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A deep dive on Cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

January 17, 2023
Mark Stone
5 min read

With massive cloud migration and more data to manage than ever, protecting all that data represents a significant challenge for the enterprise. Cloud-based data runs the gamut: Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, application hosting, data storage (S3, GCP or Azure), collaboration apps (Slack, Trello, Asana), webmail (Office 365, G Suite), or video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meet, Teams).

The problem is that cloud-based services store and process massive amounts of confidential data. Plus, employees are connecting to them from a variety of locations and devices and from both corporate and personal accounts. In order to stay productive and collaborative, they’re sharing that data as well. 

Knowing where the data resides and who has access to it makes things even more difficult. For example, what if an organization has 30 versions of a contract in 5 different data depositories in 15 different locations? While this may seem like an extreme example, in reality, it’s all too common. 

When each cloud solution offers its own distinct security management interface and policy, it opens the doors to a massive administrative burden. 

Often, protecting cloud data transcends the needs of the organization, as many industries have strict regulations around handling sensitive data — such as personal information, financial data, and health records. These regulations often specify requirements for protecting sensitive data, including data classification, access controls, and data destruction.

Enter Cloud Data Loss Prevention solutions, which help prevent sensitive data from accidental (or malicious) leakage, loss, or misuse. 

What is Cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP)? 

Cloud DLP empowers organizations with consistent data security and management tools for their SaaS and IaaS resources. 

Cloud DLP is an important tool for organizations to protect their cloud data from cyber attacks, insider threats and accidental exposure. It helps identify, classify, and control sensitive information in order to ensure compliance with regulations and reduce the risk of costly data breaches or leaks. Cloud DLP can also automate many processes related to identifying and protecting confidential data, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings.

Cloud DLP products are a critical component of any organization’s security posture. By leveraging policies for identification, classification and monitoring of sensitive data, Cloud DLP helps to protect information no matter where it is stored. These solutions can be especially helpful in addressing the increasingly expansive scope of an organization’s cloud-based data storage, as well as the potential for more sophisticated threats. 

The market for cloud

According to Gartner, the Cloud DLP market “includes offerings that provide visibility into data usage and movement across an organization. It also involves dynamic enforcement of security policies based on content and context for data in use and at rest. DLP technology seeks to address data-related threats, including the risks of inadvertent or accidental data loss and the exposure of sensitive data, using monitoring, alerting, warning, blocking, quarantining and other remediation features.”

Gartner’s market analysis of DLP solutions suggests that tools in the category “use data classification labels and tags, content inspection techniques, and contextual analysis to identify sensitive content and analyze actions related to the use of that content.” Armed with this information, the solutions can monitor data activity and balance any attempted actions against a predefined DLP policy. 

How Cloud DLP Works

Organizations can implement cloud DLP solutions in various ways, typically through software solutions or policies and procedures. As stated above, Cloud DLP involves identifying sensitive data, classifying it, and implementing controls to prevent unauthorized access or accidental loss.

Cloud DLP can discover any potential leakage of customer data, credit card numbers, other PII, and intellectual property using a library of predefined or custom data types or AI based data models. Once a data threat is discovered, Cloud DLP can block the traffic entirely or simply prevent the leakage. For example, an email containing sensitive data could be blocked or an attachment containing confidential data could be removed from the email message.

Cloud DLP differs from Network DLP and Endpoint DLP in that it is specifically designed to protect cloud data as opposed to data that may reside on internal networks or endpoints. 

Typically, Cloud DLP will: 

  • Perform a scan and audit of cloud data and automatically detect and encrypt sensitive data before being processed and stored in the cloud
  • Create a list of authorized cloud applications and also of the users that have proper access to any sensitive data
  • Deliver alerts to security teams when it detects a policy violation or abnormal activity
  • Log any access of confidential cloud-based data along with the corresponding user identity
  • Establish full visibility into cloud data


Benefits of cloud DLP

Some benefits of using cloud DLP include:

Increased data security: Cloud DLP helps to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information. This is especially important in the event of a cyberattack or employee error, which can result in the loss or exposure of sensitive data.

Compliance: Many industries have strict regulations around the handling of sensitive data, and cloud DLP can help organizations ensure compliance with these regulations.

Reduced risk of data leaks: By identifying and preventing the accidental or intentional leak of sensitive data, organizations can reduce the risk of damaging their reputation or incurring legal or financial penalties.

Improved efficiency: Cloud DLP can help organizations automate the process of identifying and protecting sensitive data, reducing the time and resources required to manually review and classify data.

Cost savings: By preventing data breaches and minimizing the risk of data leaks, organizations can save on the costs associated with responding to and recovering from such incidents.


How Cloud DLP compares with Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)

Cloud DLP is a great way for organizations to protect their cloud data, and in many ways is very similar to DSPM. Data Security Posture Management is a broader concept involving the continuous monitoring and management of an organization’s data security posture. Depending on the vendor, DSPM may take things a step further by evaluating the effectiveness of an organization’s current security measures, identifying potential vulnerabilities, and implementing and maintaining appropriate controls to protect against data breaches and other security threats.

DSPM graphic

As both cloud DLP and DSPM solutions become increasingly sophisticated and more efficient, any organization looking to secure its digital assets should consider implementing them into their security strategy.

Find out how Concentric’s approach to Cloud DLP and DSPM enables organizations to gain a clear view into the where, who and how of their sensitive data: where it is, who has access to it, and how it has been used. Not only that, Concentric’s Semantic Intelligence can centrally remediate these issues and prevent data loss.


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