Anybody that’s ever played a game of telephone knows that there’s no telling how information will be used once it’s passed from person to person. The same can be said about data.
After all, data is nothing if not information; information that can be used against your students in any number of malicious ways. With digital footprints growing at an exponential rate, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to control who accesses your data and, more importantly, how they choose to use it.
If there’s anything the digital age has taught us, it’s that information matters – but the way we share it matters even more. That’s why you need data loss prevention software that eliminates risk around every digital corner. Here, we’ll guide you through all there is to know about data loss prevention, how DLP software works, and what you can do to choose the best solution.
Data loss prevention (DLP) is the process of detecting and preventing a data breach, leak, or unwanted loss of sensitive data. In other words, DLP is all about ensuring that personal and confidential data – the type your district is full of – doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, whether it be accidental or intentional.
Think about it: With at least 1.7 MB of data created every second, it’s expected that by 2025 the world will create over 463 exabytes of data every single day. To put that in perspective, a single exabyte is 1,000 bytes to the sixth power.
Simply said, that’s a lot of data that needs to be protected. But what does this mean for you?
Consider the types of data your district is collecting (likely in large quantities):
Without adequate DLP software, you’re effectively leaving sensitive information exposed to outside forces.
Quite simply, data loss prevention software is any solution designed to perform critical data security and data loss protection activities.
There are three principal types of data loss prevention tools:
An endpoint protector monitors data being used, moved, or stored at any endpoint device. In other words, this type of software solution protects only the devices that access your sensitive data, such as servers, computers, or smartphones. Endpoint solutions, therefore, are an important DLP tool for districts that implement BYOD policies.
On the other hand, network DLP solutions track data use and communications that happen over your district’s networks, such as email. They scan subject lines, messages, attachments, and other content for risky data use.
Whereas network DLP protects sensitive information stored throughout the network, cloud DLP is specifically designed to protect data stored in the cloud. Given the rapid migration of data to cloud storage, it’s no wonder why cloud DLP is often referred to as the missing piece of the puzzle.
Cloud security is a must-have layer of data protection. Without cloud DLP, you lack the necessary insight into how students and staff are sharing information, not to mention how student data is used by third-party vendors.
Trick question – every organization stands to gain from data loss prevention. At the very least, any school district that values the safety, integrity, and privacy of their sensitive information should invest in a DLP solution.
According to our research in collaboration with EdWeek Research Center, over 90% of K-12 schools operate in the cloud, but only 50% have a dedicated cloud security platform.
Bottom line: Your district’s data is being targeted, if not under attack already. You need the final layer of security that can seal the deal on data loss.
Generally speaking, a data loss prevention solution has a lot of effective tools in its box. Let’s take a closer look at the most common DLP software actions:
The best part about cloud DLP? You can leverage artificial intelligence to automate data loss prevention at your discretion. Here’s how:
1. DLP policy enforcement
By creating a DLP policy – or, in simpler terms, a rule – you dictate the way your data can be accessed, shared, or deleted. In turn, your DLP solution can monitor risks according to these parameters.
2. File matching
Data loss prevention tools “fingerprint” sensitive information from indexed sources and can identify when files are being improperly shared or duplicated.
3. Image scanning
Using optical character recognition, DLP tools scan image files for DLP policy violations, such as content that includes personally identifiable information, social security, or credit card numbers.
4. Third-party risk identification
DLP software can identify SaaS applications that put your confidential data at risk. Remember, there’s no telling how effectively a third-party vendor enforces their security policy. That’s why the best DLP tools eliminate third-party risk wherever possible.
What happens when a risk has been identified? To streamline mitigation, DLP software automatically handles threats until they can be manually assessed by an administrator. With cloud DLP, you can:
1. Revoke sharing privileges
DLP software can automatically revoke a user’s ability to share documents if their behavior violates a DLP policy.
2. Suspend users
DLP tools can also automatically suspend access rights to certain documents while you manually assess the situation.
3. Quarantine content
Communications that contain risky or sensitive information can be intercepted for further review – a major asset for monitoring a large amount of user activity.
Let’s face it: Data loss prevention isn’t easy for any organization, your school district included. With no shortage of endpoints scattered across your infrastructure, there’s plenty of opportunity for a risk to arise. When it comes to mitigating those weaknesses, data monitoring is the name of the game.
But before you can monitor your data, you need to know what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at the top threats – both external and internal – you should be aware of.
Student data is a lucrative target for cybercriminals. In fact, cybercriminals target the education sector nearly 10 times as much as any other industry, according to Microsoft. Here’s how they do it:
1. Phishing scams
Using either email or text message communication, scammers attempt to impersonate reputable sources to obtain personally identifiable information from their victims. With the information they trick you into providing, they may attempt to steal passwords, login credentials, and other sensitive information.
If you’ve ever come across a suspicious link or webpage, you may have encountered a malware trap. This brand of attack installs itself onto your system and executes unauthorized actions, usually to extract personal and financial information. Ransomware, a specific type of malware, is specifically designed to steal sensitive data so that it can be used as leverage against the victim.
3. Account takeovers
As a form of identity theft and fraud, account takeovers occur when malicious third parties obtain access to your personal login information. In doing so, scammers can change credentials, steal financial data, or even send out phishing emails from the stolen account.
4. Third-party apps
Although not necessarily malicious, third-party applications pose a significant risk to your confidential data if their security policy is compromised. In other words, even if your side of the data is protected, there’s no telling how secure theirs is. That’s why you need a solution that can eliminate the use of unauthorized third-party services.
Cybercriminals are just one side of the story. What about your students and staff members? How are they using your data? Who are they sharing information with?
Simply put, there are plenty of ways internal activity may lead to a data leak. To minimize that risk, consider the possibilities:
1. Improper file sharing
The reality is that modern education necessitates file sharing, but it also raises a serious question: Which files are being shared with whom? If a student or staff member accidentally shares a document with an unintended recipient, they risk leaking sensitive information that could violate student privacy.
2. Insider threats
Insider DLP risk is probably the most underrated concern in schools. 84% of accidental data leaks are caused by internal staff members – but a school data leak is only accidental 25% of the time. In other words, you can’t discount the possibility of malicious intent from an insider, whether it be for financial gain or any other nefarious purpose.
Take the recent case of one Texas school district as an example, where a couple of “curious” students were able to access and steal 800,000 student and staff records. The data included PII such as names, addresses, phone numbers, SSNs, birthdates, and more.
Being able to detect insider DLP risk indicators is critical for school districts, but it’s also relatively difficult to do, particularly in the cloud.
3. Unapproved third-party apps and browser extensions
Students and staff may be tempted to install third-party apps, such as browser extensions, onto a device without consent of the administrator. Without properly vetting third-party vendors, you risk exposing your data to outsiders or malicious threats.
4. Text and image content
Not only can text and image content contain personally identifiable information, but it can also indicate self-harm, cyberbullying, or other forms of student violence. Although not necessarily a risk to data leakage, such content could threaten student safety.
When it comes to protecting student data, you deserve a DLP software that packs a punch. With added cloud security, you elevate your data loss prevention solution to the next level.
And best of all? The benefits speak for themselves:
1. Reduced cost
Because most cloud DLP solutions are subscription-based, they’re often much more affordable than traditional data protection services. This is an invaluable asset for school districts operating on a tight budget.
2. No need to babysit your data
Automation allows administrators to focus on other critical tasks with the assurance that their DLP software is protecting data in the background.
3. Customizable policies
It’s your data, you get to set the rules. DLP policies are completely customizable to your district’s needs and chosen criteria.
4. Centralized dashboards
Say goodbye to the frustration of jumping between multiple tabs. All of your data loss prevention tools are accessible in a single, user-friendly window.
5. Completely integrated DLP
The best cloud DLP solutions are built on an open architecture of APIs. In other words, no browser extension, proxy, gateway, or installation is needed. The result? Complete out-of-the-box functionality.
6. 24/7/365 continuous visibility
Data never sleeps, so why should your security solution? With cloud DLP, your sensitive information is never left unattended or unprotected.
7. Safety signals
AI scans for explicit text and image content that could indicate self-harm, cyberbullying, physical threats, and other forms of student violence, immediately alerting school administrators for rapid assessment.
8. Real-time alerts
With instant DLP policy alerts, you’ll be able to proactively mitigate threats, risks, and other anomalies before it’s too late. The best part? There’s no disruption to the end-user, meaning learning experiences are never interrupted.
9. Compliance made simple
Student data privacy laws are a necessary part of data collection. As a school district, you’re obligated to do everything you can to keep confidential data out of harm’s way. Cloud DLP provides the confidence you need to meet regulatory requirements.
In terms of cybersecurity, there’s nothing more important than protecting your district’s most sensitive information. But not just any data loss prevention software will do the trick – you need a solution that closes every gap and meets every requirement.
To help you identify the right DLP solution for your needs, consider the following questions:
Is this solution customizable?
No two school districts are exactly the same. Even the slightest difference in policy can leave a big impact on data loss prevention.
The ManagedMethods platform allows you to define your own criteria, set your own rules, and manage the risk your way. In other words, it’s a completely customizable and integrated DLP solution.
Does this platform protect student privacy?
Data privacy in schools is a critical issue in today’s interconnected schools. At the end of the day, no DLP solution is worthwhile if it violates student privacy. Be sure that your chosen platform isn’t misusing personal information in any way before making a final decision.
ManagedMethods does not copy, backup, or retain student information and is certified FERPA, COPPA, and CPSC compliant.
Is this solution easily deployed (and can it be tested)?
Data loss prevention doesn’t need to be a frustrating experience. You need a solution that can be easily implemented without a time-consuming and cumbersome installation process.
Because the ManagedMethods platform is entirely cloud-based, it can be quickly activated within minutes. Better yet, you can try it for 30 days before making a purchase.
“Give ManagedMethods a try! I recommend it to other districts that are looking for this type of solution. The free trial is full-blown, so you’re truly able to demo the full product before you buy. And it’s absolutely worth it to help keep our kids safe.”
— Wes Rhodes, Network Administrator, Lenoir City Schools