Skip to main content


What Is Content Inspection?

A Definition of Content Inspection

Content inspection is a technique frequently employed by network-based data loss prevention solutions. Content inspection involves examining data in order to identify regular expressions or patterns that are indicative of sensitive data (such as patterns used in social security and credit card numbers) as well as keywords that indicate sensitivity (such as “confidential”). Content inspection works by capturing data packets in transit on a network and analyzing their content for sensitivity. Content inspection is useful when categorizing or classifying data and often includes pre-configured rules for payment card industry data (PCI), personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), and other standards.

The Role of Content Inspection in Data Loss Prevention

Some data loss prevention solutions – primarily those that are network-based – include content inspection as part of their security features. Because of its ability to inspect file contents as data is transmitted over a network, content inspection can be a powerful tool for automating the process of identifying and applying protections to sensitive data. Content inspection makes it possible for data loss prevention solutions to automatically control or encrypt sensitive data within or attached to email and files moved across the network, to removable drives or cloud storage.

Benefits of Content Inspection

Content inspection provides data visibility to help organizations see exactly where their PCI, PII, PHI, and other sensitive data resides and control how it is used.

Other benefits of content inspection include:

  • Automatic identification and classification of sensitive data such as social security numbers, credit card information, and personal health data in files and emails – without human intervention
  • Extending data loss prevention to laptops, desktops, servers, and removable devices
  • Providing visibility into file and device activity on networks
  • Restricting use to authorized users and devices

Once data is classified and tagged through the content inspection process, data loss prevention solutions can monitor its use to enforce corporate policies and protect against intentional or accidental exfiltration of sensitive data from the corporate network.

Content Inspection Helps Companies Meet Regulatory Compliance for Data Protection

The content inspection process also enables companies to easily comply with data protection regulations – such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, FISMA, and others – by automatically encrypting or applying other protections to their regulated data. Content inspection technologies provide visibility into where regulated and other sensitive data resides on the network, what users are accessing it, and how it’s being used. This visibility is critical for demonstrating compliance and is also helpful in passing security audits.

It has never been more critical to protect sensitive data than it is today. Gaining full visibility into your data and knowing that it is correctly being classified is the first step toward protecting your data. For the reasons, content inspection is an important component of many data protection technologies today.