The Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software Shopping Guide

January 12, 2023

Purchasing a data loss prevention ( (DLP) software solution can be a significant investment for your organization. Before you decide on a specific DLP software, it’s important to know what key protections and functionality to look for so you can ask the right questions.

The biggest challenges of purchasing DLP software

Some of the biggest challenges companies face when purchasing a DLP software solution include false positives due to improper data classifications and inefficient rule setting. Over-reactionary incident management is often a result of this and carries a heavy resource drain that isn’t sustainable. How can you find a solution that accurately evaluates when sensitive data loss has actually occurred?

What is data loss prevention?

Data loss prevention is a set of processes and procedures within an organization designed to protect sensitive information held within company systems. These comprehensive solutions should protect data from unauthorized access or removal, either through erroneous or malicious actions.

By creating a data loss prevention plan, you can protect your organization from data breaches, ensure personally identifiable information (PII) is secured and remain in compliance with any regulations applicable to your industry.

Six questions to ask data loss prevention software vendors

Some of the most important questions to ask when shopping for a DLP solution are about how the DLP software handles data analysis and data classification. Without an accurate read on the data you’re holding, you won’t be able to accurately assess risk and implement appropriate data loss prevention measures.

Software can only do what it is programmed to do, and many solutions take an aggressive approach to data loss without clearly relaying the actual risk involved. The result can be costly in the form of time spent on reactionary activities instead of a measured response. Asking the following questions can help you determine whether or not a specific DLP solution is right for your organization’s needs.

Question #1: How does your DLP software handle data discovery?

Contrary to popular belief, DLP is not a single tool for protecting your organizational data. Rather, DLP is a set of tools designed to create a comprehensive security plan for your business.

Most DLP solutions focus on data in motion, the data currently moving through the network or being actively accessed. However, many solutions neglect the importance of securing data at rest, and most DLP solutions lack the ability to effectively uncover this data. To ensure complete data protection, your DLP solution needs to include a data discovery tool.

The sheer volume of data streaming into your organization from multiple sources and to multiple destinations may make it difficult to track and categorize. You need the ability to segment your data in accordance with risk, and isolate the most sensitive data under rigorous privacy and security protocols. By implementing a DLP solution with accurate data discovery—preferably an automated solution—your organization will be able to address data at rest while bolstering the effectiveness of data-in-motion tools.

A software solution that facilitates the process of discovering, classifying and remediating data—wherever it can be found in your organization’s data landscape—will help you correctly safeguard customer data and adhere to compliance regulations, like the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).

Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Searching for data at rest on cloud and email servers, databases, file shares, and endpoints
  • Searching for data in motion on networks in web traffic or over email, or during copying
  • Discovering unmarked or unknown data (for marking, indexing, and retention)
  • Categorizing data correctly (for accurate rules and policy creation, assignment and improved workflows)

Question #2: How does your DLP software handle endpoint detection?

Data loss prevention and device management go hand-in-hand, and your DLP software needs to be able to effectively protect endpoints. Beyond obvious devices like computers and mobile electronics, your protection needs to cover all devices connected to your network.

Your entire organization shares in the responsibility of device management, so while it’s important to consider device-level security like multifactor authentication and antivirus protection, network-level security measures like data discovery tools and automated data classification can offer an added level of protection.

From both data security and data privacy perspectives, endpoint protection is crucial no matter your industry.
Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Providing email security to combat phishing attacks
  • Application and device controls to ensure only approved software can be installed on endpoint devices
  • Machine learning to supplement and increase the efficiency of broader DLP measures
  • Integrating with third-party applications to provide comprehensive endpoint protection

Question #3: How does your DLP software handle monitoring, alerting, and enforcement?

With the expansion of remote work and employees who are using their own devices and networks, there are more potential access points than ever before. Previous security approaches relying on a “verify, then trust” approach are no longer adequate for securing a network’s sensitive data. Instead, an organization must enact policies with a Zero Trust framework in mind.

The primary goal of a Zero Trust security approach is to secure data at its source. With this approach, users must be verified every time they attempt to access sensitive data and authorization is given at the lowest possible level necessary to perform the desired actions.

Accurate alerting is vital to identifying emergent risk and enforcing security policies and protocols.

Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Existing within the rigorous standards of a Zero Trust framework
  • Identifying when sensitive data is on the move (traffic or transfer)
  • Evaluating risk of current use (removal, modification, or transmission)
  • Establishing routine scan schedules for violations, based on rules and policies
  • Detecting keywords, regular expressions, hash functions and pattern matching
  • Surfacing unclassified sensitive and adding it to policies
  • Alerting administrators and end-users to take preventive action
  • Enforcing rules to safeguard sensitive content in case of a breach

Question #4: How does your DLP software solution handle encryption?

Encryption of data can prevent data loss caused by illicit transfer or copying if rules are set to trigger encryption on transmission. Without the correct keys, unauthorized users will be unable to access or utilize the encrypted data.

Key generation, storage, and recovery must be tied to strict authentication requirements, which can be configured to ensure higher privacy and security protocols are applied for your organization’s most sensitive data.

Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Implementing a centralized management (for encryption policies, keys, recovery and administration)
  • Flexibility in regard to setting rules (based in document and file types and/or users and groups)
  • Automatically fetch encryption policy changes and updates (without requiring administrator action)
  • Managing all security products (including software and appliances) from a single administration console

Question #5: How does your DLP software solution handle workflows?

Poorly implemented DLP solutions present unnecessary burdens for employees who should otherwise have access to the data they seek. This can result in end users attempting to disable the software tools put in place by the organization. A security solution capable of being disabled represents a large security risk. Therefore, an effective data loss protection tool cannot be disabled by an end user.

A strong data loss prevention strategy addresses these concerns by continuously discovering and classifying data while also automating as much of the process as possible in order to remove users from the process. By creating clear policies and subsequent roles and credentials, your data will be better protected while ensuring your employees have proper access to the files and systems they need to adequately perform their daily tasks. With specific and granular data tagging, your employees will be able to access the data they need without unnecessary obstacles.

Your DLP solution should provide hierarchical management of rules mapped to your business objectives, and allow powerful rule construction as well as reuse. Your organization needs to be able to support granular application and device control, and investigate incidents from a transparent management console.

Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Defining which applications are trusted or untrusted before granting rights
  • Establishing specific workflows for data remediation
  • Creating individual cases or incident groups for system population
  • Supporting monitoring and management of incident investigations
  • Classifying incidents into the correct user-defined categories

Question #6: How does your DLP software solution handle reporting, auditing, and compliance?

Your DLP solution should have a user interface that promotes ease of training and intuitive use, preferably with playbooks and wizards that facilitate configuration steps. Interactive flowchart tools can provide a time-efficient layout and visualize even the most complex sensitive data discovery, classification and remediation workflows.

Ask your DLP software vendor if their solution is capable of:

  • Reporting from a centralized logging and management console, with numerous export formats
  • Providing data with immediate visibility into data at rest, data in use, and data in motion violations for auditing purposes
  • Tailoring presentation of data risks, violations, and reporting to deliver the data desired without clutter or confusion
  • Delivering compliance at all required levels to reduce risk of audits, fines, or penalties

Enhance your DLP tools with data discovery, classification and remediation

The cost of weak DLP software without a foundation of discovery can be a significant barrier to implementation. Prioritizing data discovery as a first step can reduce costs by minimizing false alerts and optimizing workflows. This will allow you to allocate resources where they are needed to protect your customers’ most sensitive data.

Secure the sensitive data at your enterprise with Spirion’s Sensitive Data Platform to apply the sensitive data controls and compliance that your organization needs. Get in touch with a Spirion data security and compliance expert or watch our free demo today.