NIST Privacy Framework : Our Essential Data Protection Guide


How should the remote worker change your data loss prevention strategy?

With the rise of remote work, we’re seeing more organizations roll out permanent work-from-home plans or provide the flexibility for their team to work remotely. While many organizations reap the benefits of remote work—like reduced overhead for employers, as well as increased productivity and greater work-life balance for employees—there are also data security hurdles to overcome.

Employers can no longer rely on location-based security systems to prevent data loss. In a traditional office setting, on-premise security systems may suffice, and monitoring the movement of data within an organization was easier. Now, with so many teams working remotely and often distributed across multiple states or even countries, changes to data loss prevention need to be made. In particular, the enterprises’ data loss prevention strategy needs to adapt.

The foundation for any data loss prevention strategy

A data loss prevention strategy is the most effective way to protect data. A strong DLP strategy entails a series of data protection practices designed to protect sensitive data in the corporate network from being lost, misused, or accessed erroneously or maliciously.

A few core initiatives for a strong data loss prevention strategy include:

  • Continuously discovering, classifying, and interpreting data
  • Creating policies based on the type of data your company produces
  • Creating defined roles and responsibilities
  • Involving leadership and educating stakeholders
  • Automating as much as possible to eliminate the risk of human error

Remote work data loss threats

Due to the pandemic, the transition to remote work environments happened much faster than anyone anticipated. This meant that many organizations were unprepared to protect their data in a distributed workplace—and cybercriminals were quick to capitalize on that.
Below are a few of the top data loss threats that organizations with remote workers face.

Home office security limitations

When organizations quickly pivoted to remote work, some employees were left using their own electronic devices, or even opted to do so out of convenience. These personal laptops lacked the same digital protections as company-issued equipment.

Employees who bring home work-issued electronics and desk phones are still connected to a personal Wi-Fi connection, which likely doesn’t have the same level of protection that a company’s on-premise firewall has. Even riskier is when employees access public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, coworking spaces, or hotels.

Poor visibility

Monitoring unstructured data in a remote environment is difficult because IT and cybersecurity teams lack visibility to how data is shared or moves throughout the organization. Instead of monitoring data in a centralized location, now cybersecurity teams are tasked with trying to keep track of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data across a distributed environment.

Increased phishing scams

Now with video conferencing replacing in-person meetings, there is greater opportunity for cyber attackers to prey on companies. Fake meeting invites and calendar invitations have been duping employees with emails or texts that look similar to their company’s branding. When you’re having a busy day, it’s easy to overlook this.

The phishing scams go beyond email, too. With everything moving towards the cloud, employers need to be on top of the cloud-based applications they use. For example, in the past year, cyber attackers have used a phishing technique that abuses webhooks in Slack to trick users into granting them access to their Slack data. Many cloud-based applications also offer third-party integrations, which is something that organizations may need to monitor and vet for their employees.

Maintaining backups and recovery

With employees working from home, it’s difficult for employers to enforce protocols that ensure team members are regularly backing up their data. Backups are critical to preventing data loss. Ideally, employees should be backing up data daily to ensure that any critical information can be quickly restored in the case of a security issue or unexpected crisis.

Adapting your data loss prevention strategy for remote workers

Companies can’t have blind spots within their teams and assume that employees are accessing data correctly.

Create a culture of security

It all starts with clear communication with your employees. Discuss the data security risks posed by remote work and what they can do to mitigate risks. This may include requiring stronger passwords and a more frequent password update schedule, and two-factor authorization to access laptops, cloud storage, and other important applications.

Organizations should also require VPNs for important work-related tasks to help prevent the risk of cyberattacks. Remember to emphasize to employees that using a VPN isn’t a be-all-end-all solution for data security and loss prevention. Sensitive data can still be shared or copied when a user is offline. And, sometimes employees may forget to connect to the company VPN or have issues connecting without even realizing it.

Prioritize data discovery and classification

If you look at any successful data loss prevention strategy, you’ll find strong data discovery and classification at the core. After all, you need to know exactly what you’re working with, where it is located, who has access to it, and how it’s being used—particularly when it comes to sensitive data.

With the amount of unstructured digital data that is being passed through your organization on a daily basis, it would be nearly impossible for your cybersecurity staff to monitor and classify everything. Even if it were possible, it wouldn’t be an efficient use of time. Rather than sinking hours in manual, labor-intensive work, your team should be using their hours to focus on strategic decisions.

The right data loss prevention software can help you discover sensitive data across all endpoints, whether that data lives online or offline. Automated data classification is also critical to keeping up with industry and regulatory standards.

Apply data governance policies across operating systems

Protecting sensitive data and preventing data loss across all remote endpoints is important, but organizations should also be able to apply their data governance policies across operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and macOS. Ensuring protections at this broader level can help data governance teams get control over the ever-expanding IT frontier.

Monitor sensitive data in real-time

In remote work environments, it is critical to know exactly who has access to your data and what they are doing with it—especially when it comes to adhering to data privacy and compliance regulations that more and more companies are becoming subject to.

Many cloud-based platforms may offer some form of monitoring to flag suspicious behavior but that alone is not enough, especially if your organization’s data flow involves a high volume of personally identifiable information (PII). For real-time monitoring and reporting across all endpoints, you are best protected with a third-party sensitive data solution that employs AI and machine learning techniques to monitor activity in real-time.

Adapt your data loss prevention strategy to meet the conditions of the remote worker with Spirion Sensitive Data Platform

Spirion’s Sensitive Data Platform can help your organization fine-tune your DLP strategy for remote work environments. It discovers sensitive data wherever it lives within your organization, automates the data classification process, and monitors data flow and activity in real-time to prevent data loss.

To learn more about how our solution can help your organization strengthen data loss prevention while still reaping the benefits of remote work, contact us for a demo.