DLP: How to Protect Your Data from the 3 Biggest Risks

DLP data loss prevention

Protecting Your Organisation’s Data with DLP

In the wake of the recent massive data breach at the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), where personal and employment details of police officers and civilian members of staff were inadvertently disclosed, the importance of Data Loss Prevention (DLP) has never been clearer. The breach, described as “industrial scale” by Chief Constable Simon Byrne, exposed the surname, first initial, workplace location, and unit of more than 10,000 people, including those in highly sensitive roles such as intelligence or covert operations. Such incidents underscore the critical need for robust DLP measures in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity software provider Forcepoint defines Data Loss Prevention (DLP) as a strategy that prevents sensitive information from being leaked, lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorised individuals. DLP solutions safeguard data through various means, including data inspection, data encryption, threat detection, preventative measures, user education, and security policies that block sensitive information from exfiltration. With the rise of cloud computing, hybrid workforces, and BYOD trends, DLP software has become an essential part of the technology stack. It is not only vital for protecting against data breaches but also for ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and SOX.

3 Biggest Risks with Data Loss

  1. Risky Employee Behaviour: An employee sends work emails containing sensitive information to their personal email account to work from home. DLP can detect and prevent such unauthorised data transfers.
  2. Human Error: An employee accidentally sends an email with a confidential attachment to the wrong recipient. DLP can help identify and rectify such mistakes before they lead to data breaches.
  3. Malicious Purpose: An employee planning to leave the company steals a customer list to use at their new job in the same industry. DLP can monitor and block unauthorised access to sensitive data.

How Does DLP Work?

DLP works by implementing policies that control and monitor the flow of data within an organisation, as well as between the organisation and external entities. These policies determine what data can be accessed, by whom, and under what circumstances. DLP systems use various techniques to enforce these policies, including:

  • Content Inspection: DLP solutions analyse the content of data (such as emails, files, or documents) to identify sensitive information based on predefined criteria or patterns.
  • Context Analysis: DLP solutions consider the context in which data is being accessed or transmitted, such as the user’s role, the device being used, the location, and the time of access.
  • Data Classification: DLP solutions can automatically classify data based on its sensitivity level, helping organisations manage and protect their most critical information.
  • Data Encryption: DLP solutions can encrypt sensitive data, rendering it unreadable to unauthorised users.
  • Incident Reporting and Alerting: DLP systems can automatically generate alerts and reports when suspicious or unauthorised data activity is detected.

Data Loss Prevention Best Practices:

  1. Utilise Data Loss Prevention Software

Implement a DLP solution that offers robust features and integrates with your organisation’s existing infrastructure. DLP software can automatically detect and block unauthorised data access, transmission, and exfiltration.

  1. Identify When Data Is at Risk

Regularly assess your organisation’s data security posture to identify potential vulnerabilities. This includes evaluating network configurations, access controls, and data storage practices.

  1. Employee Training

Educate employees about the importance of data security and the risks associated with data breaches. Train them on best practices for handling sensitive information and the policies and procedures for reporting suspicious activities.

  1. Classify Data

Organise your organisation’s data based on its sensitivity level. Classification can help you prioritise protection efforts and ensure that the most critical data is adequately safeguarded.

  1. Monitor Data

Continuously monitor data flows within your organisation to detect any unusual or unauthorised activity. Regular monitoring helps identify potential threats early and enables timely response.

  1. Identify & Classify Sensitive Data

Use DLP solutions to automatically identify and classify sensitive data, ensuring it receives the appropriate level of protection.

Why Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is Important

DLP is essential for protecting sensitive information from various threats, including:

  • External Malicious Actor: Cybercriminals often target organisations to steal valuable data, such as customer information, financial records, or intellectual property.
  • Malicious Insider: Disgruntled or rogue employees may intentionally leak or sell sensitive data for personal gain or to harm the organisation.
  • Uninformed Employee: Employees may inadvertently expose sensitive information due to a lack of training or awareness.

Implementing DLP helps organisations mitigate these risks, protect their reputation, comply with regulations, and avoid costly data breaches.


Data Loss Prevention is an essential aspect of cybersecurity, helping organisations protect their valuable data from unauthorised access, leaks, and theft. Implementing DLP best practices, coupled with robust DLP software, can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and the associated costs.

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