What Is DLP? (With Tips, Definition and Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many modern businesses rely on digital methods of information storage to create an easily accessible library of assets for their employees. While this storage method is convenient, companies often implement additional infrastructure to ensure that they don't lose this valuable information. Professionals who wish to improve the security of their employer's digital assets may benefit from learning more about data loss prevention (DLP). In this article, we discuss data loss prevention and its value to businesses with digital assets, including a definition of the term and tips for implementing it into your own workplace.

What is DLP?

The term DLP refers to the practice of using software that protects data from malicious users. This software can protect data in every state, including during storage and sharing and while users are accessing it. Additionally, this software allows you to track sensitive data so you can determine if an unauthorised user is attempting to access it. This software can also allow a business to set particular access requirements so that authorised users can retrieve data easily.

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Functionality of DLP

DLP software allows you to create several degrees of security that can help to ensure that sensitive data is progressively more difficult to access. The following are levels of security a company can utilise:

Standard security protocol

Companies often utilise standard security protocol to secure common digital access, such as an employee's personal files that are saved to the company's cloud. Standard security protocol typically includes a firewall, which only allows users within a network to access the information. This level of security also generally includes antivirus software, which scans new data for malicious computer programs that may provide a malicious actor with access to the network. Network administrators may also receive notifications of attempted unauthorised access.

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Advanced security protocol

In contrast to standard security, advanced security utilises algorithms and various forms of machine learning that can actively track abnormal behaviour within a network. The following are aspects of advanced security protocol:

  • Honeypot: Honeypot data presents itself as valuable to entice hackers to attempt to access it. If they do access it illegitimately, this data then records the hacker's information, which can help the company discover who the hacker is.

  • User-activity monitoring: A company can review the activities of users in the network to ensure that they're only accessing sensitive information when necessary.

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Designated systems protocol

The designated systems protocol can automatically identify if a user is attempting to use sensitive data inappropriately and prevent it. This security protocol can provide every piece of data with a special code for which the security network can constantly scan and identify. For example, if an employee attempts to make a copy of sensitive data when they access it, this level of security can identify the code connected to the data and prevent this action.

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Purposes of DLP

The following are the three major ways in which this software can serve a company:

Compliance with various customer protections

Depending on a company's industry, there may be customer protection regulations to ensure the company protects sensitive customer data as much as possible. Data loss prevention software can provide companies with the necessary tools to secure customer data and meet these regulations. Typical sensitive data can include health information on an individual, such as their name, insurance information, national identification number and contact details. It may also include payment information, such as credit card numbers.

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Data tracking

Data tracking allows the system to automatically locate a particular piece of data and find out who's accessing it. This can provide administrators with insight into the users who have opened the data and whether they're authorised to do so. This form of data protection can track data in a variety of digital environments, including networks, individual employee machines and cloud storage.

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Intellectual property protection

Many companies may utilise entirely digital assets to do business, thus necessitating its thorough protection. For example, a company that sells access to an educational seminar that it saves in a series of images would probably want to ensure that its digital property is secure. This level of security can also apply to companies with certain intellectual advantages that allow them to outperform the competition. For example, a spice manufacturer may have a secret spice blend recipe that they save on a company server.

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Examples of DLP use

Many companies at least partly operate online. In the future, this type of software could become more necessary. The following are examples of how a company can utilise data loss prevention software to protect its data:

Example 1

Here's an example of prevention of data leaks and breaches:

A bank tracks the savings of its users. It utilises a wide variety of sensitive information regularly to conduct business, such as account numbers, user credit history and home addresses. As such, individuals work with this business under the assumption that their sensitive data is safe. Otherwise, the bank would lose business. To ensure the longevity of its business and the happiness of its customers, the bank can use data loss prevention software to prevent malicious users from accessing this sensitive data.

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Example 2

Here's an example of how a company handles regulation changes:

An insurance company operates in compliance with customer protection regulations. The country in which the insurance company operates institutes a new regulation. It states that no more than three individuals in a company can access a person's sensitive data at any one time to limit the chance of data leaking. With data loss prevention software, the insurance company could set limitations on every user's data to ensure that only three employees can access the data at once.

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Example 3

Here's an example of securing valuable data:

A restaurant is famous for a particular kind of soup. The owner of the restaurant wants to ensure the safety of this recipe to allow the restaurant to maintain its competitive advantage. To secure this valuable data, the restaurant owner could implement data loss prevention software that only allows the owner to access this recipe. Additionally, the software could track any attempts to access the data illegitimately to dissuade thieves from attempting to steal it.

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Example 4

Here's an example of securing data storage points:

Imagine a call centre in which every employee reviews customer information to make calls. Every computer in the call centre contains sensitive information that the company wants to keep safe. DLP software can secure each location, allowing employees to continue saving sensitive information on their computers while ensuring that the data is safe.

Example 5

Review this example on recording user data access:

A company is developing a new vaccine. The company wants to keep the information related to synthesising the vaccine highly secretive to avoid leaking the data. To ensure that only authorised users are accessing this information, the company may utilise data loss prevention software that tracks which users are viewing the data. This can assure the company owners that only authorised personnel are reviewing the sensitive information, thus reducing the chance of a data leak.

Tips for implementing DLP effectively

To begin implementing this security software into your employer's digital infrastructure, consider the following tips:

Educate employees about data policies

Beyond setting security standards in its computer system, a company can also improve security by educating its employees about the value of this software. With the correct information, employees could utilise the software efficiently and promote secure data habits in their daily workflow. This can help employees avoid accidental secure data sharing and generally cooperate with the rules that the company puts in place to protect its digital assets.

Consider maximally efficient security protocol

For employees to retain an efficient workflow, it may be beneficial to consider the extent of the necessary security measures. If data that requires daily access is surrounded by an excess of security measures, employees may spend an unnecessary amount of time cooperating with the protocols of the data loss prevention software. This can result in reduced output for the affected staff. While security measures are typically essential, ensuring that employees can still perform their work in a timely manner is also worth considering.

Set key performance indicators

To determine the success of the company's data loss prevention software, it may be beneficial to establish some key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, the KPIs could indicate that the company wants to minimise the amount of classified data that users are accessing. By measuring this before and after implementing data loss prevention, the company could accurately assess if the software is functional.

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