One of the core aims of cybersecurity is protecting data from being compromised or lost. Data loss prevention (DLP) is focused on the latter, ensuring data is retained even when an incident occurs. Effective DLP comes down to neutralizing risks and optimizing incident management.
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The Best Ways to Prevent Data Loss
The most direct approach to preventing or dealing with the aftermath of cyberattacks is to work with a data loss prevention services provider, who’ll bundle several strategies and practices together. But for organizations who want to take matters into their own hands, it’s critical to understand what measures you can take to protect your sensitive data now and into the future.
Beyond DLP data loss services, the best practices for preventing data loss in 2023 are:
- Implementing sound cybersecurity architecture
- Identifying and eliminating security vulnerabilities
- Mitigating internal and external security threats
- Ensuring staff-wide awareness and vigilance
- Preparing for effective incident management
- Working with a security program advisor
Implementing any or all of these practices efficiently requires sound security governance. To that effect, using a chief information security officer (CISO) or virtual CISO is highly recommended.
Practice #1: Implement Perimeter Protections
Preventing data loss requires deploying cyberdefense controls across your hardware and software to detect any possible instances of it and stop attacks or leakages in their tracks.
To that effect, cybersecurity architecture implementation begins with visibility mechanisms that allow for total transparency across all systems. To prevent data from escaping or being deleted, you need to monitor and log all activity and all systems at rest to know what is where and when.
Beyond visibility, you also need to exert control over what content and traffic enters and exits your systems. Firewalls and content filters allow you to dictate what files exist across your networks with “allow all except,” “deny all except,” and other custom-tailored settings.
A layer that combines both visibility and filtering is access control, specifically through identity and access management (IAM). IAM monitors and restricts data movement through users, allowing for authorized actions while immediately disallowing unauthorized ones.
Practice #2: Detect and Remediate Vulnerabilities
Another critical part of preventing data loss is identifying weak points in your IT and security infrastructure from which it might be lost—or that might be exploited by attackers. These are called vulnerabilities in security contexts, and they need to be remediated as swiftly as possible.
Vulnerability management relies on visibility infrastructure, as described above. But it requires greater transparency, including granular reporting on how defenses should work, compared to how they are working in real-time. Any gap in your defenses could be used by a cybercriminal to enter into systems and access data to compromise it through deletion or the threat thereof.
One of the most common vulnerabilities in any IT deployment is failing to keep defenses up to date with available patches. Patch availability reports and patch management are absolutely essential to DLP. Forgetting or neglecting to update even the best firewall renders it useless.
Practice #3: Scan for and Neutralize Threats
Vulnerabilities are weaknesses that can be exploited to leak data. You also need to account for the specific ways that they could be targeted and the parties that could be responsible—threats.
In particular, most threats that could lead to data loss fall into one of two categories:
- External – These are cybercriminals outside your organization, such as individual hackers or groups that coordinate attacks. They may attack your organization at random, or they may target it because of a specific vulnerability they have become aware of. The kinds of attacks they use (i.e., social engineering, DDoS, etc.) are referred to as vectors.
- Internal – These are individuals within your organization or with close ties to it. They are often disgruntled current or former employees who take out frustrations by intentionally leaking data. In other cases, they may ignore security responsibilities unintentionally.
With respect to internal threats, it’s critical to remember that data loss doesn’t just come from direct attacks. Another element of effective DLP is data leakage prevention, which accounts for accidental loss because of accidental or negligent behavior rather than malicious activity.
Stopping leakage starts with preventing its root causes.
Practice #4: Cultivate Staff Awareness
Effective cyberdefense requires more than advanced controls and policies. You also need a staff that understands how critical data loss is and what they need to do to help prevent it. Security awareness should be instilled through a robust screening and training program. Employees need to be assessed as part of the onboarding process. Then, follow-up training should occur at regular intervals and at critical junctures such as when new software or hardware is deployed.
As crucial as awareness is, it’s not the only thing you need to cultivate across your staff. There also needs to be a culture of vigilance in place so that staff feel empowered and prepared to respond actively when a threat arises. To that effect, you should consider implementing real-time incident response activities into your broader training and awareness program.
Practice #5: Prepare for Incident Response
Even with sound defenses, it’s impossible to prevent 100% of incidents. Eventually, a threat will arise. The true test of your DLP is your ability to retain as much data as possible in spite of it.
Hence the importance of incident response or holistic incident management, including:
- Identification – Threats or attacks need to be scanned for and detected as soon as possible, then logged for immediate quarantine and other protocols, like analysis.
- Logging – When logged, the specific details of an attack should be cross-referenced against internal threat intelligence to accurately identify the vector and actor, if possible.
- Diagnosis – The details about the incident power thorough analysis to determine the root causes of the attack, its likely impacts, and the best methods to slow and stop it.
- Assignment – Roles and responsibilities should be delegated to stakeholders, and mitigation tactics put into action. Then, they should be adjusted over time as needed.
- Resolution – Mitigation should continue until all elements of the attackers have been eradicated, except any trace amounts necessary for reporting or threat intelligence.
- Continuity – During and after the attack, measures should be taken to minimize downtime and ensure seamless business continuity and customer satisfaction.
Prevention makes an attack less likely, but it also needs to account for attacks that do break through. These processes should be baked into and inform training and future prevention.
Practice #6: Work with a Security Advisor
Above, we noted that organizations can work with a dedicated DLP services provider for direct preparation and mitigation of data loss. While that is an effective approach, we recommend seeking out a more robust and comprehensive solution, like working with a full-service security program advisor or vCISO team. Doing so helps you get at the root causes, not the symptoms.
A program advisor or vCISO will help you develop, deploy, and maintain any of the practices named above, along with other security measures tailored to the exact specifications of your IT environment. Rather than just preventing data loss, they’ll optimize your entire cyberdefense.
And, maybe most critically, a program advisor or vCISO is uniquely positioned to ensure your data loss protection policy meets or exceeds any regulatory requirements that apply to you. For example, a critical part of HIPAA compliance is data breach notification, which requires timely and accurate messaging being sent to impacted parties, the HHS, and the media. An advisor will ensure that you have the reporting infrastructure and staff awareness necessary to do so.
Optimize Your Data Loss Prevention Today
Data loss is one of the negative outcomes cybersecurity systems are specifically designed to prevent, alongside corruption and other forms of data compromise. To ensure your sensitive data isn’t leaked or stolen, you should install architecture, manage vulnerabilities and threats, train your staff, prepare for incident response, and consider working with a security advisor.
RSI Security provides security program advisory, DLP, and other cyberdefense services to organizations of all sizes and in all industries. We understand that the right way is the only way to keep data safe, and we’re committed to helping you find and execute the best plan for you.
To learn more about our DLP and data loss management services, contact RSI Security today!