Data leakage prevention best practices for collaborative teams

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Collaboration thrives on information exchange. But with documents, emails, and files flying back and forth between team members, there’s an increased risk of sensitive data accidentally or maliciously getting into the wrong hands. Sending something to the wrong recipient accounts for 43% of breaches caused by miscellaneous errors, per a Verizon study

With robust data leakage prevention best practices in place, you mitigate the risk of breaches within your organization, without compromising collaboration. 

Alt text: Why collaborative work might increase data leakage risks

What is data leakage prevention (DLP)? 

Data leak prevention refers to the strategies and tools to safeguard sensitive data from unauthorized access and unintended disclosure. DLP has three key areas of focus: 

  • Data identification: DLP software helps classify content based on its sensitivity (e.g., financial records, customer information, intellectual property) so it can prioritize data security and compliance efforts 
  • Data monitoring: DLP tools monitor how teams use, transfer, and store data throughout its lifecycle — for example, scanning documents for sensitive keywords or tracking file movements across devices 
  • Data control: When your DLP solution detects a potential leak (for example, an employee trying to share a confidential document externally), it can take an action such as blocking the transfer, encrypting the data, or sending an alert for further investigation 

Understand the difference between a data breach and a data leak.

Making the case for DLP policies 

Following data leakage prevention best practices is particularly important for collaborative teams, whose work involves sharing files across departments and even external partners. Here’s why you need DLP policies. 

  • Mistakes happen. A team member might accidentally attach a confidential document to the wrong email or share a folder with a wider audience than intended. 
  • Neglect can play a role, too. Improperly configuring access controls or forgetting to encrypt files contributes to unintended data exposure. 
  • Not all leaks are accidental. Team members with malicious intent could deliberately try to steal or share sensitive data. 

According to a security report, misconfigurations, malware/ransomware, and compromised accounts are the most concerning vectors for data leakage in the cloud. With DLP policies, you implement measures and best practices to minimize these risks. 

Another reason for concern is the increasingly sophisticated cyber threat landscape. Cybercriminals are constantly developing more intricate ways to breach corporate systems and steal confidential data. Per the State of Ransomware 2023 report, two-thirds of organizations were hit by this type of attack in 2023. In three out of 10 cases where data was encrypted, attackers also stole the data. 

Most concerning vectors for data leakage in the cloud

Watch our webinar to learn how to protect your files from ransomware

How to prevent data leakage: 10 best practices 

IBM reports that 51% of organizations are planning to boost security investments as a result of a data breach. If you’re revamping your cybersecurity efforts, start with data leakage prevention best practices. 

  1. Centralize your data in the cloud. Managing all your content from one secure, all-inclusive location enables you to implement stricter data loss prevention measures, compared to managing security on individual devices. With enterprise-grade file-sharing solutions, you benefit from advanced security and compliance mechanisms to prevent data leakage or loss. 
  2. Encrypt data. Apply encryption to sensitive data at rest and in transit to protect it from unauthorized access. With this DLP feature, you essentially make your files useless to anyone who shouldn’t have access to them. Even in the unfortunate event of a breach, the stolen information remains protected. 
  3. Enforce strong authentication mechanisms. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Require users to create complex passwords (with minimum length requirements and a mix of character types). Take advantage of single sign-on (SSO) methods, which eliminate the need to create and remember unique passwords for various applications. 
  4. Establish robust data access policies. Define clear access controls based on roles and responsibilities within your organization. Follow the security principle of least privilege and restrict access to data to only those who require it for their job functions. 
  5. Monitor and audit data access. Track user activities and system events to identify signs of anomalous behavior. Regularly review access logs and audit trails to detect potential incidents and unauthorized access attempts. 
  6. Regularly update and patch systems. Conduct regular vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate security weaknesses that could lead to potential exploits. 
  7. Secure endpoints: Safeguard laptops, desktops, and mobile phones — critical entry points for breaches — with endpoint security (such as antivirus software). By establishing a device trust list, you prevent unintentional data loss by blocking access from devices that are not authorized or approved for access. 
  8. Provide employee training. Educate your team on data protection best practices, including the importance of handling enterprise content with care and understanding potential data leakage risks. 
  9. Classify your content automatically. Use data leakage prevention policies to identify regulated and proprietary information and label it accordingly. Data classification helps you comply with regulatory requirements (such as HIPAA) that govern the protection of personally identifiable information (PII). 
  10. Automate DLP enforcement. Leverage machine-learning-powered data leak prevention software to monitor, detect, and prevent unauthorized data transfers or access. Configure your DLP solution to enforce compliance and block the transmission of sensitive data. For example, you can automatically restrict downloads by external collaborators. 

Explore the best features of cloud-based collaboration tools

Protect your content with our native data leakage prevention solution 

Box prevents data leakages without compromising your collaborative work. With the Content Cloud, you manage all your enterprise files — from contracts to notes — from one centralized location. File encryption and strong access control (MFA, SSO, fine-grained permissions, and password controls) ensure you easily and securely share documents with others. 

With a system of manual and automated security classification for content and classification-based access policies, Box Shield helps prevent data leaks. Only authorized users can access specific data types. Box also offers additional leak protection controls to restrict access based on trusted devices and authorized locations. 

Our native DLP features and threat detection technology use machine learning to alert in case of suspicious activities or the presence of malware. And vector-based watermarking embeds invisible identifiers within data, enabling the detection of unauthorized leaks even if the data has been modified. 

Get in touch, and we’ll help you align your business with data leakage prevention best practices.

Call to action to contact Box to protect your data from leaks

While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blog post is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.

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