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What is Data Loss Prevention Software (DLP)?

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In 2006, when Clive Humby coined the phrase “Data is the new oil”, the world couldn’t see the extensiveness or the magnanimity of the quote. Now, 14 years later, the world has slowly come to realize the true power of data. But, in today’s data-dependent age, the world is also vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data theft. This problem is common for organizations of all sizes – big or small. Helping these organizations keep their data safe and secure are various Data Loss Prevention Software(s).

So, what is a Data Loss Prevention Software?

A Data Loss Prevention Software can be defined as a security platform that prevents the destruction of sensitive data by implementing various security and monitoring policies. This is done by a set of processes and tools that make sure that no data is misused, lost or accessed by any unwanted personnel. To further ensure security in every step, a Data Loss Prevention Software segregates data under various categories like confidential, regulated, business-critical among others. These categories are then implemented with different organizational and regulatory compliances like the PCI-DSS, GDPR, or HIPAA. The Data Loss Prevention Software is always on the lookout for activities across control endpoints and corporate networks, ensuring and enforcing remedial action with alerts, encryption, and other protective actions to save data from being maliciously shared.

What are the different types of Data Loss Prevention Software?

Much like different management technologies, a Data Loss Prevention Software can be broadly divided into two categories: Enterprise Data Loss Prevention Software and Integrated Data Loss Prevention Software.

The Enterprise Data Loss Prevention Software offers a comprehensive solution that is packaged as the agent software across desktops, servers, physical and virtual appliances that are used as soft appliances for data discovery or monitoring network of email traffic.

An Integrated Data Loss Prevention Software on the other hand is limited to secure web gateways (SWGs), enterprise content management (ECM) platforms, email gateways (SEGs), cloud access security brokers (CASBs), and email encryption products.

So, how does a Data Loss Prevention Software work?

A Data Loss Prevention Software works in synergy with numerous key technologies that ensure the software identifies sensitive data and adopts the requisite remediation action to prevent any unfavourable incidents. This is done using different sets of technologies that employ different content analysis techniques. Here are a few:

Rule-based expressions: One of the most common techniques used by a Data Loss Prevention Software, rule-based expressions scan for particular sets like the 9-digit social security number or the 16-digit credit card number. Used as a first-pass filter, this technique comes into play swiftly to ensure no data is prone to any risk.

Conceptual: A Data Loss Prevention Software uses a combination of dictionaries and rules to make it capable of alerting any unstructured ideas that could challenge the categorization.

Statistical analysis: Here the Data Loss Prevention Software makes use of statistical methods or machine learning to be activated in the case of any violations to the content.

Database fingerprinting: Also known as Exact Data Matching in a Data Loss Prevention Software, this feature looks for exact matches from different databases or a live database.

Pre-built categories: A Data Loss Prevention Software makes use of pre-built categories with rules and dictionaries for different types of sensitive data like PCI protection, credit card numbers, HIPAA among others.

Why do organizations need Data Loss Prevention Software?

Organizations across the world value their data very highly, and any loss or theft of this data could result in reputational damage or financial losses. These organizations are privy to the dangers of data theft and hence protect their data by using a Data Loss Prevention Software or other initiatives. Here are a few pointers to further attest the importance of a Data Loss Prevention Software:

  • A Data Loss Prevention Software offers the IT staff a holistic view of the location, flow, and usage of data in the organization. It also enables the security personnel to check the network actions against different security policies, enabling them to control sensitive data, financial data, customer information, and intellectual property.
  • A Data Loss Prevention Software when coupled with different complementary controls enables it to prevent any accidental exposure of personal information across different devices.
  • A Data Loss Prevention Software helps an organization in attaining compliance by providing different controls through policy templates and different mechanisms for the collection and reporting of metrics.
  • When an organization fails to take the requisite steps to minimize data loss, they are risking way more than just their reputation. Companies with an efficient Data Loss Prevention Software, can build their reputation in the data-driven world and can prevent loss of revenue due to any data breaches.

What are the benefits of a Data Loss Prevention Software?

A Data Loss Prevention Software has a plethora of benefits for an organization that includes the likes of:

  • Prevent data breaches against external and internal threats.
  • Introduces automation where the staff are notified through content-aware scanning.
  • Reporting abilities, both for internal audits and for real-time analysis.
  • Agility that brings in multiple file support, and a small footprint on the existing systems.
  • Compliance across different data regulations and security frameworks.

What are the key features of a Data Loss Prevention Software?

A Data Loss Prevention Software is a pivotal part of any organization’s functionalities. With its onus on protecting sensitive data at all times, there are numerous Data Loss Prevention Software(s) available in the market. Owing to the numerous options that are available, companies must look at the key features in a Data Loss Prevention Software and how those features can help organizations in keeping their data secure. Here are a few of the key features that every Data Loss Prevention Software must possess:

Content Analysis

A Data Loss Prevention Software uses content analysis to analyze content using different techniques, to group them into different categories, which could help the software in applying relevant security measures to safeguard data. The content analysis feature also helps in dealing with encrypted files.

Data in its lifecycle

A Data Loss Prevention Software must be capable and competent to handle data across different life cycles. This could be when the data is in rest, when the data is in use and when the data is in motion. Only when data is protected throughout its lifecycle is the Data Loss Prevention Software doing its function thoroughly.

Admin Management

Every Data Loss Prevention Software needs to have a central management server or a central administration interface to manage the entire organization’s security. Every security admin would like to have the interface dashboard to be customizable, as it allows different technical and non-technical personnel to oversee the security management.

Policy Management

A Data Loss Prevention Software with a policy management feature enables it to create and implement different security policies that can be modified as per the requirements of the company. This feature allows the organization to choose the data to protect, the destination channels, the sources of data to protect, the actions to take in case of violations.

Real-time analytics

A Data Loss Prevention Software must always provide real-time notifications, alerts, and analytics of the data that is being protected. This helps organizations to take necessary actions, in case of any incident involving critical data. These features help the administrative staff to keep an eye on the various security facets along with fulfilling the company’s compliances.

How to choose the Best Data Loss Prevention Software?

Data in an organization can be delivered in numerous ways. A Data Loss Prevention Software must monitor all the way that data can be transmitted and establish the requisite protocols to maintain security. Can the Data Loss Prevention Software control USB ports ensuring that no sensitive information can be downloaded onto an external drive? Or does it enforce policies across different services like webmail, posts, instant messaging, emails among others? An effective Data Loss Prevention Software must cover all the tracks through which data can be transferred in an organization.

Furthermore, organizations cannot spend a lot of time in the deployment of the right software. While the deployment of a Data Loss Prevention Software is onerous considering the complex nature with various builds, tweaks, and tunings, organizations cannot dedicate too much time on its deployment. Organizations implementing a Data Loss Prevention Software must also be aware of the resources that would be needed to manage the software to its fullest. Along with the features and benefits of a Data Loss Prevention Software, organizations must consider these facets while choosing the software.

So, how does one set up a Data Loss Prevention Software for their organization?

Choosing a Data Loss Prevention Software demands a wide approach. An approach that lets an organization systemically and rationally choose the Data Loss Prevention Software that best fits their needs. Upon selecting the right Data Loss Prevention Software, an organization must follow 7 simple steps while setting it up to ensure its effectiveness in data security.

  1. Get approvals from all the departments
  2. Identify, segregate and categorize the data
  3. Identify risks and threats
  4. Define the objectives clearly
  5. Create clear, stepwise procedures
  6. Evaluate existing systems
  7. Educate every team member


In today’s day and age, data is transferable across the world. But it is also the most sensitive aspect of an exchange economy. The onus of having a Data Loss Prevention Software cannot be emphasized enough as it ensures data is secure on every front, before it is transferred anywhere. At a time when data security breach could affect millions, it is always right to choose a reliable Data Loss Prevention Software that can stand the test of time.

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Andrew Sabastian is a tech whiz who is obsessed with everything technology. Basically, he's a software and tech mastermind who likes to feed readers gritty tech news to keep their techie intellects nourished.