Why DLP is not the Solution to Data and Document Security


Data loss prevention software or DLP has been broadly used to keep an eye on classified and sensitive data and detect data leakage and exfiltration. Because data security and document security is a growing issue, and a complicated problem compounding each year, data security tools such as DLP are popular among organizations. However, given the magnitude of data security, DLP often falls short when it actually comes to preventing the loss of information. This is particularly true when it comes to detecting and investigating data security incidents.

Here is why DLP tools, in the conventional sense, do not fit the needs of IT security teams anymore, and why every organization must reconsider its approach to data loss by opting for a digital rights management (DRM) solution for documents rather than just using a DLP solution.

DLP as a high maintenance investment: A number of organizations who have purchased DLP tools quickly realize that these solutions are unmanageable and cumbersome to deploy. It requires a good deal of personnel to implement them and before it is used to its full extent, it can take a while to get used to it. This is why, most organizations deploy incomplete DLP solutions and thus face the threat of data security loss and document leakage. Similarly, some companies deploy the process halfway, and then take a step back due to the long and unmanageable process of implementing the solution.

Typically, even if a DLP tool is deployed in an organization, it is regarded as high maintenance. This is because, the DLP solution requires constant fine-tuning to detect potential loss of data. With regards to the rules and signatures used in deploying a data loss prevention solution, there can be endless refinement. Such solutions often compel organizations to implement and maintain complicated data classification processes. Although every organizations compliance requirements must have data classification as a component, it may not be ideal to align this with your company’s data loss prevention solution and constantly maintain it. Besides, DLP tools come with weighty client software that can frustrate employees and slow down endpoints. This is why, a good number of technical users tend to bypass DLP solutions, simply to save time and complete their tasks. However, for not so benign reasons, some employees may try to exfiltrate information in order to bypass DLP solutions even if that goes against company policy. Hence, a DLP solution can be complex to maintain, slow to deploy and could drain company resources.

DLP as an insufficient method: It could be a worthwhile trade-off if a DLP solution would genuinely capture every instance of data loss as a proactive method. However, DLP solutions have been proven to be ineffective at preventing data loss caused by insiders, because they are ill-equipped to actually prevent loss of information. Historically, it has been seen that DLP solutions were often bypassed by technical users to complete a job, and at the same time insiders looking to exfiltrate information found ways to avoid using DLP solutions. In addition, DLP solutions do not offer all-in-one identification, obstruction and reduction of data exfiltration and insider threats like digital rights management can provide. Although a DLP solution may help in catching some incidents of attempted data exfiltration, they are ineffective in investigating or responding efficiently. A digital rights management solution has proactive user education built in (users soon learn that copying and pasting text for example no longer works) to cut down accidental misuse. On the contrary, a DLP solution has a blind spot for insider threats as they primarily regulate only the exchange of network information.

Stymied communication due to DLP: It has been seen that one of the major disadvantages of a DLP solution is that it makes it harder, rather than easier, for IT administrators to correspond with the data creators or owners. Companies often struggle with communicating between IT administrators and data owners, and the addition of DLP solutions can make it even more complicated. For instance, the IT security team in your company may not be aware of marketing files that could be sensitive (they may contain competitive analysis for example). At the pace at which information is created today, getting IT security teams to have to constantly ask various departments about sensitive information in their possession is not feasible. With the rise of unstructured data growing exponentially, it is imperative for IT security teams to ensure that DLP solutions are up to date. However, in a static data classification system, it can be highly impractical to do so.

Securing sensitive and confidential documents and data is no longer one of the main things that a company must look into – it is a concept that every organization must strive for. In this regard, it is critical that every company rethinks their document security approach and rather than just putting money in conventional DLP solutions, opt for a robust digital rights management solution that can control document access and use and prevent the loss of data before it takes place.