8 Best Data Loss Prevention Solutions to Protect Your Sensitive Data

Data is one of the most valuable assets for any organization today. However, data breaches and leaks continue to make headlines on a regular basis. From email hacks to misconfigured cloud servers, there are many ways sensitive data can end up in the wrong hands. This is why implementing robust data loss prevention (DLP) solutions is a top priority for security teams.

What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

DLP refers to a category of tools and software designed specifically to detect and prevent the unauthorized transmission of sensitive or confidential data. The aim of DLP solutions is to stop sensitive data from getting into the hands of unauthorized parties, whether through malicious attacks or accidental leaks by internal employees.

One of the key capabilities DLP solutions provide is deep content inspection and analysis to accurately detect sensitive or restricted information. This allows them to prevent confidential data from leaving the corporate network through common channels like email, web uploads, cloud sync services and more.

Why is DLP Critical for Organizations?

There are several compelling reasons why organizations need effective DLP programs:

Compliance: Industries like healthcare, financial services and public sector have strict regulatory data privacy standards they need to adhere to. Failing to comply can lead to heavy fines.

IP Protection: Loss of intellectual property like proprietary research, product designs etc. can result in loss of competitive advantage and revenue.

Reputational Damage: Data breaches that compromise customer or employee data negatively impact an organization‘s brand and trust.

Cost Savings: Data leaks incur significant costs related to incident response, notifications and potential legal liabilities. Effective DLP helps avoid these.

According to Ponemon Institute‘s "Cost of a Data Breach Report", the average cost of a data breach globally is close to $4 million. High quality DLP can help reduce breach incidents and provide substantial cost savings as a result.

Major DLP Approaches

DLP solutions typically fall into one of two broad categories in their approach:

Enterprise DLP

Enterprise or traditional DLP solutions focus on monitoring data on the network level as it moves between users and systems. This includes analyzing traffic that goes over email, web, cloud apps and other transmission channels.

Prominent capabilities include:

  • Network monitoring: Inspect packets in motion for sensitive data
  • Email monitoring: Analyze email content and attachments
  • Web filtering: Block uploads to unapproved cloud apps and websites
  • Endpoint agents: Scan endpoints for restricted data

Leading Enterprise DLP vendors include Symantec, McAfee, Forcepoint and RSA.

Endpoint DLP

Endpoint DLP solutions concentrate exclusively on monitoring activity and data on endpoints like desktops, laptops and servers using installed agents.

Instead of sniffing network traffic, they analyze user behavior, file activity, system access and so on for signals of compromised data. Endpoint agents can also block restricted actions like cutting/pasting sensitive info or transferring data to removable media.

Endpoint DLP lends itself better to catching insider threats from employees/contractors misusing data intentionally or accidentally. Leading vendors in this space are Digital Guardian and Code42.

The ideal approach often combines elements of both network and endpoint monitoring for defense-in-depth data protection.

Key Features of DLP Solutions

While different vendors have varying capabilities, most DLP solutions share some common key features:

  • Discovery: Find sensitive data at rest throughout the organization‘s systems and infrastructure. Helps classify and label different data types.

  • Monitoring: Continuously inspect traffic, user activity and data access across endpoints and networks to detect policy violations real-time.

  • Enforcement: Block restricted data transfers or actions and quarantine/encrypt sensitive data to prevent leaks.

  • Incident Management: Streamlined workflow for investigating and resolving detected issues through alerts, reports and workflows.

  • Forensics: Collect full activity history and event reconstruction to understand the root cause and impact of an incident. Critical for post-breach analysis.

  • Policy Engine: Create and manage context-aware policies that combine multiple rules including users, data types, applications etc. Simplifies administration.

  • Encryption: Automatically encrypt sensitive information at rest or in motion to render it unreadable in case of unauthorized access.

  • OCR Support: Optical character recognition allows detecting sensitive data in images and scanned documents by parsing text.

Leading Data Loss Prevention Vendors

With data leaks growing both in frequency and impact, the DLP market has seen robust growth with both established and new vendors offering cutting-edge capabilities. Here are 8 top solutions that help secure sensitive information:

1. Symantec Data Loss Prevention

The de facto market leader, Symantec offers the most comprehensive enterprise DLP suite covering all major threat vectors. Prominent capabilities:

  • Network monitoring for traffic via email, web, cloud apps and endpoints
  • Discovery scans finding sensitive data across over 100 different data types
  • Accurate optical character recognition (OCR)
  • Detailed forensics with the ability to replay user sessions
  • Over 2500 pre-built policies and rules
  • Real-time alerting and monitoring dashboard

Symantec DLP has advanced features for intellectual property protection, making it ideal for organizations focused on mitigating insider data theft.

2. McAfee Total Protection for Data Loss Prevention

Part of their broader Total Protection offering, McAfee‘s DLP provides complete coverage spanning network, endpoint and cloud environments. Key highlights:

  • Real-time database and file access monitoring
  • Extensive regulatory compliance policy templates for HIPAA, PCI DSS etc.
  • Multiple deployment options as hardware or virtual appliance
  • Case management with automated incident workflow assignment and reporting
  • Integration with existing McAfee security infrastructure like ePO and SIEM optimizes efficiency

McAfee offers among the most flexible licensing options in enterprise DLP allowing organizations to start with core functionality and scale up with add-on modules.

3. Forcepoint DLP

Forcepoint DLP features an innovative risk-adaptive security approach that dynamically adjusts monitoring and blocking based on risk context – including aspects like user behavior, data sensitivity and so on.

Other capabilities include:

  • Integrated cloud access security broker (CASB) functionality
  • Powerful analytics identifying high-risk users and unusual data activities
  • Extensive third-party app integration options
  • Built-in support for popular cloud services like Office 365 and G Suite
  • Focus on ease of deployment with rapid time-to-value

It protects against inadvertent insider leaks with capabilities like blocking auto-forwarding rules that can expose data.

4. Digital Guardian

Digital Guardian pioneered the endpoint DLP approach driven by their focus on insider threats originating from malicious and negligent employees. Strengths include:

  • Unparalleled visibility into all user activity across endpoints
  • Advanced behavioral analysis models spotting unusual access patterns
  • Machine learning algorithms analyzing past incidents continuously improve detection accuracy
  • Minimal need for policies or complex rules
  • Tamper-proof agents prevent disabling or manipulation
  • Near real-time alerts and intuitive management console

The embedded response capabilities allow containing damage quickly by isolating compromised endpoints or users until deeper investigation.

5. Code42 Incydr

Code42 focuses exclusively on data security spanning endpoint backup along with data loss prevention. Incydr, their DLP offering, combines data visibility, detection and response powered by:

  • Metadata-based approach requiring no traditional DLP policies and rules
  • Integrated data classification leveraging over 500 classifiers
  • User behavior analytics spot suspicious activity
  • Custom detections tailored to critical data types
  • Streamlined incident workflow with one-click views into affected files and users

Code42 also stands out with rapid REST API-based integrations with popular security and IT solutions.

6. Proofpoint Data Loss Prevention

While best known for their email security products, Proofpoint DLP provides complete data protection. Capabilities include:

  • People-centric approach with granular controls and visibility based on users and groups
  • Specialized packages for common compliance use cases like HIPAA and PCI
  • Powerful Microsoft Office document handling including message tracking in email body text
  • Native integrations with leading next-gen firewall and secure web gateway vendors enhances protection posture across channels

Proofpoint also offers a free DLP assessment service helping organizations evaluate their existing people, process and technology security gaps.

7. Zscaler Data Loss Prevention

The Zscaler DLP service is delivered through their highly scalable cloud security platform which supports advanced inline traffic inspection. Key features:

  • Lightweight agent performs initial content scanning before sending data to the Zscaler cloud for deeper analysis
  • User-based policies follow people seamlessly across devices and networks
  • API-based integration with existing security and infrastructure solutions including SIEM and sandbox environments
  • Inbuilt data classification capabilities powered by machine learning improving detection rates
  • Custom dictionary creation allowing administrators to tailor sensitive data definitions

Zscaler’s multi-tenant architecture allows supporting the largest deployments while offering personalization.

8. Clearswift SECURE Email Gateway

WhileSECURE Email Gateway is primarily an email security solution, the deep content inspection and adaptable rules engine provide advanced DLP capabilities for messages including:

  • Bi-directional email scanning before delivery detecting sensitive content and attachments
  • Granular policy creation based on automated or custom data classifications
  • Endpoint integrations expand enforcement capabilities
  • Automated TLS encryption applied dynamically based on content
  • Out-of-the-box templates for common email compliance standards like PCI-DSS and HIPAA
  • Available as hardware, software, virtual appliance or managed service

With email being a leading data breach vector, Clearswift’s specialized strengths in this area provide effective mitigation.

The list above covers some of the top enterprise-grade DLP solutions suitable for large organizations and regulated industries. Many excellent products from vendors like Ping Identity, Nightfall AI, Infosec and Securiti also cater to the mid-market and SMB space with easy deployment and usage.

Key Considerations for Selecting a DLP Solution

With dozens of capable solutions to pick from, making the right DLP choice for your needs and infrastructure requires careful analysis:

  • Identify Your Most Critical Data: Restrictions and controls will likely focus on 2 or 3 sensitive data types, so define those clearly first.

  • Map Existing Infrastructure: Integrating DLP with networks, data repositories, security stacks etc. will be easier if you understand the existing setup completely.

  • Analyze Leading Risk Vectors: Whether email, cloud apps or removable drives, know which ones require the most attention in your environment so the DLP choice aligns.

  • Establish Use Cases: Detail specific regulatory and business scenarios like PCI compliance, customer data privacy, IP protection etc. that the DLP deployment must address.

  • Involve Stakeholders: Engage leadership, legal, HR and other business teams early in the process to ensure proper oversight and support.

  • Evaluate Deployment Models: Options like on-premise vs SaaS, single vendor vs best-of-breed, and combined network and endpoint approach provide flexibility.

  • Assess Management Needs: Consider existing IT staff skills and bandwidth to determine how much support the DLP system will need with configuration, maintenance and monitoring.

Some specialized DLP solutions focus on “developer-friendly” APIs and automation capabilities to simplify deployment and enhance protection.

With data volumes and remote work trends accelerating, organizations are deploying DLP solutions to meet security and compliance needs. The right platform lets you efficiently secure critical information, prevent data leakage and reduce breach risks.