We’ve all seen news stories about massive IT security breaches and hacks, but this isn’t necessarily because hackers and corporate spies are amazingly good at what they do. Instead, many of the modern world’s most notorious data loss disasters owe their existence to a far more insidious set of foes: human error and mismanagement.

No matter how well-guarded a company network may seem, it only takes one misstep to jeopardize everything. In an instant, a seemingly minor mistake can expose the sum of a firm’s trade secrets and private client records to the whole world.

Bouncing back isn’t always easy, and the business landscape is littered with the husks of firms whose comeback efforts ended in failures. For this reason, companies that truly want to survive prefer taking a more proactive approach. Data loss prevention, or DLP, is a critical weapon in the battle to safeguard info by mitigating breach risks. Here’s how it works and how to put it to good use.

What Is DLP?

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DLP typically refers to a number of practices and tools that network owners and IT stakeholders use to control how end-users handle potentially sensitive data. One of the key goals of these strategies is to stop the spread of such information beyond known safe boundaries.

DLP in Practice

Imagine that a prosthesis manufacturing firm created an app that let its production team view client purchase orders from the factory floor. The company might also institute a firewall or mail server policy that blocked its staff members from emailing the patient data used to build the medical devices to external addresses. By stopping such mishandling from occurring in the first place, it could significantly lower the risks of a serious breach incident.

As this example shows, there are various ways to fight losses with DLP strategies. Other tactics might place more focus on combatting outside threats. For instance, the same firm would likely be well-advised to invest in physical access controls that kept unauthorized parties from entering its data centers. No matter what route network owners ultimately choose, they need to be sure to consider the unique dynamics of their business models and IT architectures before diving in.

How to Leverage the Power of DLP

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Every firm and network has its own particular quirks. This means that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to DLP. There are, however, a few practices that no network owner should go without.

External Auditing

It can be extremely challenging to spot security flaws without the benefit of an impartial perspective. By relying on a trusted set of outside eyes, firms make it easier to see beyond their biases and learn how to change their strategies for the better. They also gain a heightened power to institute DLP tactics that take advantage of professional IT knowledge.

Third-party auditing may even be vital to doing business legitimately. In fields such as healthcare, for example, companies are often required to comply with strict laws that demand they partake in periodic IT inspections.

Penetration Testing

A penetration test, or pen test, is an exercise that involves conducting simulated attacks on a network to see how it responds. Even though the threat isn’t real, these events put IT systems through their paces as if bad actors with malicious intentions were actually hacking them.

Performing regular pen tests is wise because it’s best not to wait until a real threat occurs to find out whether a network can secure itself appropriately. For instance, a firm’s pen test might reveal that even though its corporate firewall appliance keeps hackers at bay, the device’s improperly configured application could let a malicious insider expose data via a backdoor.

Penetration testing is particularly important in the modern enterprise arena. As more firms make use of the Internet of Things, edge networks and cloud services, the risks of doing business as usual increase at an alarming rate. Knowing how your changing IT ecosystem handles danger is a must.

Getting Started With DLP

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Vulnerability scanner software shoulders many of the burdens that stand between firms and effective DLP strategies. Since these tools have the power to automate pen testing and other critical tasks, they help IT stakeholders stay on top of their responsibilities while simultaneously reducing their workloads.

Using a capable vulnerability scanner is often way more effective than trying to do it all manually. Most networks include dozens of devices, and an individual device might hide scores of potential weaknesses, such as unsecured ports or wireless access points with low-strength or default passwords. Scanning tools that take care of the heavy lifting are lifesavers for enterprises that want to remain safe as they change their network configurations, add new components and work with software services.

Any company that uses a corporate network or cloud application also needs to adopt a forward-thinking DLP stance. Being proactive is the best way to fight threats, so don’t wait until after something goes catastrophically wrong to take decisive action. Learn more about keeping your web apps secure by trying our scanner today.