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Low Hanging Fruit: Quick Wins with Data Loss Prevention

By Rich

Two of the most common criticisms of DLP that comes up in user discussions are a) its complexity and b) the fear of false positives. Security professionals worry that DLP is an expensive widget that will fail to deliver the expected value – turning into yet another black hole of productivity. But when used properly DLP provides rapid assessment and identification of data security issues not available with any other technology.

I don’t mean to play down the real complexities you might encounter as you roll out a complete data protection program. Business use of information is itself complicated, and no tool designed to protect that data can simplify or mask the underlying business processes. However, there are steps you can take to obtain significant immediate value and security gains without blowing your productivity or wasting important resources.

Over the next few posts I’ll highlight the lowest hanging fruit for DLP, refined in conversations with hundreds of DLP users. These aren’t meant to incorporate the entire DLP process, but to show you how to get real and immediate wins before you move on to more complex policies and use cases.

Establish Your Process

Nearly every DLP reference I’ve talked with has discovered actionable offenses committed by employees as soon as they turn the tool on. Some of these require little more than contacting a business unit to change a bad process, but quite a few result in security guards escorting people out of the building, or even legal action. One of my favorite stories is the time the DLP vendor plugged in the tool for a lunchtime demonstration on the same day a senior executive decided to send proprietary information to a competitor. Needless to say, the vendor lost their hard drives that day, but they didn’t seem too unhappy.

Even if you aren’t planning on moving straight to enforcement mode, you need to put a process in place to manage the issues that will crop up once you activate your tool. The kinds of issues you need to figure out how to address in advance fall into two categories:

  • Business Process Failures: Although you’ll likely manage most business process issues as you roll out your sustained deployment, the odds are high some will be of such high concern they will require immediate remediation. These are often compliance related.
  • Egregious Employee Violations: Most employee-related issues can be dealt with as you gradually shift into enforcement mode, but as in the example above, you will encounter situations requiring immediate action.

In terms of process, I suggest two tracks based on the nature of the incident. Business process failures usually involve escalation within security or IT, possible involvement of compliance or risk management, and engagement with the business unity itself. You are less concerned with getting someone in trouble than stopping the problem.

Employee violations, due to their legal sensitivity, require a more formal process. Typically you’ll need to open an investigation and immediately escalate to management while engaging legal and human resources (since this might be a firing offense). Contingencies need to be established in case law enforcement is engaged, including plans to provide forensic evidence to law enforcement without having them walk out the door with your nice new DLP box and hard drives. Essentially you want to implement whatever process you already have in place for internal employee investigations and potential termination.

In our next post we’ll focus more on rolling out the tool, followed by how to configure it for those quick wins I keep teasing you with.

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