reach its data and conduct business without computing devices, attention should be paid to them.
Here are some of the practical ways you can protect your computer devices:
- Install circuit breakers to protect them in the event of a power surge
- Install anti-theft equipment, especially on expensive devices, which typically respond by sounding an alarm when a computer is moved without the owner’s permission.
- Protection via computer webcam is possible by installing software that will take a picture of an intruder illegally accessing its files.
- Biometric protection can be used through a USB fingerprint reader to ensure only legitimate users can access its contents.
- If you use self-hosting, ensure your servers are stored in a safe and secure environment
Hardware tends to be expensive to replace; in aggregate, they constitute a substantial capital investment for a business. A business should do everything within its ability to ensure its safety and optimal maintenance.
There are myriad ways in which hardware can compromise an organization’s data security: through theft, loss, or damage. Companies should anticipate and prepare for any incident that might compromise the data on those devices. Some measures could include being able to remotely wipe away data on the device in the event it falls into the wrong hands, especially if it contains proprietary information.
3. Educate your employees about data leakage
Insider threats can pose a risk when it comes to data breaches. While some emanate from malicious intent, others are due to employee carelessness, incompetence, or preventable errors. In addition to instituting good data governance policies, companies should mitigate this human risk by training and educating their staff.
Educating employees on cybersecurity best practices is vital because they represent a substantial threat vector. Gartner predicts that through 2025, as much as 99% of cloud security failures will be due to human error.
As a result, companies cannot afford to neglect implementing cybersecurity training to reduce the risk of data loss. The training should educate staff on recognizing the usual attack vectors used to target insiders, such as social engineering, phishing email campaigns, and other scams. Part of this includes recognizing and reporting suspected malicious links that introduce malware or ransomware into the corporate network.
4. Keep your computer clean
Maintaining a clean environment is vital to preventing mishaps that can damage company data or electronic devices. Ideally, organizations should maintain a no food or drink policy around desks or working areas.
Companies should ensure eating or taking refreshments occur in a cafeteria or other designated areas. To facilitate this policy, staff should be encouraged to take their break time or brief pauses for water, drinks, or refreshments.
In addition to instilling a sense of conscientiousness and professionalism in the workplace, this policy will drastically reduce incidents arising from spilling food or drinks on computers.
Maintaining cleanliness has as much to do with the internal environment as it does with the external environment. So, in addition to cleaning your physical desktop and workspace, here are some general ways to do so:
- Use a disk cleanup tool to get rid of temporary and non-critical monster files.
- Uninstall unnecessary apps and programs, including those used infrequently.
- Over time, downloads in the form of music files, videos, and PDFs tend to accumulate so you frequently need to perform housekeeping to purge them to free up space.
- Start storing and backing up important files to the cloud.
5. Apply antivirus and anti-malware software
Because data has become immensely important in our digital-first world, malicious actors are now sophisticated and well-funded adversaries. Hackers, organized crime groups, and even rogue nation-states use malware to target high-value information such as intellectual property, corporate secrets, and PII.
Likewise, cutting-edge software tools are required to keep these dangerous payloads at bay. So, in addition to web application firewalls (WAFs), intrusion detection systems, and signature-based threat detection, cybersecurity defenses now include anti-virus and anti-malware systems as standard fare. Some of these now employ artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning to prevent zero-trust-based attacks.
6. Ensure sensitive data is encrypted
Organizations that are serious about preventing data loss should, as a matter of routine, never store or transmit data in clear text. The standard practice is to apply encryption mechanisms to all non-sensitive data.
Encryption prevents hackers from stealing data or unauthorized users from having access to data they shouldn’t be privy to, further boosting the confidentiality and integrity of corporate information.
Companies should make sure their encryption mechanism is of robust, enterprise-grade variety. Industry standards favor using the 256-bit key, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
The best practice is always to encrypt data, whether it is at rest or in transit. This ensures it is protected at all points of vulnerability. Better still, companies should employ information rights management (IRM) that ensures there’s end-to-end encryption beyond the confines of data repositories and provides granular control over what a user can do with the documents in their possession.
7. Keep software patches up-to-date
In addition to purchasing the latest anti-virus software capable of fighting emerging threats, companies must also ensure that other aspects of their software inventory maintain the most up-to-date versions.
8. Develop robust security policies for devices and endpoints
When applied properly, company-wide security policies create a culture of good data habits while instilling proper data governance practices. This is especially so when its implementation extends to mobile and portable devices, whether the company allows a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy or permits employees to take home company computing devices.
Robust security policies are crucial for devices and endpoints because they’re farther removed from the network security perimeter and, in turn, exposed to a wider surface of attack. Applying data loss prevention techniques improves data visibility across your network perimeter and endpoints.
Companies should consider conducting robust security practices like regular penetration tests and vulnerability scanning. These tests help to proactively uncover hidden vulnerabilities and misconfiguration that could lead to data leaks.
9. Adopt a strong password policy
Passwords are an indispensable part of access control and authentication mechanisms. Passwords can often be the weakest link in protecting access to company networks. Left to their devices, people tend to be lax with their passwords.
This means companies need to ensure robust password policies are employed that incorporate the following measures:
- A password length of a minimum of eight (some say 12) alphanumeric characters.
- A mixture of both lower and upper-case characters
- Mandatory inclusion of at least one special character (! @ # ? ])
- Non-repeat of consecutive numbers
- Non-inclusion of the person’s name or username
Access credentials that rely heavily on passwords are typically the gateway to corporate data. Although some organizations are now advised to employ multi-factor authentication, with some incorporating biometrics, passwords aren’t going away anytime soon. Hence, the need for companies to ensure users adopt passwords that are difficult to crack, even with brute force mechanisms.
10. Implement data loss prevention software
Data loss prevention software is specially designed for the purpose of data loss prevention. As a result, DLP software can be indispensable for protecting your data and system against data loss.
DLP software comes with a plethora of tools and functionality to execute its mission, which typically includes protecting your data while simultaneously blocking suspicious access to the system. Some benefits include endpoint protection, anti-malware systems, intrusion prevention systems, event management, etc.
How Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration Can Help You Prevent Data Loss in Your Organization
Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration has the tools and deep expertise to prevent data loss. In addition to tracking your intellectual property, Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration applies an Always-on File Security that attaches encryption, policy, and security directly to your data.
To learn more about data loss prevention and how to bulletproof your endpoints, read about our DLP solutions titled Bulletproof your Data Loss Prevention Defenses – DLP.