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DLP in Flux

Enterprises should think before they leap into data leakage prevention technology, new report says

There are more than 40 vendors currently selling data leak prevention tools, but enterprises have been slow to adopt them -- and that may be a good thing, according to a new report from The 451 Group.

Data leak prevention (DLP)-- which The 451 Group calls anti-data leakage (ADL) -- is at hot topic at many organizations today. "It's a problem everyone understands, so they are willing to listen. You can explain it to your mom and she'll get it," says Nick Selby, senior analyst and director of the enterprise security practice at The 451 Group.

But with so many vendors entering the race, many enterprises have held off their implementations of ADL for fear of betting on the wrong horse. With a wave of consolidation bound to come, Selby says it wouldn't hurt to wait a year before putting your money on one of these products. "Start your research now, ask your hard questions, do your bakeoffs, think about your use case," he says.

ADL technology is evolving, according to the research firm. It's no longer enough for these tools to just monitor the movement of sensitive data on the network -- they must combine that monitoring with endpoint security, Selby says. "To solve data leakage in '07, you need to have a [user] agent and network monitoring. And you don't need to block [everything] -- just be smart about it."

To be winners, ADL tools should be able to monitor activity both on the network and off, according to the 451 report. That means tracking who's creating the data, who's working on it, and what version it's in. But few of the pure-ADL companies can do this today, Selby notes.

Bit Armor, Guardian Edge, Verdasys, Safe End, Reflex Magnetics (now part of Check Point) are all vendors that offer some elements of ADL and data protection as well as network access control (NAC), the endpoint part of the puzzle, Selby says, "controlling where endpoints go and what they can send and do," he says. "We've come to the conclusion that NAC requires pre-admission checking and post-admission monitoring."

Network vendors such as Fidelis, Chronicle Solutions, Kaspersky's InfoWatch, Vontu, and Reconnex, meanwhile, offer network monitoring for sensitive content.

Selby says he expects some serious consolidation to begin in the ADL market as other security vendors realize they need ADL features. McAfee's purchase last fall of ADL vendor Onigma, for instance, is a good example of this: "They are aware that the endpoint isn't everything, and the network isn't everything. You've got to have both."

But tools that can dig deep into how and why documents are created are at least two years away from becoming available, according to The 451 report.

Selby says 98 percent of data leakage is inadvertent, not nefarious hacking activity, so much of ADL is human resources training and making users aware of the data they handle and the risks of its release or falling into the wrong hands.

"The best ADL device is a big rolled-up newspaper" to whack users over the head with, he says. "You have to educate staff if they did something stupid, and train them on how" to prevent it.

Just blocking sensitive traffic from going out or within the company isn't the answer, he says, although 451's view here differs from Gartner's, Selby says. If data leakage is all about blocking traffic, you're risking disrupting your business operations, he argues.

"When you block, you cast a wide net and can stop communication, even [that] which is legitimate," he notes. You don't want to inadvertently block a physician working at a pharmaceutical company from sending his research to a university researcher, for instance.

Meanwhile, The 451 Group says there has been about $100 million in venture capital dumped into ADL over the past 18 months, but it is mostly spread out over a small number of companies, including Vontu and PortAuthority. "This is so a 2006 thing, and that the market was slower to take off than was expected, so VC-chasing is diminishing," Selby says. "Now we are able to see what these products can potentially do, and that [ADL] is a small part of something bigger."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • The 451 Group
  • McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE)
  • Gartner Inc.
  • Vontu Inc.
  • PortAuthority Technologies Inc.
  • Onigma Ltd.
  • McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE) Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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