In our Introduction to Implementing and Managing a DLP Solution we started describing the DLP implementation process. Now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and start cranking through it in detail.

No matter which path you choose (Quick Wins or Full Deployment), we break out the implementation process into four major steps:

  1. Prepare: Determine which process you will use, set up your incident handling procedures, prepare your directory servers, define priorities, and perform some testing.
  2. Integrate: Next you will determine your deployment architecture and integrate with your existing infrastructure. We cover most integration options – even if you only plan on a limited deployment (and no, you don’t have to do everything all at once).
  3. Configure and Deploy: Once the pieces are integrated you can configure initial settings and start your deployment.
  4. Manage: At this point you are up and running. Managing is all about handling incidents, deploying new policies, tuning and removing old ones, and system maintenance.

As we write this series we will go into depth on each step, while keeping our focus on what you really need to know to get the job done.

Implementing and managing DLP doesn’t need to be intimidating. Yes, the tools are powerful and seem complex, but once you know what you’re doing you’ll find it isn’t hard to get value without killing yourself with too much complexity.


One of the most important keys to a successful DLP deployment is preparing properly. We know that sounds a bit asinine because you can say the same thing about… well, anything, but with DLP we see a few common pitfalls in the preparation stage. Some of these steps are non-intuitive – especially for technical teams who haven’t used DLP before and are more focused on managing the integration.

Focusing on the following steps, before you pull the software or appliance out of the box, will significantly improve your experience.

Define your incident handling process

Pretty much the instant you turn on your DLP tool you will begin to collect policy violations. Most of these won’t be the sort of thing that require handling and escalation, but nearly every DLP deployment I have heard of quickly found things that required intervention. ‘Intervention’ here is a polite way of saying someone had a talk with human resources and legal – after which it is not uncommon for that person to be escorted to the door by the nice security man in the sharp suit.

It doesn’t matter if you are only doing a bit of basic information gathering, or prepping for a full-blown DLP deployment – it’s essential to get your incident handling process in place before you turn on the product. I also recommend at least sketching out your process before you go too far into product selection. Many organizations involve non-IT personnel in the day-to-day handling of incidents, and this affects user interface and reporting requirements.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Criteria for escalating something from a single incident into a full investigation.
  • Who is allowed access to the case and historical data – such as previous violations by the same employee – during an investigation.
  • How to determine whether to escalate to the security incident response team (for external attacks) vs. to management (for insider incidents).
  • The escalation workflow – who is next in the process and what their responsibilities are.
  • If and when an employee’s manager is involved. Some organizations involve line management early, while others wait until an investigation is more complete.

The goal is to have your entire process mapped out, so if you see something you need to act on immediately – especially something that could get someone fired – you have a process to manage it without causing legal headaches.

Clean directory servers

Data Loss Prevention tools tie in tightly to directory servers to correlate incidents to users. This can be difficult because not all infrastructures are set up to tie network packets or file permissions back to the human sitting at a desk (or in a coffee shop).

Later, during the integration steps, you will tie into your directory and network infrastructure to link network packets back to users. But right now we’re more focused on cleaning up the directory itself so you know which network names connect to which users, and whether groups and roles accurately reflect employees’ job and rights.

Some of you have completed something along these lines already for compliance reasons, but we still see many organizations with very messy directories.

We wish we could say it’s easy, but if you are big enough, with all the common things like mergers and acquisitions that complicate directory infrastructures, this step may take a remarkably long time. One possible shortcut is to look at tying your directory to your human resources system and using HR as the authoritative source.

But in the long run it’s pretty much impossible to have an effective data security program without being able to tie activity to users, so you might look at something like an entitlement management tool to help clean things up.

This is already running long, so we will wrap up implementation in the next post…