Best Practices for Data Loss Prevention

As more of our data is stored electronically, the risk of data loss increases. While we can’t always prevent data loss from happening, there are some strategies for data loss prevention (DLP) that can help reduce the chances of it happening, or at least minimize the impact if it does occur.

Larger companies make all the data loss headlines but even smaller businesses are not immune. While the former can usually handle the financial impact and bad publicity, the latter may not be so lucky. This is why it’s important for all businesses, regardless of size, to have a DLP strategy in place.

We walk you through eight best practices for data loss prevention below.

Identify Your Most Valuable Data

Understanding the way your organization stores and uses data is the first step in developing a DLP strategy. This means taking inventory of what data you have, where it’s located, and who has access to it.

Creating a data inventory not only helps you assess which data is most valuable, but it also helps you understand where that data is located and who has access to it. Some data is more valuable than others and should be given extra protection. This might include customer information, financial records, employee files, or anything else that could be damaging if it got into the wrong hands.

You should also consider the sensitivity of the data. For example, is it publicly available information or is it restricted? Knowing this will help you determine how best to protect it.

Once you’re clear on what data is most important, you can start tailoring a DLP strategy that will help protect it.

Develop Policies and Procedures for Data Protection

Once you know what data is most important to your business and how it’s being used, you can develop policies and procedures for protecting that data. These policies and procedures should be designed to prevent, detect, and correct data loss.

Establishing a chain of command for protecting your organization’s data is priority number one. Consult with your IT team, business leaders, and legal counsel to determine who will be responsible for what when it comes to data protection.

This team should also develop policies around data handling, storage, and destruction. These policies should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Everyone’s role should be clearly defined, and the rules must be enforced consistently throughout your organization.

Educate Employees on Data Protection Policies and Procedures

Once you have policies and procedures in place, it’s important to educate your employees on them. Employees should understand what data is considered sensitive, how to handle that data, and what to do if they suspect a data breach.

Some employees may not understand why DLP is so important. Provide them with the education they need to understand the why and the how so they understand what’s at stake and why they need to follow the rules. This not only makes employee compliance more likely, but it also helps create a shared culture of security within your organization.

Implement Technical Controls to Protect Data

In addition to policies and procedures, you’ll also need to implement technical controls to protect your data. This may include encrypting data at rest and in transit, using access control measures like user authentication and authorization, and monitoring systems for unusual activity.

DLP tools can help you automate some of these processes and make them more effective. The best choice will ultimately depend on your specific needs and environment. We have some general tips on how to choose the best security tools for you here.

Perform Regular Backups of Important Data

Data backups are critical for any business, but they’re especially important for businesses with sensitive data. Backups give you a way to recover data if it’s lost or corrupted. Make sure to perform regular backups and store them in a secure location.

Detect and Respond to Data Loss Incidents Quickly

Even with the best prevention measures in place, data loss can still occur. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for detecting and responding to data loss incidents quickly. This includes having a way to identify when an incident has occurred, investigating the incident, and taking steps to prevent future incidents from happening.

Continually Review and Update Your Data Loss Prevention Strategy

Your DLP strategy should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. As your business changes, so too will your data and the threats to it.

It’s best to identify specific metrics to track, such as the number of data loss incidents or the amount of data that’s been backed up. This information can help you assess the effectiveness of your DLP strategy and make necessary changes. It also avoids a “set it and forget it” mentality that attracts hackers and cybercriminals.

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) you might want to focus on are:

  • How accurate your DLP system detects and classifies data
  • How often do false results occur
  • How quickly you can detect and respond to data loss incidents
  • The number of data loss incidents over time
  • The amount of data that’s been backed up
  • Changes in compliance rates over time

By continually reviewing and updating your DLP strategy, you can ensure that it’s always up to date and effective.

By following these best practices, you can develop a strong DLP strategy that will help protect your most valuable data. While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent all data loss, these measures can significantly reduce the risks. And in the event that data is lost or stolen, having a well-developed plan can help you minimize the damage and bounce back quickly!

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