Data Loss Prevention: What Is DLP and Why Is It Important?

Data Loss Prevention What Is DLP and Why Is It Important
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| December 11, 2022 | Reading time 9 minutes

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a key element of the data protection strategy of an enterprise. This post provides an in-depth guide to Cloud DLP, its best practices, and tools.

Data Security and Types of Data Threats

Data security is one of the key tasks of IT departments. There are two main types of threats to corporate data:

  1. Data loss

Data loss is a partial or complete deletion of data without the possibility of recovering it. IT teams put much effort into preventing data loss, including data backups, data monitoring, and access control.

  1. Data leak

In this scenario, unauthorized people gain access to the sensitive data of an organization. An example of a data leak is sharing a document containing personally identifiable information of employees to ‘Everyone with a link.’ Data leak can be external or internal. In case of an external leak, people outside the company gain access to sensitive information. In case of an internal leak, access to data is granted to unauthorized employees inside the firm. Data leak prevention has the same abbreviation as data loss prevention (DLP), that’s why they are sometimes confused.

  1. Data Breaches

Data breaches themselves don’t always pose a threat to data security. They can be carried out as a part of a penetration test by a company’s IT security team. Sometimes, hackers perform data breaches for training purposes. However, the ability to carry out successful data breaches signifies the vulnerability of the company’s IT system and potential threats to the integrity of sensitive data.

What causes Data Loss in Cloud?

Understanding what causes data loss in the cloud can help cybersecurity professionals outline the vectors for data loss prevention.

  1. Accidental deletions or edits

Employees can delete or overwrite folders, files, or parts of files by mistake. Unfortunately, on average, such mistakes are spotted by a company nine months after they’ve been made. If no DLP software is in place, this data is lost forever.

  1. Inappropriate sharing settings

Sharing documents is one of the best features of cloud collaboration tools like Google Workspace or Microsoft 365. And it poses a significant threat to data integrity. First, it can lead to accidental or intentional deletions. Second, sharing can grant access to sensitive data to unauthorized people.

  1. Ransomware

Usually, cloud collab tools are well-protected against malware. However, ransomware has found a way around the protection measures. It disguises itself as a legitimate application with an OAuth log-in. Users can fall into the trick and grant it access to their cloud environments with editing rights. Once permission is granted, ransomware encrypts all the files in the cloud, and cybercriminals demand ransom in exchange for a decryption key. In some cases, these decryption keys do not work.

  1. Man-in-the-middle attacks

Employees of an organization can also pose a threat of data loss. They might delete files or leak sensitive information for personal profit or out of spite.

  1. Zero-day attacks

Cloud applications on official Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 marketplaces and apps using OAuth can pose a serious threat to sensitive data. First, some of these apps have been made by cybercriminals to carry out an attack on their users. Second, many applications bear undetected vulnerabilities which cybercriminals look for to exploit. The problem is even worse because most of the apps with access to cloud collab tools remain unknown to the IT team. They are called Shadow IT.

  1. Hardware malfunctions

Though not unheard of, hardware malfunction in the cloud is extremely rare. Most enterprises use secure cloud solutions like AWS, GCP, or Azure. These providers take several precautions against data loss, including storing two copies of the same data in two locations as a preventive measure against natural disasters.

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)? Definition & Types

Data loss prevention should be a part of the data protection strategy of any organization willing to keep its intellectual property intact.

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a body of measures and tools that IT security teams take to prevent the loss of sensitive data. In the previous sections, we discussed six causes of data loss. They have different natures (e.g., human-related and technology-related) and sources (external and internal). That’s why efficient data loss prevention requires a variety of methods and tools in different areas of IT security.

What Are the 3 Types of Data Loss Prevention?

There are four main types of data loss prevention. However, adopting just one of them might not be enough to prevent data loss. Company should

  1. Endpoint DLP

This type of data loss prevention encompasses a number of data protection methods for on-prem technologies, like computers and mobile devices. It is mostly carried out by installing an endpoint DLP solution like a backup, ransomware protection, or data monitoring software. This practice is hard to implement for companies with BYOD practices.

  1. Network DLP

Network DLP is the setting of the network that disables the transfer of sensitive information within it. Network DLP has limits. For example, during pandemics, people are forced to work from home.

  1. Cloud DLP

This type of data loss prevention helps companies control their cloud data. Cloud DLP technologies include backup, user and data monitoring, Shadow IT control, etc.

What Type of Data Loss Prevention is Right for Your Organization?

Choosing the type of data loss prevention heavily depends on your organization and where it keeps most of its intellectual property. As many enterprises have completed the cloud adoption, we suggest using cloud DLP. However, some companies still heavily rely on on-prem solutions and are not willing to entrust their sensitive information to third-party tools. These companies should consider combining endpoint and network DLP.

5 Reasons your Enterprise needs Data Loss Prevention

Companies begin adopting DLP as one of the guiding principles of their IT security for the following reasons:

  1. Business Continuity Disruption

The loss of important information might halt business operations. The impact can be at the level of individual workers (e.g., the loss of an intellectual property document by a lawyer), a department (the deletion of a Marketing Shared Drive), or a whole company (e.g., ransomware attack). Downtime means the loss of revenues and extra expenditures.

  1. Reputational loss

Loss of sensitive data is a red flag for existing and potential clients, investors, and partners. Some of them will terminate their connections or decide against buying from a company that had a substantial data loss.

  1. Legal penalties

With the rise of cyber incidents and the severity of their consequences, counties around the world are pushing increasingly strict laws governing data protection. Non-compliance will cause financial losses. Another popular trend is for clients and employees to sue companies after a cyber incident for the exposure of their data (e.g., personally identifiable information).

  1. Risks of permanent deletion of sensitive data

Sensitive data can be the target of corporate espionage. However, due to intellectual property rights, it might be hard for competitors to use it for their benefit. The best tactic would be to destroy it (e.g., the research results).

Data Loss Prevention Best Practices

This section discusses key enterprise DLP practices. We suggest combining as many of these practices as possible to make sure your data loss prevention is efficient and can withstand modern cyber threats.


Backup is a must-have practice for data loss prevention for both on-prem and cloud environments. An efficient backup solution works automatically and requires minimal manual control from the IT team.

Is backup enough for data loss prevention?

Some organizations think that having a backup is enough for data loss prevention. However, we think it’s an erroneous approach for the cloud DLP for the following reasons:

  1. Recovery in the cloud takes more time than for the on-prem solutions. This is especially true for ransomware attacks.
  2. Ransomware, man-in-the-middle, and zero-day attacks often include data leaks. And it is preferable to prevent them rather than exclusively rely on backup.

Data Retention Policies

Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and certain third-party tools have functionality for data retention (the protection of certain files from deletion and editing). Here’s how it works in Microsoft 365. An Admin creates a data retention policy for a certain type of files (files with a particular word in the name or belonging to a certain organization). Every time such a file is edited or deleted, Microsoft 365 creates its copy and stores it in a separate location. Keep in mind that the file takes up the user’s storage space. To uncover this copy, Admins need to use a special search which makes the recovery process harder.

User and Data Behavior Monitoring

Monitoring data behavior also helps improve data loss prevention. Admins can detect and investigate whenever a record (file, folder, or email) is deleted, edited, or removed from the trash. It’s next to impossible to carry out manually within a large organization where hundreds of files are edited and deleted on a daily basis. That’s why usually, this is an automated function within third-party DLP solutions.

Data Loss Prevention Software Data Loss Prevention What Is DLP and Why Is It Important
Detection of deleted edited and trashed files in Google Drive by SpinOne

User behavior monitoring is similar to data behavior monitoring. Only it focuses on detecting suspicious behavior of certain users and enables companies to identify employees that carry out man-in-the-middle attacks.

Shadow IT Control

This practice helps prevent data loss in zero-day attacks. Companies need to identify potentially dangerous applications with editing permissions and revoke their access to sensitive data. This DLP program requires proper application risk assessment and, if done manually, can take several weeks. Tools like SpinOne have app detection and evaluation functionality and can do this task within seconds.

Data Loss Prevention in Google Workspace Data Loss Prevention What Is DLP and Why Is It Important
Detection of Shadow IT and Application Risk Assessment by SpinOne

Ransomware Protection Software

Some ransomware protection tools can stop ransomware at the very beginning of an attack preventing it from decrypting the entire corporate data. Note, however, that most anti-ransomware tools usually wait for the end of the attack and only then start recovery from backup. In the case of cloud data, this process can take weeks or even months due to API limitations. Another type of ransomware protection uses historical data to identify the ransomware and get the key from their database. Unfortunately, ransomware is the most actively evolving type of malware, so chances are high that an organization will be hit with a new type. The best anti-ransomware tools use data behavior analysis to spot cloud ransomware, identify the application that causes the attack, and revoke its access to your data.

Sharing Control

Sharing control can significantly enhance data protection. Admins of cloud collab tools need to make sure that files containing sensitive data have proper sharing settings. This practice includes the detection of unauthorized sharing and immediate change of the settings.

What is DLP Best Data Loss Prevention Software Data Loss Prevention What Is DLP and Why Is It Important
Detection of unauthorized sharing settings by SpinOne

Adopting a DLP solution

All the data loss prevention practices mentioned above require regular efforts from IT security teams. Obviously, for enterprises that generate and possess terabytes of sensitive data and have hundreds of Shadow IT applications, such monitoring is hard to perform. These companies need DLP software to automate most data loss prevention tasks.

DLP solutions

The market of DLP technologies is booming. This article’s focus is on cloud DLP, as many enterprises tend to store their sensitive data in the cloud.

Trends Driving the Adoption of Cloud DLP solutions

Three trends encourage enterprises to acquire a cloud DLP solution:

  1. Cloud Adoption

As mentioned above, many enterprises have adopted cloud technologies, like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. The way these tools function require an additional DLP program in place.

  1. The growth of data volumes

The volume of data is constantly growing, making it harder every year to monitor and control it. Overall, a good data management and retention strategy can help partially solve this problem by providing deletion policies for outdated records. Another practice that can help is data archiving. However, they are not enough to reduce the number of records to the point where manual control is possible.

  1. Cybersecurity workforce gap

The data amount is growing, and so is the cybersecurity workforce gap. In 2022, it has increased by 26% over the year. High turnover rates, inability to find employees, lack of training, poor corporate culture, employee overwork, and stress are among the main reasons for the decrease in professionals. Automation is capable of not only partially closing the gap as well as helping reduce the stress and overwork in IT security teams.

SpinOne – Efficient Cloud DLP Solution

SpinOne is a SaaS Security Posture Management platform with powerful data loss prevention functionality for Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. It enables enterprises to automate the key DLP practices that we discussed above.

SpinOne functionality that takes data loss prevention to the next level:

  • 24/7 ransomware detection and prevention based on data behavior monitoring that spots the attack within minutes after its start and immediately stops it,
  • Shadow IT discovery and application risk assessment based on three types of criteria with access revoke functionality,
  • Data Retention Policies complement the policies of Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 and prevent erasing files and folders.
  • Data Behavior monitoring enables Admins to quickly detect and investigate file deletions and editing.
  • Sharing control helps Admins quickly find improperly shared files both within the organization and outside, correct sharing settings, and even take over the files in case they suspect malicious intent on the part of the user.
  • Automated 3x daily backup of inbox, contacts, calendars, and drives with unlimited storage in a data center of your choice (AWS, Azure, GCP) to minimize data loss in case of hardware malfunction.

In addition to this functionality, SpinOne has features that help prevent data leaks, for example, the monitoring of sensitive data, for example, personally identifiable information. Learn more about SpinOne’s data leak prevention capabilities.

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