Data Loss Prevention (DLP) vs. Data Loss

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by Michael Nuncic

Sometimes marketing experts lead the ordinary computer user (or even IT administrators) in the wrong direction such as with the term Data Loss Prevention (DLP).  When you search the internet for tools that prevent data loss in your system, for example, when you suffer a hardware or software failure, you sometimes see this term on your computer screen.

But in contrast to what one might think, this term does not have anything to do with what you are searching for.  It is a term created by marketers that relates to software packages to secure your system against data leaks and protection against unauthorized entry or use.

About 10 years ago, IT security solutions and their marketers promoted one or many functions of their products as DLP solutions. With these solutions data should be protected against unauthorized access and therefore protect against "data loss," but what they really mean is that they protect against data leaks.

What these solutions are really designed for is to prevent companies from data theft and/or industrial espionage. Companies today face a serious threat from all kinds of hacking, data theft, ransomware, or other computer, IT, or network related intruders.

The solutions DLP providers offer can either be software or hardware based. Since data security has become a serious neccessity for companies there is a lot of demand for these solutions. Because DLP is not a fixed term, these solutions combine a miscellany of different IT security techniques and measures.

So called DLP suites can technically secure a company against all scenarios of data theft: Reading and writing on all possible storage media (USB-Sticks, HDDs, SSDs etc.) as well as data transfer via emails, file uploads or the internal network can be enabled or disabled. Additionally cut and paste or print screen function can be disabled, too. The main ingredients of a modern DLP solution is encryption of the data, monitoring of all incoming and outgoing (data) traffic and access control to the company network. However some providers offer an all-in-one solutions, while other suites consist of several modules, which can be bought separately.

In the last few years, another technology has also found the way into DLP: The classification of data by content and by the user. Using these two methods the most sensitive data is captured by the DLP. Determining whole data groups as sensitive and adding more data by users makes sure that only a minority of data is not covered by this method. Based on this classification method the adequate security for each data set is then automatically activated by the DLP solution.

Providers of DLP solutions added in the last years security features to protect companies from data leaks by integrating safety features regarding cloud storage and online file storage services such as Microsoft Azure, Dropbox and more.

Additionally, the more advanced DLP solutions come with indexing of data to identify sensitive data, real time monitoring, advanced reporting, flexible data tagging and an easy to use management console. Identifying sensitive data is even more important in regards to the introduction of GDPR (European law on data security) and its tougher regulations in most European countries (and companies dealing with EU countries) and much higher fines.

What DLP really describes is that these solutions aim to protect you from data leakages and not to save your from data loss due to failures, so what most of us describe as a data loss due to hardware or software failures, and where data recovery experts, such as Ontrack, can help the victim, is definitely not meant here!

So when you search for specialists who can recover your lost data in search engines on the internet better use the term "Data Recovery" instead of "Data loss," and do not get confused with the term "DLP."


Picture copyright: lichtkunst.73 /