Plugging the leak

Alexei Lesnykh, business developer manager for DeviceLock, explains how enterprises can defend their digital borders against the threat of data leakage.

Tags: Data Leakage PreventionData governanceData leakageDeviceLock Inc (www.devicelock.com/)USAUnited Arab Emirates
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Plugging the leak
By  Imthishan Giado Published  September 15, 2010 Network Middle East Logo

Alexei Lesnykh, business developer manager for DeviceLock, explains how enterprises can defend their digital borders against the threat of data leakage.

Are you running a small or medium- size business? If you are, the challenges you face everyday is how to maximise business performance and manage your costs.

Bet you didn’t realise that you could be losing one of your most priceless assets, costing you a fortune every year while you are focused on other areas – your company’s information.

DLP which stands for data leak prevention is a major concern here in the Middle East region, mostly because regional small and medium businesses are still not completely aware of the risks caused by data leakage or the heavy costs to those businesses. Negligence is one of the main reasons why data leaks happen.

“In practical figures alone corporate data loss can cost companies between 20% and 25% of their overall revenue because data leak prevention solutions and security policies are not properly set.”

Worldwide IT spending is forecast to reach $3.4 trillion in 2010, a 5.3 percent increase from IT spending of $3.2 trillion in 2009, according to Gartner, Inc. The IT industry will continue to show steady growth with IT spending in 2011 projected to surpass $3.5 trillion, a 4.2% increase from 2010. (Gartner, 2010) This means that companies are investing more and more in IT. At the same time, also the employees of these same companies are investing more in IT on a private level.

They all own the simple USB flash drive to share and archive documents, many of them have an iPod to listen to their favourite music on their way to the office and, finally, almost all have a smartphone either an iPhone or a BlackBerry; and in all these cases, the data transfer to such personal memory-bearing devices from the company computer is extremely easy.

Companies need to be more up to speed with the growing interest in technology from their employees and take the safety precautions. Without DLP policies in place for endpoints in corporate IT networks, data leaks are bound to happen. Within a company’s IT infrastructure, USB drives and flash memory cards are a major threat of this kind as are network communications from employee’s computers.

Now, apart from numbers, it is essential to understand that data leak prevention is a key issue especially in small and medium size businesses as the data of your company is an important facilitating attribute of any business. A big company has its business set by its name and reputation as well as the information it owns; but a small company fights everyday in the market to compete and succeed, and one of its strongest weapons is its data.

Your data is your businesses core identity, your data and all the information you use at work makes you who you are; it is your business identity card. It is unique and it differentiates your company from anyone else’s in the market!

This may sound just like a mere metaphor but eventually data is who you are at your work and what you represent in your business, whoever abuses or steals your business data is actually stealing a key part of you!

With data loss prevention solutions, IT security administrators are able to profile the role of each employee in the company, group or department regarding their endpoint data transfer and peripheral device access, keeping each of them to the minimal set of operations required for their role. This reduces overall the risk of data leaks and helps organisations to better comply with applicable IT security regulations and industry standards.

IT managers or dedicated information security officers should at first design the corporate data protection policy as an integral part of the entire corporate information security policy. The scope of the data protection policy should be defined based on applicable government regulations, industry’s information security standards (for example  HIPAA, Basel II, etc.), as well as take into account organisation-specific risks related to its business filed and industry – for instance, an unusually high value of corporate Intellectual Property (IP) assets. When the business-level data protection policy has been developed and approved by the organisation’s executive management, it should be then interpreted (in other words, translated) into a corporate-wide data leak prevention (DLP) policy.

Content specifications in this policy should define “what” kind of information this policy protects, for example, intellectual property (IP), Personally Identifiable Information (PII), corporate confidential information, or customer data. At the same time business-level context parameters and conditions in the policy should specify “who”, “where from”, “where to”, and “when” is allowed or denied to transfer the specified information, or any data in general. Only when the corporate DLP policy has been designed, can it be mapped “down” to the specifics of the endpoint computing environment of the organisation to form the endpoint-level DLP policies including access privileges, content filtering rules, as well as the rules of personal device use.

The next step would be deploying the DLP solution and turning its policies to monitoring mode. The aim of this project phase is two-fold: at first, it facilitates the refinement of the baseline data protection policies for all endpoint computers and their users. The second goal is to identify the most malicious users of the corporate network during this first DLP deployment phase.

When the baseline DLP polices have been fine-tuned, IT managers can switch DLP agents from “monitoring only” to enforcement mode while at the same time logging peripheral device access related user actions, as well as their data transfer operations from and to endpoint computers. It’s at this very moment that forensic investigations into the most serious data leaks should become a routine part of the IT department operations.

The company should defend all of its property including corporate endpoint computers used by its staff whether in the office or at home. Protecting your data is protecting your business reputation. It goes without question that you put so much effort to set yourself apart in the market and you want to guarantee that your reputation won’t get compromised. Isn’t that sensible?

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