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1/11/2012
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How To Prevent An Illicit Data Dump

Organizations can be ruined with a single, WikiLeaks-style data compromise. How can you prevent your enterprise from being one of them? Here are a few tips

[Excerpted from "How to Prevent an Illicit Data Dump," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's Insider Threat Tech Center.]

The headline occurs almost every day lately -- a large enterprise or government agency loses a huge cache of data through the actions of an employee. Whether it's a malicious theft and posting, a la WikiLeaks, or an unintentional compromise of sensitive business information, the affected organization is put in a position of serious risk.

Developing and enforcing rules around how data is handled within your company is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of a major data loss.

The first step is to classify your company’s data in terms of its value, legal storage and protection requirements, sensitivity and criticality. If you don’t know what you need to protect and its value, you can’t allocate the necessary and appropriate security controls to guard against data loss and theft.

With classifications in place, data should be labeled—either with metatags, in the case of digital data, or physical labels, in the case of printed material or physical storage devices.

With policies and procedures covering how each class of data should be handled—from access to copying, printing, sharing and deleting—you can begin to educate your employees on the importance of safeguarding company and client data. Archived data requires a specific mention here because it represents a large amount of information in one spot, often stored on a backup system, such as a tape or CD. This makes it portable and an obvious target for thieves.

When employees break data-handling rules, they are typically not doing so with malicious intent—they just may not know the rules. Many breaches occur because of inadvertent actions, such as misuse of portable devices, or actions committed with good intent, such as the turning off of security settings in order to send a legitimate file more quickly.

While it is important to build awareness around what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of data handling, it isn’t enough. It’s essential to actively enforce your policies by monitoring employee access and activity with regard to classified data. The objective is to deter and stop employees or contractors looking to exploit their legitimate access to your premises, assets or data.

To get a detailed look at some crtiical steps in preventing data leakage -- including the pluses and minuses of data leak prevention (DLP) technology -- download the full report on stopping big data leaks.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

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