Data loss prevention, or DLP, aims to secure computer data while it's in use, while it's in motion across networks, and while it's being stored, using a combination of encryption, content analysis, and role-based access controls.
Done successfully, it allows organizations to protect data in accordance with information security policies and to meet compliance and corporate governance requirements.
But too many organizations protect their data poorly or not at all. The number of data breaches in 2008 has already exceeded the number reported for 2007, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. And last year's total exceeded the number of data breaches reported in 2006.
"It's a problem that exists pretty much no matter where you look," said Chris Young, senior VP at RSA. "Governments in all parts of the world are starting to get involved."
The integration of DLP technology into Microsoft's platform will take place over many years. It will help make Microsoft's software content-aware, a necessary step for giving organizations more control over business-related content.
In the near term, the Microsoft-RSA arrangement will connect RSA's DLP Suite 6.5 with Microsoft Active Directory Rights Management Services in Windows Server 2008. This will allow organizations to implement DLP using established employee identities and access rights.
"For the first time, customers will be able to link together data access and use policies," said Douglas Leland, general manager of Microsoft's Identity and Security Business Group.
Leland characterizes the initiative as an effort to deal with the cost and complexity of deploying "point solutions."
Rich Mogull, founder of security consultancy Securosis, characterized the partnership as "a good start" and observed that "it could lead to opportunities for the other [DLP] vendors as well."
"First, it validates the DLP market and will likely help grow the overall market," he explained. "Second, unless Microsoft locks the other vendors out once they deploy the content aware/DLP technology, the other vendors might be able to use it themselves at some point down the road."