Understanding Data Loss: Causes, Prevention, and Best Practices

Team Zluri

15th March, 2023

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Data is the backbone of every organization. The loss of important files, from personal information to business-critical data, can be devastating. Unfortunately, data loss is common, with causes ranging from human error to technical failures. 

To prevent such losses, it is essential to understand the causes, prevention techniques, and best practices for safeguarding data. 

Data loss refers to any process or event that leads to data being destroyed, erased, or made unreadable by a user and/or program or application. It is when information is destroyed intentionally or accidentally and can be caused by people or processes inside or outside of an organization. 

For example, when your system gets corrupt, and the hardware is damaged, you lose access to files stored inside. This is a typical data loss situation, and it can also happen over the cloud for multiple reasons. When you fail to back up your data in such cases, you permanently lose access to them.

This is just one scenario, and there can be several other instances as well with severe consequences. 

In this article, we will delve into the most common causes of data loss, and explore the best practices to prevent data loss. 

What Are The Common Causes Of Data Loss?

Data loss has various causes; understanding them is crucial to prevent and mitigate their impact effectively. Some common causes of data loss include

  1. Software malfunction/ corrupted software: When software malfunctions or becomes corrupted, it can cause errors and crashes, leading to subsequent data loss. The corruption can occur due to software code bugs, conflicts between software programs, or even malicious attacks such as viruses or malware. 

  2. Accidental deletion or data overwriting: Accidental deletion or data overwriting are common causes of data loss that can significantly impact individuals and businesses. Accidental deletion can happen when files are deleted by mistake or when they are moved to the Recycle Bin and then permanently deleted without being restored. 

    Overwriting data occurs when new data is written to the same location on a storage device where existing data is stored. This can happen accidentally, such as when two files with the same name are saved in the same location or intentionally.

  3. Malware and viruses: Malware and viruses can cause significant damage to computers and storage devices, leading to data loss. Some types of malware, such as ransomware, can encrypt files, making them inaccessible unless a ransom is paid. Other types of malware can corrupt files, making them unreadable or unusable. 

    Some types of malware can corrupt the operating system, making it impossible to boot up the computer and access the data on the hard drive. 

  4. Power outages and surges: Power outages and power surges are other common causes of data loss. A sudden power outage can cause data loss by shutting down your computer or storage device without warning, leading to data loss.

    A power surge occurs when an electrical current increases, which can damage or destroy electronic devices, including computers and storage devices. In addition, it can cause damage to the hard drive or other components, resulting in data loss.

  5. Natural disasters: Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires can cause significant damage to electronic devices and storage devices, resulting in data loss. 

  6. Wearing out or sudden failure of hard drives: Hard drives are common storage devices used in computers and other electronic devices to store data. Over time, the mechanical components of a hard drive can wear out, causing the hard drive to fail. 

    When a hard drive fails, it can result in losing all the stored data. The read/write head is responsible for reading and writing data to and from the hard drive. If the read/write head fails or becomes misaligned, it can cause the hard drive to be unable to read or write data correctly, resulting in data loss. 

  7. Cyber attacks & data theft: Cyber attacks and data theft pose a significant threat to organizations. Cybercriminals can gain unauthorized access to sensitive data through various methods, such as hacking, phishing, or malware attacks. Once they gain access, they can steal or corrupt the data, causing data loss. 

As we have discussed all the common causes of data loss, let's explore what DLP is and how it can help organizations safeguard their valuable data.

What Is Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of security measures and technologies designed to prevent the loss, theft, or unauthorized access of sensitive data. DLP ensures that sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial data, or intellectual property, is protected from exposure or misuse.

DLP typically involves a combination of technical and non-technical measures to prevent data loss. Technical measures may include encryption, access controls, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and data backup and recovery. Non-technical measures may include policies and procedures dictating how sensitive data is handled and employee training and awareness programs to ensure employees understand the importance of protecting sensitive data.

It can be implemented at various organizational levels, such as at the network, application, or endpoint levels. For example, network-level DLP may involve monitoring network traffic to identify and block attempts to transfer sensitive data outside of the network. At the same time, endpoint-level DLP may involve installing software agents on individual devices to monitor and control the use of sensitive data on those devices.

DLP is crucial for organizations of all sizes and in all industries, as data breaches can have significant financial, legal, and reputational consequences. By implementing DLP measures, organizations can reduce the risk of data loss and protect their sensitive data.

Best Practices To Follow For Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

(DLP) is critical to any organization's information security strategy. With the increasing volume and value of data, protecting sensitive data has become a top priority for businesses of all sizes. To effectively prevent the unauthorized or accidental leakage of sensitive data, it is essential to implement best practices in DLP. 

Here are some of the best practices for data loss prevention that organizations can use to safeguard their valuable data and protect against potential security threats.

1. Follow a thorough analysis to identify & classify sensitive data

A critical component of effective data loss prevention (DLP) is the identification and classification of sensitive data. This crucial task involves defining the level of confidentiality for all data within the organization, including data shared with external vendors, partners, and third-party platforms, as well as data received from them.

With thorough analysis, identify the data types that are most critical to your organization and set policies to manage and protect them. This includes personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property (IP), financial data, and other confidential information.

After that, classify data based on its sensitivity level and apply appropriate security controls to each classification. This can be done by using labels or tags to indicate the level of sensitivity and access controls to limit who can view, edit, or share the data.

To ensure comprehensive protection, conducting a thorough identification and classification process for all the data present in your organization is essential, allowing for better management and control of potential risks and vulnerabilities.

2. Implement robust encryption measures to protect sensitive data

Data encryption is a powerful tool for data loss prevention (DLP), as it can help protect sensitive information from being accessed or viewed by unauthorized parties. Encryption is the process of converting data into a code or cipher, rendering it unreadable and unusable without the correct decryption key.

All important business data must be encrypted, whether it's at rest (when it's being stored) or in transit (passing through a network). To keep sensitive data safe, portable devices must use encrypted disc solutions.

By encrypting sensitive data, organizations can effectively prevent data loss in the event of a breach, as the encrypted data will be unreadable to anyone without the proper authorization. Furthermore, even if a hacker gains access to the encrypted data, they cannot understand it without the decryption key, providing an extra layer of protection.

3. Educate stakeholders about data risks & vulnerabilities

Educating stakeholders is a critical aspect of data loss prevention (DLP), as it helps raise awareness of potential risks and vulnerabilities and empowers individuals to protect sensitive data actively. Stakeholders may include employees, contractors, vendors, partners, and customers, all of whom handle and manage sensitive information.

By educating stakeholders about DLP best practices, organizations can help create a culture of security where everyone understands the importance of protecting sensitive data and takes responsibility for safeguarding it. This can help reduce the risk of human error, such as accidental data breaches or leaks caused by improper handling of sensitive information.

Overall, educating stakeholders is an essential part of a comprehensive DLP strategy, as it helps ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page when it comes to protecting sensitive data, reducing the risk of data breaches, and maintaining the trust of customers and partners.

4. Monitor data usage & access by users

Monitoring data is a critical step in data loss prevention (DLP), as it can help organizations detect and prevent potential data breaches before they occur. In addition, by monitoring data, organizations can gain visibility into how data is accessed, used, and shared and identify any abnormal or suspicious activities that may indicate a potential security threat.

Organizations can quickly detect security incidents by monitoring data access and usage, such as attempted unauthorized access, suspicious login attempts, or abnormal data transfers. This allows organizations to take immediate action to prevent data loss before significant damage is done.

Further, it provides valuable insights into how data is being used and shared within the organization, allowing for continuous improvement of data management and security practices.

5. Use role-based access controls to manage access to organizations' data & applications

Role-based access control (RBAC) can be a useful practice in preventing data loss by controlling access to sensitive information. By assigning specific roles to individuals or groups within an organization, RBAC limits access to sensitive data to only those with a legitimate need for it.

RBAC defines different access levels based on job functions, responsibilities, and authority levels. For example, an employee in the human resources department might have access to sensitive employee data, while an employee in the IT department might have access to confidential system information. RBAC ensures that individuals only have access to the information needed to perform their job functions. 

In addition, RBAC can also help organizations monitor and audit data access. RBAC systems often include logging and reporting features that can track who has accessed what data and when. This information can be used to identify potential security threats and to improve data protection policies and procedures.

Overall, RBAC can effectively prevent data loss by controlling access to sensitive data and monitoring data access. By limiting access to only those who need it, organizations can reduce the risk of data loss and improve their overall security posture.

How Zluri Helps You In Data Loss Prevention? 

Zluri is an efficient SMP (SaaS Management Platform) that can provide you with measures to prevent data loss in the future. How? You might winder!

It provides a centralized view of all the cloud-based applications used in an organization. This helps identify and track all the SaaS app's data, who has access to it, and how it is being used. This visibility can help identify data risks and vulnerabilities and enable proactive mitigation. 

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But, how will you get complete visibility of your organization's SaaS stack? Worry not! Zluri has you covered.

It's considered one of the best discovery engines out there with its 5 unique discovery methods, including- SSO and IDP, finance and expense management systems, direct integration with apps, desktop agents (optional), and browser extensions (optional).

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So, how can data loss take place even after having a 360-degree view of your SaaS stack? Well, not every platform provides you with this feature, and thus, many of you end up making human errors. For instance, manually revoking access while offboarding multiple employees. Do you, as an IT admin, assure that you revoked all the app access that each offboarded employee had? Maybe not!

However, you can stay assured of the same with Zluri. Its automated de-provisioning feature resolves this issue by allowing IT teams to revoke access in just a few clicks quickly:

  1. Zluri removes users' ability to sign in from all their devices.

  2. It copies their data and transfers it to another user before removing their access.

  3. It removes the user's access from the application.

So, no chance of data loss!

Is that all? No! There's more

Zluri can also help with risk assessment by identifying data risks associated with each cloud-based application used in an organization. It provides a comprehensive view of the security risks associated with SaaS applications. This includes identifying high-risk applications, data-sharing policies, and access permissions. Based on these risks, administrators can take necessary actions to prevent data loss or unauthorized access.

Zluri considers four key factors when calculating the risk score: Events, data shared, compliance, and security probes. Here is a detailed preview of how these factors help in calculating the risk score:

1. Events: Zluri keeps a close eye on recent security breaches related to SaaS applications and adjusts the risk score accordingly. This ensures that your organization is always up-to-date on the latest security threats.

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2. Data shared: Zluri evaluates the level of risk associated with a particular scope based on the sensitivity of the data that the application has access to. This helps identify high-risk applications with access to critical data such as Google Drive files.

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3. Compliance: Zluri considers compliance with various regulations when determining the security of an application. SaaS applications that comply with major global regulations, like Slack, are considered more secure.

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4. Security Probes: Zluri collects security information by scanning from third-party websites like ssllabs, Immuniweb, and imirhil. It then calculates a weighted average of these security grades to provide a clear, easy-to-understand security rating on its dashboard, rated from A (highly secure) to F (low security).

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Risk level calculation involves 70% of Events + Data Shared + Security Probes and 30% Compliance. Based on these variables, Zluri assigns a security score from 1 to 5, with 1 and 2 indicating minimal risk, 3 medium risk, and 4,5 severe risk. 

With Zluri, you can rest assured that your organization's SaaS applications are being evaluated using the latest security standards and best practices, enabling you to make informed decisions and protect your valuable data.

So, what are you waiting for?

 Try it out today!

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