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Updated: Oct 30, 2023   |   Fergal Glynn

5 steps to building a highly effective DLP policy

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5 steps to building a highly effective DLP policy

Implementing a data loss prevention (DLP) solution is a vitally important step for businesses interested in protecting sensitive and valuable information. A robust DLP solution can work autonomously to ensure data resources are not compromised or accessed by unauthorized entities. A comprehensive DLP policy is the foundation of a DLP solution and is necessary if the tool is to address an organization’s business objectives effectively.

What is a DLP policy? 

A DLP policy consists of the rules an organization establishes regarding how company data can be used, accessed, and shared. These rules need to reflect an enterprise’s unique objectives and data resources. While a standard DLP policy template is a good place to start, companies must focus on the specific types of data they store and how that information can be used without being compromised.

Companies benefit from the creation of a DLP policy in multiple ways:

  • Enhancing data visibility - A major component of a DLP policy is identifying where sensitive data is stored and how it is used throughout an organization. The complexity of multi-cloud and hybrid environments makes it difficult to achieve the required level of visibility without a data loss prevention policy and associated solution.

  • Maintaining regulatory compliance - Companies in virtually all industries must comply with regulatory standards concerning the security and privacy of personal customer data. This can include protected health information (PHI) regulated by HIPAA or credit card details safeguarded by PCI-DSS. Identifying and protecting these data resources is essential to maintaining compliance and avoiding the financial and reputational repercussions of noncompliance.

  • Protecting intellectual property - An organization’s intellectual property needs to be secured with access closely controlled to avoid theft or misuse. A DLP policy will identify these assets so they can be provided with the level of protection they warrant.

  • Reducing the threat of malicious insiders - A DLP policy can be instrumental in minimizing the threat of malicious insiders compromising valuable information. Unapproved attempts at accessing data can be tracked with the offending parties identified for additional training or disciplinary measures based on the nature of the offense.

How to create a DLP policy

The best way to create a viable DLP policy is with a methodical approach. The following steps form an excellent basis for a company’s DLP policy.

Obtain management buy-in

An effective DLP policy needs to be implemented and enforced throughout an organization. This type of initiative typically requires the support of high-level decision-makers to be successful. Getting management on board from the start is the best way to ensure the success of a DLP solution.

Determine what data needs to be protected

Every company has valuable data resources that need to be protected. Since these assets vary from business to business, analysis is required to identify the specific data elements in scope. Data classification categories should be standardized so the policy can be enforced consistently across the company. Automated discovery tools may be employed to facilitate the identification of data that needs to be protected.

Define data access levels and roles

This step is perhaps the most critical in protecting a company’s data. The accepted and approved uses of data elements must be defined so they can be enforced. This includes determining which users, systems, or automated processes can access sensitive data resources. An effective DLP solution will enforce a role-based policy and take the necessary preventative measures to ensure valuable data is not compromised.

Monitor data movement

Processes and procedures need to be in place to continuously monitor data movement. As data moves from one location to another, it may need additional forms of protection such as encryption. Monitoring data movement can also serve as an alerting mechanism to uncover malicious insiders using elevated privileges to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Provide employee training and education

Just as upper management support is needed to promote a DLP solution, everyone in an organization has to understand why the policy has been put in place and what their role is in its success. The availability of training and education is key to enabling employees to understand what needs to be done and to highlight data handling errors that have been made so they can be avoided in the future.

A data loss prevention tool to enforce a DLP policy

The main point of creating a DLP policy is to use it as the basis of decisions made by a company’s data loss prevention solution. While having a policy in itself is a good starting point, it must be enforced to obtain any benefits.

Next DLP offers companies a cloud-based DLP solution called Reveal that ensures their data handling policies are enforced. Reveal is a simple and effective DLP solution that combines the information contained in a DLP policy with machine learning to detect infringements and initiate automated enforcement measures and incident-based training. The tool works even when users are offline to protect valuable data resources.

Next DLP employs lightweight agents compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS systems. It classifies data on-the-fly to fully protect all of an organization’s data. Contact Next DLP to book a demo or to learn how our innovative, human-centric approach to data loss prevention can help your company protect its most valuable resource: its data. 


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