More than a decade ago, companies looked to protect their perimeters to keep attackers out. Regular breaches forced companies to implement defense-in-depth measures, monitoring and protecting their networks and systems. Then the increasing use of mobile devices and cloud services had businesses looking at tracking and protecting the data itself.
For many corporations, protecting their trade secrets and intellectual property means implementing a data loss prevention (DLP) program -- encrypting the information, tracking when it leaves the company firewall, and alerting information-technology managers when users attempt to violate policy. Yet deploying and managing the technology is not easy, says Bill Munroe, vice president of marketing for data-security firm Verdasys. Typically, companies need a strong technical security team to keep DLP systems running.
Instead, some companies are turning to managed service providers or cloud services to help them quickly deploy the systems quickly and manage the policies more easily. Verdasys has eight customers, totaling 40,000 users, currently piloting its own cloud-based DLP service, Munroe says.
"The majority of customers have two or three or four security people, and they've looked at DLP in the past, but there was no way to do it," he says. "So they had no true data protections beyond some hard controls."
To deploy the technology, a customer just signs up and downloads software agents to each device to be protected. On average, a company takes about two weeks to get up and running on the Managed Service for Information Protection (MSIP) service, Munroe says. Companies pay anywhere from $6 per user per month for just monitoring data usage to $14 per user per month for user notification and encrypted file and e-mail services.
Customers not only escape the headaches of deploying and managing a DLP service, but also benefit from other customers' experiences. For example, signs of malware exfiltrating data can be added to the policies for the rest of the customer base.
[DLP isn't strictly a security project -- it's part of a broad data protection program that demands a co-existence of people and process with technology. See Tech Insight: Making Data Leak Prevention Work In The Enterprise.]
Verdasys is not alone in attempting to bring the benefits of the cloud service architecture to its customers. Last year, managed-service provider BEW Global announced a hybrid cloud solution, which used on-premise appliances to analyze enterprise data and cloud-based analysis and management.
Symantec, a major manufacturer of DLP technology, has seen a great deal of interest, as well. At the company's Vision user conference last year, Symantec offered a session on letting providers manage companies' DLP infrastructure. A standing-room-only crowd packed the room, says Robert Hamilton, director of product marketing of Symantec's DLP group.
Still, many companies are hesitant to expose any of their sensitive data to the cloud, he says.
"As we see companies moving to the cloud, it's a challenge to convince them to move their DLP into the cloud because the system handles the most sensitive information that a company has," he says.
Moreover, large companies that have a dozen or more members on their security teams may want to keep their DLP systems inside their network.
"The hardest thing about offering this as a service is getting the company comfortable," says Verdasys' Munroe, who added that most companies quickly acclimate when they see which data is leaving their perimeter. "It usually doesn't take more than a few weeks for us to find data leaving."
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