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Data loss prevention is a series of techniques used to protect the integrity of confidential information. This subset of computer security is aimed at preventing the unauthorized or inadvertent release of confidential materials stored in a computer system. Informational technology personnel usually build data loss prevention into the architecture of a computer system, and there are also utilities available for monitoring and protecting confidential data within a system.
This process involves identifying confidential data, seeing where it is stored, and monitoring it both while at rest and while in use. If data is stored in an unsafe location, it must be moved to a more secure area to limit the risk of loss. The data is also classified in terms of the grade of confidentiality and importance of the information so that appropriate data handling protocols can be put in place. The level of protection needed for low-level data will not be the same as that for more sensitive information.
In addition to operating within a computer system, data loss prevention also involves appropriate training for personnel who work with confidential data. They are advised about best practices when it comes to generating, handling, and storing data so they can keep the system as safe as possible. System users are also monitored to confirm compliance with company protocols and to identify data risks as soon as they develop. This can include the use of automatic logging of system activities, as well as manual monitoring when issues of concern arise.
Data loss prevention extends not just to internal security concerns, but also to regulatory compliance. A number of governments have passed regulations concerning the handling of certain types of confidential information, like patient medical records. The computer system and its users must comply with these regulations to avoid fines and other penalties. As regulations change, updates need to be made to the data loss prevention plan to address these shifting standards.
A strong data loss prevention system will limit release of information by system users, as well as protecting systems from hackers to reduce the risk of theft and release of data by outsiders. System audits are periodically performed to make sure the system is working and to find security holes before they are exploited. This proactive approach to computer security can sometimes involve onerous restrictions on the use of the system for users who do not pose a security threat, an unfortunate consequence of comprehensive security systems.