Q & A: DLP for the rest of us

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Richard Turner, CEO of Clearswift speaks about the security industry’s most hyped concepts: Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

What’s the big deal about DLP?
Data Loss has become one of the most critical fronts in the security war. It’s a major problem and it’s not getting any smaller.

You see it in the big headlines nearly every week -- companies and government departments losing millions of records at a time. Patient records. Credit card data. Passwords and identities. It’s the nightmare scenario for every boardroom as its consequences can be financial, reputational and legal.

And given the lack of data breach disclosure legislation in a number of markets, for every story that breaks there are dozens that never hit the headlines.

We commissioned a fairly robust survey recently and found that 96 percent of Australian CIOs rate data loss issues as anywhere from ‘important’ to ‘imperative’. DLP, given the value of an organisations information asset and the ease with which it can be compromised, is clearly front-of-mind.

What causes data loss?
Four top causes account for the vast majority of data leaks: accidental disclosure, malware, hackers and trusted insiders. There are other vectors, but these are the big ones and they all rely on getting data out through two big highways: e-mail and the Web.

You’ve been rather outspoken about the recent wave of DLP hype in the marketplace. Why is that?

Well, I don’t think there are many companies out there who aren’t developing DLP strategies right now. So it is a big issue.

But what I object to is the way the industry tends to fan the flames of an issue like DLP, so that it can sell over-engineered, enterprise-wide solutions that promise the Moon but cost the Earth (and tend not to deliver on the promise).

Today’s ‘pure-play’ DLP costs anywhere from hundreds of thousands dollars and takes months to deploy and an army to manage and maintain. For the vast majority of enterprises at risk, that’s just not going to happen.

Much can be done with the establishment of good policies, workforce training and the use of technologies that many companies already have in their infrastructure

What would you tell someone who wants to prevent leaks but can’t afford the massive DLP solutions?
Close the obvious doors first. E-mail and Web traffic are two of the most common vectors of data loss. If you aren’t applying rigorous policy at these gateways, the most expensive DLP solution in the world can’t help you.

If you’ve got e-mail and Web covered, you can start looking at other vectors. But these are the barn doors and for most organisations, they’re still wide

Richard Turner is the CEO of Clearswift, the market leader in policy-based content security. Richard joined Clearswift in 2008 from his previous role as Vice President, EMEA for RSA, the security division of EMC.
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