DLP (Data Loss Prevention) Explained

DLP (Data Loss Prevention) Explained

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Advocate
 Last update: November 25, 2023

DLP stands for Data Loss Prevention. It refers to a set of tools and processes designed to ensure that sensitive data is not lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorized users. This can include detecting potential data breaches and preventing them by monitoring, detecting, and blocking sensitive data while it’s in use, in motion, and at rest.

Is DLP Effective?

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million. In terms of prevention, a survey by the SANS Institute found that over 80% of organizations had some form of DLP solution in place, highlighting the recognition of its importance.

Yet, it’s crucial to note that despite the widespread implementation of DLP solutions, data breaches continue to occur, often due to factors such as human error or sophisticated cyber threats. These figures underline the necessity for continuous investment in DLP strategies, as well as broader cybersecurity measures.

DLP Examples

1. Email Transmission Block

Consider a scenario where an employee is drafting an email. The employee decides to report some work progress to a third party and, for illustrative purposes, includes critical client data in the email. Without realizing it, they’re on the verge of leaking sensitive information beyond the company’s control.

In this instance, a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) system integrated into the company’s IT framework can serve as the gatekeeper. The solution can identify that the outgoing email contains confidential information, which should not be shared without authorization. Upon recognizing this, the DLP tool can block the email from being sent, thus averting a potential data breach.

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This shows how DLP tools proactively monitor and protect the flow of data, ensuring sensitive information does not leave the safe perimeters of the company’s network. Not only does this shield the company from unauthorized data exposure, but it also ensures compliance with data privacy regulations.

2. Unprotected Sensitive Data Discovery

Imagine your organization is due for an internal or external audit. One of the key concerns is to verify that all sensitive data, such as client records or financial reports, are securely stored and managed according to regulations. However, with hundreds of computers connected to the network and multiple employees handling various files, ensuring secure management of all data might be a challenge.

This is where Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software can come into play. The DLP system can scan through every document existing within your company’s network. The purpose of this scan is to identify any sensitive data that might be stored unprotected or in inappropriate locations.

Upon detection, the DLP tool alerts the administrators about these documents so necessary precautions can be taken. The administrators can then move these files to secure locations and apply appropriate security measures. This way, the DLP tool aids businesses in preemptively identifying and resolving data security violations, maintaining a secure and compliant data management ecosystem.

3. Preventing Unsecured Cloud Uploads

Think of a scenario where an employee is working on a project remotely. To maintain the pace of the work, they want to upload a project-related file that contains confidential data to a personal cloud storage service. This move could potentially risk the security of the sensitive information in the file.

With Data Loss Prevention (DLP) protocols in place, this kind of risky action can be intercepted. As soon as the DLP tool detects an attempt to upload a file having sensitive information to a non-secured or non-approved cloud platform, it blocks the action.

The block takes place based on the pre-determined rules or severity of data sensitivity involved in DLP software. This way, DLP tools minimize potential threats to sensitive data, defending unauthorized access from insecure endpoints. The ability to prevent unauthorized data transfer helps the company to meet the guidelines of various data protection regulations and maintain the client’s trust.


Effectively, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) procedures offer businesses a robust defense line against potential data leakages, ensuring that sensitive information remains secure. With DLP, companies can better manage and protect their data, preventing violations of privacy regulations and enhancing overall business integrity.

Key Takeaways

  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a set of tools and processes designed to prevent sensitive data from being shared, accessed, or used by unauthorized entities.
  • DLP can effectively block email transmissions that contain sensitive data that’s not meant to be shared with external parties.
  • DLP software can locate and provide protection to sensitive data that’s stored in unsecured or inappropriate locations within a company’s network.
  • When sensitive data attempts to be uploaded to non-secured personal cloud storage services, DLP tools can immediately detect and block this action.
  • Through the practical use of DLP methods, organizations can significantly minimize the likelihood of data breaches, thus maintaining the integrity and credibility of their operations.

Related Questions

1. Can a DLP solution differentiate between types of data?

Yes, a DLP solution can differentiate between various types of data. It can be set to recognize social security numbers, credit card information, or other specific data types based on the protection requirements of the organization.

2. Does DLP work with encrypted data?

Yes, some DLP systems can recognize encrypted data. However, depending on the encryption method and the capabilities of specific DLP software, there may be some limitations.

3. How does DLP help in maintaining compliance with data regulations?

DLP helps in maintaining compliance by ensuring that sensitive data doesn’t leave the organization’s network. It monitors and protects data in use, in motion, and at rest, thus helping organizations adhere to data protection laws and regulations.

4. Can DLP prevent data loss due to malware?

While DLP solutions are not designed to provide protection against malware, their role in identifying and limiting data movement can help prevent data loss if a malware attack takes place.

5. Is it possible to bypass DLP?

While DLP systems are designed to be robust, like any system, they’re not foolproof. Skilled individuals may find ways to bypass them. However, regular software updates, rigorous testing, and maintaining a strong security culture can help mitigate this risk.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional