Guy Bunker
Guy Bunker

Could 2015 be the year that Data Loss Prevention (DLP) becomes truly mainstream? A survey of 200 UK data managers by Clearswift has shown that around half of organisations already have DLP solutions in place, and of those that don't, more than 80 percent are looking to implement them over the next 12 months.

And yet DLP is nothing new. The phrase first hit the security lexicon in the mid 2000s. However, even today DLP often leaves a 'bad taste' in the mouths of IT managers and end users as false positives raise operational costs and stop business. IT managers are left to either switch it off to keep the business happy but increase the risk of a breach or continue as is with increasing frustration among the employees who are forced to bypass the security mechanisms, also raising the chance of a breach

The 'second coming' for particular technologies is a familiar story in IT - virtualisation or cloud technologies are good recent examples whilst at the start of the millennium there is customer relations management software. CRM's inital fall from grace was so significant that in 2003 Gartner estimated that more than £1.3 billion (US$ 2 billion) had been spent on software that was not being used.  And yet eventually CRM came roaring back with the emergence of innovative products such as Salesforce.

If innovations like Salesforce turned things around for CRM, what has changed for DLP to reinvigorate the market? Well it seems the initial factors come not from the technology itself but the realities of doing business in 2015.

In a post-Snowdon world, concerns over the nature of the security threat are changing. This is with good reason - while hackers and malevolent outsiders still account for a large number of data breaches, insider threats are increasingly common and yet security spend on them is minimal in comparison to the external ones. Data breach investigations reports from the likes of Verizon have reported growth of more than 10 percent year on year in internal breaches in recent years. It is not just the malicious insider which causes the breach; it is also the everyday employee who makes a mistake. Whilst the motivations might be different, the outcome is the same. And yet business imperatives to increase collaboration create a greater need for information to be shared.

Changes are also afoot in the regulatory framework, with security professionals across Europe facing the introduction of new, more stringent EU rules around the control of personal information, with fines of up to two percent of global turnover ready to be handed out to those who don't comply. DLP is a key part of the solution to prevent data breaches and ensuring compliance.

A third factor is the use of new social messaging and cloud collaboration platforms, including so-called Enterprise 2.0 software, which is emerging as business critical but under the IT radar, Shadow IT. Operating beyond the firewall, external platforms such as Twitter, Skype and Drop-box, present new challenges for securely sharing information, without increasing risk.

This combination of human, political and technology drivers is changing the way we do business and creating a more fertile environment for the re-emergence of data loss prevention technologies a decade after they first came to market. However, without a change in DLP technology, the problems of adoption remain. The eventual success of CRM can provide lessons in how to meet this emerging market demand with new technologies that will deliver where those before have failed.

What it is abundantly clear is that any new technology that requires a major overhaul of existing infrastructure is likely to fail. Salesforce pioneered a new ease of implantation within CRM resulting in much faster return on investment whilst lowering the skills required for adoption; factors which new DLP solutions must overcome to demonstrate their potential to deliver higher ROI's faster. Adaptive DLP solutions do just this, integrating into the existing environment, protecting against new threats, while driving down the operational costs with distributed management and functionality to reduce or remove false positives.

Whilst DLP's time to become ubiquitous may very well be upon us, its future success can only be guaranteed if solutions can work with existing business IT and security systems, be simple to deploy and easy to manage. Only by addressing the needs of the business, whilst enabling secure continuous collaboration, will DLP allow CIOs to sleep at night, knowing that critical information is being kept safe and in compliance with legislation.

Contributed by Dr Guy Bunker, chief technology officer, Clearswift Ltd