Why you need cloud data loss prevention in your cybersecurity tech stack
Education has come a long way in recent years. From chalkboards and books to whiteboards and computers, K-12 classrooms have undergone constant reinvention.
Now, classroom learning has taken another leap – this time to the cloud. It’s true: More school systems are taking advantage of cloud technology than ever before. In fact, over 90% of K-12 schools currently use cloud applications, including Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.
And who can blame them? Cloud service providers like Google are a cost-effective asset to modern education. But, while there are many benefits to cloud storage, district IT leaders need to be aware of the unique data security risks in the cloud.
With data loss prevention (DLP) software, you don’t have to compromise. To help explain why cloud DLP is so vital to your school district, let’s dive into what cloud security is all about.
Securing your cloud data in Google Workspace
Before exploring the complexities of cloud security any further, let’s first address the basics. By now, you might be wondering: What exactly is cloud DLP?
Cloud DLP – that is, cloud data loss prevention – refers to the strategic process of protecting data placed in cloud storage. In other words, it’s about preventing any sensitive data created within or stored on any cloud service, like Google Workspace, from either accidentally or intentionally exiting the school district.
Notably, cloud data loss prevention is an extension of two previous DLP tools: endpoint and network DLP. So, how do they compare to one another? In simple terms, they’re broken down as follows:
- Endpoint: This type of DLP solution protects only data stored on endpoint devices. That means hardware such as computers, smartphones, and tablets.
- Network: Here, DLP software focuses its data protection efforts on communications made throughout the network. Network DLP focuses on unauthorized access coming from outside your network and between separate parts of your overall network.
- Cloud: Since cloud applications, like Google Workspace, don’t exist on your network, you need cloud DLP to monitor and protect access to data in the cloud, like Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Chat.
Benefits of a Google cloud DLP solution
When it comes to data protection, Google cloud DLP offers a number of substantial advantages:
- Deep integration with Google Workspace applications for optimal cloud security.
- An ability to audit historical data and categorize it based on sensitivity.
- It can scan your Google domain, including Gmail, Drive files, etc., for automated threat identification.
- You can monitor Google and third-party applications 24/7 and mitigate risks in near real time.
- It enhances your ability to enforce DLP rules throughout the district.
Why you need to protect your Google cloud environment
As one of the leading technology titans, it’s no surprise that the Google Workspace is the most commonly used cloud app in education. More than half of all K-12 schools use Google Workspace in some capacity, yet only 20% of cybersecurity budgets are being allocated to secure cloud data.
Simply put, this is a major problem. Why? Because it means that many school districts are leaving sensitive information exposed to prying eyes – a huge threat to student safety and industry noncompliance.
As if that’s not enough, cloud data in general has become a highly lucrative target for cybercriminals. According to K12 SIX, data breaches account for 36% of all school cyberattacks – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For example, take Florida’s Broward County School District. In 2021, ransomware hackers stole student and employee data and demanded a ransom of $10 million. When the district offered a lower payment, the hackers released 26,000 files online, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
What does this mean for your district? It’s simple: Your data is at risk and it’s time to start protecting it. But not just any DLP solution will do the trick. You need a near-native Google cloud DLP software that’s built specifically for Google Workspace.
How to protect data in your Google cloud environment
With a near-native solution for Google cloud DLP, you can optimize your district’s cloud security stack and improve data protection overall. To understand how Google cloud DLP operates, it’s perhaps best to focus on how data is protected at each point in your cloud infrastructure.
Once data is created in Google Workspace, cloud DLP security solutions recognize its presence. After identification, data is automatically classified based on sensitivity level using keyword and/or regex matching policies, image recognition scanning, and machine learning algorithms. In other words, your DLP solution categorizes data based on the level of risk associated with the information, such as personal, financial, or medical information. This helps you prioritize data protection efforts and keep the most sensitive information under lock and key.
Data at rest
Because your data has been appropriately classified by sensitivity, you can now apply DLP rules at your discretion. Take a Google doc, for example. You can determine which users – students, faculty, or other staff members – can access that document based on the content in it.
Data in motion
Let’s stick with the Google doc example. What happens if someone shares that document outside the district? Your DLP software automatically flags this as a DLP policy violation and quarantines the document immediately until further review.
This also applies to Gmail, Google chat, and other Google Workspace applications. When DLP policy violations occur – such as when a file containing sensitive information is improperly attached to an email – you’ll be notified for rapid remediation. Or, it can be remediated automatically, depending on how your DLP policies are set up.
Data in use
Content-aware cloud DLP will scan your Google environment for policy violations in real time. This includes documents that are actively being accessed, used, updated, or read. For example, it’s not uncommon for students to have conversations within a Google doc. If they share personally identifiable information, this will trigger an incident report and can be dealt with quickly.
This particular case is also helpful for districts that are concerned about students using Google Slides, Chat, Shared Drives, and Gmail for cyberbullying, sharing sexually explicit content, discussing suicide, and other types of safety behavior.
Best practices for Google cloud apps
Now that you know what cloud DLP has in store, let’s break down the best ways to keep every cloud app secure in your district. Here are a few helpful Google data loss prevention best practices to keep in mind:
- Set access controls and user permissions: These are rules that determine who can access certain types of data and how they’re allowed to be used and shared inside or outside the district – a must-have for all cloud environments.
- Define DLP actions: A predetermined set of actions will automatically decide how to mitigate risks when DLP rules have been violated. You can choose to send admins an alert, un-share externally shared files, warn end users, and many more.
- Audit your infrastructure: Perform a regular audit of your Google domain to assess your data protection efforts and get a read on potential vulnerabilities.
But the most important practice of all? Deploy a Google cloud DLP solution. It’s the best way to protect student data from falling into the wrong hands. At ManagedMethods, our out-of-the-box cloud security platform is fully equipped with everything you need to get a grip on your cloud environment.