SOCRadar® Cyber Intelligence Inc. | What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)? [Ultimate Guide]


Oct 17, 2022
8 Mins Read

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)? [Ultimate Guide]

Data loss prevention (DLP) prohibits users on a business network from transferring sensitive data outside of the network. DLP systems assist network administrators in regulating network data flow and enforcing stringent controls over private, sensitive, or otherwise valuable data. 

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

DLP often enables administrators to categorize data based on business principles. Any sensitive data is safeguarded by prohibiting users from sharing or revealing it inadvertently or deliberately. DLP may monitor and regulate user endpoint behavior and filter data streams from corporate networks to protect data in motion. 

A classic use case is email security; a DLP system may monitor employee-sent emails. If an employee tries to send or forward an email with a sensitive attachment, the email will be banned before it reaches the corporate email server

DLP may help businesses battle internal risks and comply with data privacy regulations. DLP may implement a portion of the controls mandated by many nations’ data privacy rules, which compel businesses to implement stringent protection and access controls for specific categories of data. 

How Much Critical Information Do You Manage? 

Some data kinds are handled by various personnel in your firm. For instance, Sales may hold client names and email addresses, while Finance might have payroll information. The product and development teams may access sensitive IP information, while jobs such as sales engineers and tech operations personnel may access client data. It’s all knowledge essential to you (and to malicious actors), and it may all be lost. 

Take a minute to consider if your company usually handles any of the following: 

  • Corporation trade secrets 
  • Credit card information
  • Medical records 
  • Insurance details 
  • Legal case notes 
  • Sensitive financial data 
  • Personally identifiable data (PII) 

You likely handle sensitive business-critical information if your firm has customers or clients. 

The Main Actions of DLP 

The following are the primary objectives of an efficient DLP solution: 

1. Protect Data at Rest

data loss prevention dlp

DLP systems aid in enforcing access control, encryption, and data retention regulations for data at rest, also known as archived data. Typical data instances at rest include sensitive data held for legal compliance, intellectual property, and secret information. DLP systems include a layer of security for this stored information to prevent and detect illegal access. 

2. Detect Data Leaks

DLP systems provide real-time monitoring of data consumption to identify and prevent leaks. The DLP solution may halt a data leak and notify the IT security personnel of the intended data breach. DLP systems offer an immediate, proactive reaction to a data breach as it happens. 

3. Identify Data

DLP solutions aid in the identification of an organization’s data, particularly in locating and isolating sensitive data at rest or in use. This identification allows the DLP solution to deploy data safeguards where they are most necessary. Data identification may be accomplished either manually by the business or automatically by the DLP solution’s tools. 

How Does Data Loss Prevention Work? 

DLP software monitors, identifies, and prevents an organization’s leakage of sensitive data. This requires monitoring both incoming and outgoing network traffic. 

The majority of DLP software focuses on stopping suspicious activity. For instance, the activity is denied if an employee tries to transmit a business email, upload a corporate file to a private cloud storage provider, or save data on a USB stick. 

In addition, DLP can identify unusual behavior in incoming emails by searching for suspicious attachments and URLs that might signal a phishing assault. DLP enables administrators to identify suspect emails, banning or quarantining them for human scrutiny. 

In the past, DLP detection and blocking relied on static rules established by the security team, which was laborious and readily circumvented. Modern DLP software use machine learning algorithms to determine a typical activity baseline and detect emails or data flows that are “strange” and need an additional inquiry. 

The Cost of Data Loss

data loss prevention dlp

A data breach aiming at stealing, deleting, or locking access to sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information, regulated information, data in use, and private information, may cost an organization and its members significantly. These expenses vary but include the following: 

  • Loss of crucial in-use data and subsequent recovery cause significant downtime. 
  • Legal responsibility for exposed regulated data in the event of a data breach 
  • Loss of credibility among clients, consumers, and organization members 

Disclosure of Sensitive Information 

Data loss may result in financial costs in the millions of dollars for every occurrence and long-term financial harm that can last for years. 

Investing in an efficient DLP system supported by a complete DLP strategy helps to reduce financial harm, maintain compliance, secure sensitive data, and maintain confidentiality. 

Precautions Against Data Loss 


Compliance is a crucial element of a DLP strategy if your firm is regulated. Beginning with required regulation ensures that bespoke data rules do not conflict with compliance. For instance, healthcare organizations must comply with HIPAA regulations. To accept credit cards, a PCI-DSS compliance strategy is required. 

Sort Data Based on Risk and Vulnerability 

It begins with identifying and organizing data by kind. The next stage involves analyzing each data type. Examine the danger posed by each group and their susceptibility to produce a list of potential targets. Start with the most susceptible and risky data categories. Then, adopt a set of protective rules and technologies. 

Define User Roles 

Users should have clearly-defined roles to ensure that they have access to just the data required for their jobs. Examples include “Sales Agent” positions that provide access to credit card information. Another example might be “Senior Technical Support,” which has access to bug reports and engineering fixes. Additionally, data may be limited from specified user roles. Typically, a Senior Technical Support person does not need access to credit card information. 

Involve Key Stakeholders 

No one understands the company better than those who do the job. Invest time in involving leaders from various corporate departments. They often identify weaknesses that senior management overlooks and foresee difficulties or disputes arising from new policies. If employees are engaged in creating a new strategy, they are more inclined to support it. 

Create Policies and Technology Implementation 

It should be obvious that DLP strategies should be implemented. If the DLP strategy necessitates a review of all firewall settings, ensure that staff is assigned this responsibility. Create a schedule for acquiring, testing, and installing new DLP software. 


Humans make errors, and our capacity to recognize issues may be restricted. 

Automating data loss rules and technologies reduces the likelihood of human error. Some jobs are impossible to automate. Create mechanisms that secure data automatically wherever feasible. For instance, software that filters spam helps avoid phishing assaults. Users are safeguarded because they are never exposed to (or susceptible to) phishing emails


Education elevates leader participation to the next level. Leaders who assist in developing DLP strategies are already familiar with the policy. The next stage is to train each team member individually. Explain how to utilize the new systems and applications. Then, engage in a discussion on why this change is necessary. Assist them in comprehending how data protection benefits the organization and its clients. 


Create a comprehensive strategy for the DLP solution. There are many reasons why proper documentation is crucial. First, it helps maintain the project’s focus. Everyone may refer back to the agreed agreements and strategy. Second, it aids in maintaining a record of what has been implemented. Instructions are extremely useful in the paperwork. Leave a short explanation of the “how” and “why” for each component of the DLP strategy. 


Once the DLP strategy has been implemented, go back often to assess the progress. Most data loss prevention technologies provide metrics for reporting. Determine how many attempted intrusions have been thwarted. Examine server logs to ensure data is being utilized properly. 

Remove Unneeded Data 

It might be tempting to retain data indefinitely. We never know when we’ll need it! Outdated, useless data might be a risk. If server logs are no longer necessary after seven years, they should be deleted. If you cannot stand to erase them, archive them in a safe, long-term location. That data can appear beneficial. However, the benefit is often outweighed by its fragility. Compared to a data breach’s expense, outdated data may seem less important.