At this point you should be in the process of cleaning your directory servers, with your incident handling process outlined in case you find any bad stuff early in your deployment. Now it’s time to determine your initial priorities to figure out whether you want to start with the Quick Wins process or jump right into full deployment.

Most organizations have at least a vague sense of their DLP priorities, but translating them into deployment priorities can be a bit tricky. It’s one thing to know you want to use DLP to comply with PCI, but quite another to know exactly how to accomplish that.

On the right is an example of how to map out high-level requirements into a prioritized deployment strategy. It isn’t meant to be canonical, but should provide a good overview for most of you. Here’s the reasoning behind it:

  • Compliance priorities depend on the regulation involved. For PCI your best bet is to use DLP to scan storage for Primary Account Numbers. You can automate this process and use it to define your PCI scope and reduce assessment costs. For HIPAA the focus often starts with email to ensure no one is sending out unencrypted patient data. The next step is often to find where that data is stored – both in departments and on workstations. If we were to add a third item it would probably be web/webmail, because that is a common leak vector.
  • Intellectual Property Leaks tend to be either document based (engineering plans) or application/database based (customer lists). For documents – assuming your laptops are already encrypted – USB devices are usually one of the top concerns, followed by webmail. You probably also want to scan storage repositories, and maybe endpoints, depending on your corporate culture and the kind of data you are concerned about. Email turns out to be a less common source of leaks than the other channels, so it’s lower on the list. If the data comes out of an application or database then we tend to worry more about network leaks (an insider or an attacker), webmail, and then storage (to figure out all the places it’s stored and at risk). We also toss in USB above email, because all sorts of big leaks have shown USB is a very easy way to move large amounts of data.
  • Customer PII is frequently exposed by being stored where it shouldn’t be, so we start with discovery again. Then, from sources such as the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report and the Open Security Foundation DataLossDB we know to look at webmail, endpoints and portable storage, and lastly email.

You will need to mix and match these based on your own circumstances – and we highly recommend using data-derived reports like the ones listed above to help align your priorities with evidence, rather than operating solely on gut feel. Then adapt based on what you know about your own organization – which may include things like “the CIO said we have to watch email”.

If you followed our guidance in Understanding and Selecting a DLP Solution you can feed the information from that worksheet into these priorities.

Now you should have a sense of what data to focus on and where to start. The next step is to pick a deployment process.

Here are some suggestions for deciding which to start with. The easy answer is to almost always start with the Quick Wins process…

  • Only start with the full deployment process if you have already prioritized what to protect, have a good sense of where you need to protect it, and believe you understand the scope you are dealing with. This is usually when you have a specific compliance or IP protection initiative, where the scope includes well-defined data and a well-defined scope (e.g., where to look for the data or monitor and/or block it).
  • For everyone else we suggest starting with the Quick Wins process. It will highlight your hot spots and help you figure out where to focus your full deployment.

We’ll discuss each of those processes in more depth later.