What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)? Types, Best Practices and Benefits

An organization’s data is arguably its most valuable asset. Due to the pivotal role data plays in driving modern businesses, it’s often termed “the new oil,” “the new currency” or “the new gold.” Protecting this valuable asset is critical for the survival of your business.

Businesses today use several tools, technologies and strategies to safeguard their mission-critical data. One such strategy is data loss prevention (DLP). In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what data loss prevention is, the importance of DLP in protecting your valuable information and share key DLP best practices to enhance your organization’s data protection further.

What is data loss prevention (DLP)?

Data loss prevention refers to the use of strategies, tools and processes designed to safeguard sensitive information from unauthorized access, theft or accidental exposure. DLP is an integral part of an organization’s data security strategy. It involves identifying, monitoring and protecting data to ensure its confidentiality, integrity and availability. DLP includes a set of policies that govern how a company’s data should be used, including where data should be stored, who can access it and how it should be handled.

Why is data loss prevention important?

Businesses create, collect and store large volumes of sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, sales and marketing blueprint, and intellectual property. This data is a treasure trove for cybercriminals who constantly look for opportunities to infiltrate an organization’s defense systems to steal data.

On one hand, cyberattacks continue to grow in frequency and severity. On the other hand, the growing dispersion of workforces and the nature of the mobile workforce have made data more susceptible than ever to compromise and corruption. According to Statista, over 70% of organizations worldwide have suffered a cyberattack in 2023.

Data loss, corruption or leakage due to technical failure, cyberattack, employee mistake or intentional deletion can have far-reaching consequences, ranging from financial loss to damage to a company’s reputation. As per IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, the average data breach cost hit an all-time high in 2023, reaching $4.45 million.

DLP helps mitigate these risks by safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorized access or exposure. Implementing robust data loss prevention measures not only secures your organization’s valuable assets but also strengthens resilience against evolving cyberthreats and helps to maintain compliance with stringent data protection regulations.

How does data loss prevention work?

Data loss prevention works as a multilayered defense system to safeguard sensitive data across various channels and devices within an organization. It works by identifying, monitoring and administering controls to prevent data theft, loss or leakage.

DLP systems identify sensitive data by employing advanced algorithms and predefined policies. These systems recognize patterns or keywords associated with confidential information, such as personal identification, financial records or intellectual property.

Following identification, DLP monitors the flow of data within an organization’s network, tracking its movement. It tracks data in real-time, regardless of its form or location, ensuring compliance with established security protocols.

Once sensitive data is identified and monitored, DLP enforces controls to prevent unauthorized disclosure or transmission. This stage involves implementing measures like encryption, access restrictions or blocking data transfer to prevent potential data breaches or leaks.

What are the different types of data loss prevention?

The main types of data loss prevention systems include:

Cloud DLP

Cloud DLP focuses on securing data stored and transmitted through cloud services. It implements policies to monitor and control data movement within cloud applications, ensuring the protection of sensitive information regardless of its location.

Endpoint DLP

Endpoint DLP systems aim to secure data on individual devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets. This type of DLP controls data access, usage and transfer on these endpoints, ensuring data security even beyond the organizational network. This ensures an organization’s sensitive data is not misused or mishandled.

Network DLP

Network DLP focuses on monitoring data as it moves across the network. It analyzes and restricts the unauthorized movement of data within the network infrastructure, preventing data breaches or leaks.

Email DLP

This DLP technique concentrates on securing email communications by monitoring content and attachments. It enforces policies to prevent the inadvertent or intentional sharing of sensitive information through emails, enhancing the overall security of communication channels.

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Data loss prevention best practices

Listed below are some key DLP best practices to consider when creating a data loss prevention strategy:

Determine objectives and metrics

Implementing a robust data loss prevention strategy requires a clear approach and defined objectives for success. Determine what your primary objective is — safeguarding intellectual property, enhancing data visibility or ensuring regulatory compliance. This will help select the right DLP deployment architectures — endpoint, network, discovery or cloud. Define success metrics aligned with key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the DLP program’s effectiveness. Track incident numbers and time-to-response for insights into strategy efficacy and improving your DLP strategy.

Define roles and responsibilities

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities plays a pivotal role in ensuring robust data security measures. Your organization must clearly define and allocate specific responsibilities for individuals involved in the DLP program. In order to make the DLP policy more effective, stakeholders and users must also understand their roles in safeguarding organizational data.

Document policies

Documenting DLP processes proves invaluable for consistent policy application, record-keeping and seamless onboarding of new team members. After classifying data, establishing detailed data handling and remediation policies is critical, especially concerning regulated data under the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Identify and classify data

Not all of your organization’s data has the same level of criticality. Some have higher levels of criticality than others, for example, customer data, financial information, source codes and blueprints. To protect your organization’s data effectively, you must identify mission-critical data and classify them based on their sensitivity.

Educate and train employees

Your employees are an integral part of your DLP program and play a critical role in its success. Therefore, fostering a security-conscious culture through training and education is essential. Educate your employees about the potential impact of their actions or inactions on data security and business. Continuous guidance and user training reduce the likelihood of inadvertent data loss.

Utilize data encryption

Use data encryption to ensure authorized personnel have access to your organization’s data. Data encryption helps protect data both in transit and at rest, ensuring sensitive information remains inaccessible to unauthorized users. Protecting data at rest involves implementing access controls, encryption and well-defined data retention policies for archived information. Encrypting data, whether stored or in transit, prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information, even if they are able to breach the data’s location.

How can data loss prevention help your business?

Apart from protecting your business against potential data breaches and the subsequent detrimental consequences, data loss prevention offers several other benefits.

Data protection

DLP is instrumental in protecting your organization’s confidential information and proprietary data. It ensures sensitive data remains within your corporate network, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or leaks.

Compliance with regulations

Various industries have stringent regulations and standards governing the handling of data, such as GDPR, HIPAA and CCPA. DLP systems assist in adhering to these requirements, ensuring your organization stays in line with industry-specific mandates.

Enhanced data monitoring and visibility

DLP allows you to track the movement of sensitive information, regardless of its location or form. This enhanced visibility enables real-time monitoring, allowing immediate identification of potential data breaches or unauthorized access. DLP systems offer detailed insights into data usage patterns, enabling you to take proactive measures to prevent data leaks or security incidents.

Protects your organization’s reputation

One of the most important benefits of DLP is safeguarding your company’s reputation. Data breaches can tarnish your company’s image and erode customer trust. By preventing such breaches, DLP safeguards your brand’s image, preserving its position in the market and among stakeholders.

Prevent data loss with Unitrends

Data loss or leakage can occur due to cyberattacks, accidental exposure or intentional deletion or disclosure. Protecting your valuable data is crucial to prevent mishandling and ensuring its confidentiality, integrity and availability. Reinforce your DLP strategy with cutting-edge backup and recovery solutions from Unitrends. Protect your data no matter where it lives — on-premises, in the cloud, SaaS applications or endpoints. In addition to backup and recovery, Unitrends provides robust security to support your DLP initiatives, such as military-grade AES 256-bit encryption to protect data in-flight and at-rest, multifactor authentication (MFA), role-based access control (RBAC), immutable storage, cloud deletion defense, AI-based ransomware detection and integrated dark web monitoring.

Book a personalized demo to see firsthand how Unitrends can help you overcome data protection complexities effortlessly.

With the hybrid work model finding its groove in the rapidly changing business environment, organizations’ data footprints are increasingly expanding beyond the conventional on-premises infrastructure to hybrid and multicloud environments. A widely dispersed workforce and data footprint also mean that businesses now heavily rely on their information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. The rapidly expanding data footprint and the growing reliance on new ICT systems have made data protection even more challenging.

We have put together a comprehensive eBook that details how businesses like yours can develop a holistic approach to achieve ICT Readiness for Business Continuity (IRBC) and remain operational in the event of a disaster.

Download the eBook now to identify, respond to and recover from any disruptions effectively.


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