According to industry figures, 2012 saw an increase of 117 per cent for worldwide data breaches compared to 2011. Combining the 2012 and 2011 figures, an extraordinary total of 267 million records were exposed over two years. These figures not only highlight that data loss prevention (DLP) programmes should no longer be a taboo subject but form a necessary and business critical part of a modern company’s IT infrastructure.
In my last article, we addressed some of the common misgivings and misconceptions of DLP as well as some of the challenges that have arisen in the market since the introduction of the technology in the early years of the 21st century. Today we will discuss the best approach to successful DLP programmes for your business and prevent you from adding to the industry statistics.
Whilst a DLP programme is fundamental to your business and will enhance your business practices, there is no doubt that designing, implementing and managing a DLP programme can be challenging. In light of this we have pulled together nine recommended steps to ensure a successful approach to executing a DLP programme.
Choose an expert partner to help with the technical aspects of the programmes and procedures from the start will ensure that the programme runs smoothly and is cost-effective.
Agree on targets from the outset, the business needs to establish why it is implementing a DLP programme and what it hopes to achieve as a result. A perennial issue for DLP programmes failing is that costs can spiral if clear targets have not been set.
Risk assessment based on the targets set, the organisation will have to establish what the business impact will be if a data breach were to occur.
Product implementation and policy configuration. This phase is the installation and configuration of your selected DLP technologies. Policies will also be set to ensure that everyone within the organisation understands the day-to-day best practices necessary to maintain data protection.
Monitoring enables the organisation to establish visibility of its data and to recognise information flow patterns. Understanding what data is being used, sent and stored within your organisation is critical to your DLP programme’s success. An incident response and business continuity plan also has to be created to deal with any data breaches that could occur and to ensure that the business keeps on functioning, even in a crisis.
Management is essential as DLP is an on-going project; you can’t just install and forget it. Setting policies and procedures which alert the in-house business/risk and compliance team or managed services provider when there has been a data breach is fundamental to an effective programme. The team can react on the results, make policy changes if necessary and ensure that the correct processes are in place.
Employee awareness and education. All of us today - employees, partners and users - are in the data protection and DLP business therefore it is vital that everyone in the organisation is aware that they must be part of the processes and policies in place.
Enforcement, i.e. quarantine and block high risk data. The purpose being that the business is able to reach the goals determined at the onset of the programme.
Expanding the data scope - DLP programmes often fail as a result of companies trying to implement big, overarching systems that encompass too much information, too soon. The right process is to start small and focused. Once the most business critical data has been categorized/identified, the DLP programme can be rolled out to new datasets, whilst continuing to manage the programme for the existing policies. It is often due to a lack of understanding and misdirection that many organisations make the mistake of seeing a DLP project as an ‘all in one’ deal.
Though there is no doubt that DLP can enhance your business practices and protect your business against the latest data breaching threats, it is important to note that a DLP programme will not solve every data issue. If used in conjunction with other technologies as well as a common understanding that we are all part of the data protection process, much can be done to improve your business with an effective DLP programme.
Choosing the right DLP partner, approaching DLP in stages rather than in one go and implementing the correct management tools to monitor data activity are the first steps to take in safeguarding your DLP investment and data in the future. In the next article we will discuss how DLP solutions can bring business benefits to customers.
Lior Arbel is the Chief Technical Officer of Performanta UK. Performanta Technologies specializes in Information Security and Risk Management, offering enterprise clients end-to-end products, services and consulting capabilities.