I have been so tied up with the Nexus, CCSK, and other projects that I haven’t been blogging as much as usual… but not to worry, it’s time to start a nice, juicy new technical series. And once again I return to my bread and butter: DLP. As much as I keep thinking I can simply run off and play with pretty clouds, something in DLP always drags me back in. This time it’s a chance to dig in and focus on implementation and management (thanks to McAfee for sponsoring something I’ve been wanting to write for a long time). With that said, let’s dig in…

In many ways Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is one of the most far-reaching tools in our security arsenal. A single DLP platform touches our endpoints, network, email servers, web gateways, storage, directory servers, and more. There are more potential integration points than nearly any other security tool – with the possible exception of SIEM. And then we need to build policies, define workflow, and implement blocking… all based on nebulous concepts like “customer data” and “intellectual property”.

It’s no wonder many organizations are intimidated by the thought implementing a large DLP deployment. Yet, based on our 2010 survey data, somewhere upwards of 40% of organizations use some form of DLP.

Fortunately implementing and managing DLP isn’t nearly as difficult as many security professionals expect. Over the nearly 10 years we have covered the technology – talking with probably hundreds of DLP users – we have collected countless tips, tricks, and techniques for streamlined and effective deployments that we’ve compiled into straightforward processes to ease most potential pains.

We are not trying to pretend deploying DLP is simple. DLP is one of the most powerful and important tools in our modern security arsenal, and anything with that kind of versatility and wide range of integration points can easily be a problem if you fail to appropriately plan or test.

But that’s where this series steps in. We’ll lay out the processes for you, including different paths to meet different needs – all to help you get up and running; and to stay there as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible. We have watched the pioneers lay the trails and hit the land mines – now it’s time to share those lessons with everyone else.

Keep in mind that despite what you’ve heard, DLP isn’t all that difficult to deploy. There are many misperceptions, in large part due to squabbling vendors (especially non-DLP vendors). But it doesn’t take much to get started with DLP.

On a practical note this series is a follow-up to our Understanding and Selecting a Data Loss Prevention Solution paper now in its second revision. We pick up right where that paper left off, so if you get lost in any terminology we suggest you use that paper as a reference.

On that note, let’s start with an overview and then we’ll delve into the details.

Quick Wins for Long Term Success

One of the main challenges in deploying DLP is to show immediate value without drowning yourself in data. DLP tools are generally not be too bad for false positives – certainly nowhere near as bad as IDS. That said, we have seen many people deploy these tools without knowing what they wanted to look for – which can result in a lot of what we call false real positivesreal alerts on real policy violations, just not things you actually care about.

The way to handle too many alerts is to deploy slowly and tune your policies, which can take a lot of time and may even focus you on protecting the wrong kinds of content in the wrong places. So we have compiled two separate implementation options:

  • The Quick Wins process is best for initial deployments. Your focus is on rapid deployment and information gathering rather than enforcement, and will help guide your full deployment later. We detailed this process in a white paper and will only briefly review it here.
  • The Full Deployment process is what you’ll use for the long haul. It’s a methodical series of steps for full enforcement policies. Since the goal is enforcement (even if enforcement is alert and response, instead of automated blocking and filtering), and we spend more time tuning policies to produce useful results.

The key difference is that the Quick Wins process isn’t intended to block every single violation – just really egregious problems. It’s about getting up and running and quickly showing value by identifying key problem areas and helping set you up for a full deployment. The Full Deployment process is where you dig in, spend more time on tuning, and implement long-term policies for enforcement.

The good news is that we designed these to work together. If you start with Quick Wins, everything you do will feed directly into full deployment. If you already know where you want to focus you can jump right into a full deployment without bothering with Quick Wins. In either case the process guides you around common problems and should speed up implementation.

In our next post we’ll show you where to get started and start laying out the processes…