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Understanding and Guidance on Data Loss Prevention

Data loss prevention is ensuring that there is no data exfiltration, which is data that leaves the organization without authorization. A network specialist must be aware of the many vectors of data exfiltration and ways to prevent data loss. Weather data is at rest or in motion over the network, there are many vectors or methods whereby data can leave the organization.

Data Loss Threat Vectors

Vectors can include storage devices, email, missing or improper access controls, cloud storage, and malware.

Data loss can occur either by accident or as a result of a cyberattack.

Storage Devices

Storage devices include flash drives, external drives, and memory sticks for phones and cameras. The small devices are easily lost or stolen. And many times they don’t have any type of password protection or encryption.

Email and email attachments both contain sensitive information like a customer and personal data along with business information.


Someone can intercept an email or even send an email by mistake to the wrong person. Which could lead to data exfiltration. Or the victim might send information to a hacker as a result of a phishing or social engineering attack.


Email attachments are one of the original methods to send malware, spam, and bogus links, and continue to improve in sophistication. To minimize this attack vector, keep antivirus updated and educate users to use caution when opening attachments.

Mobile and other Personal Devices

Mobile and other personal devices many times only use one-factor authentication, such as a password or a patterned swipe. If someone were to get ahold of the device, they could gain unauthorized access to the company data.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage provides a great option for storing company data, the data is not local. However, you should protect it as if it were on the local network by using data encryption and access control.

Webpages and Pop-Ups

Webpages and pop-ups take advantage of the ability browsers have to access various programming languages such as JavaScript, ActiveX, and macros.

When clicked, the malware can install spyware, adware, hijackers, dialers, Trojans, or other malware. The best defense is to stay away from risky websites, online instant messaging, and peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.

Wireless Networks

Wireless networks are pervasive in today’s world and provide an attractive attack vector. The 802.11 standard or Wi-Fi is characteristically insecure. Educate clients not to join open access points such as the ones you find in coffee shops and airports.

It may be a hacker with a rogue Wi-Fi network used to gain information such as usernames and passwords. How this works is a hacker sets up a rogue access point called a Wi-Fi- Pineapple, Which appears to be a free access point, and gets victims to use the access point when traveling to a website. They intercept the traffic by using a technique called an SSL Strip and are able to view the communication stream.

The Weakest Link

The most vulnerable attack vector is the user, which is the weakest link in any system.

Over 600 million people worldwide have fallen victim to some form of cybercrime. That includes online scams, malware, and phishing attacks, credit card fraud, explicit content, and compromised social networking profiles.

Best Practices for Data Loss Prevention

Although humans can be our weakest link, the following steps can be taken to protect your data offline and online.

  1. Change your password often and
  2. Don’t use the same password for all sites
  3. Use encryption
  4. Don’t click on suspicious links
  5. Use caution when using public Wi-Fi networks
  6. Secure mobile devices
  7. Use access control and strong spam filters

Always remember that all good practices will help prevent data exfiltration.

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