The Cloud and Data Loss: How to Protect Your Organization's Critical Data

Data loss can be extremely damaging for a business, affecting the reputation of your brand, as well as financial losses from lawsuits, fines for non-compliance, and theft of intellectual property. Data loss prevention (DLP) is the set of practices and tools that work to prevent data leakage, consisting of encryption, detection, preventative measures, educational pop-ups, and Machine Learning to identify vulnerabilities. Encompassing managed services, cloud capabilities, and enhanced threat protection, the increase in data breach has led to a surge in DLP to protect sensitive data.

The cloud can assist DLP, and cloud data loss prevention should be one of the top goals when managing risks with cloud storage. Email data loss prevention is a type of DLP that attempts to stop data loss caused by email transmission. This article will discuss how cloud email security not only correlates to data loss prevention, but how it plays a crucial role in helping keep an organization’s sensitive or critical information safe from cyberattacks, insider threats, and accidental exposure. 

Email Security Is A Necessary Component

Cloud email security solutions are designed to provide comprehensive protection against email-borne cyber threats. Cloud email security includes functionality, such as compliant archiving, and secures messaging with email encryption, to help these organizations stay compliant. Effective email protection is dependent on defense in depth, with multiple layers of security working harmoniously to detect and block threats in real-time, building on each other to provide stronger, more resilient protection than any of these features would on its own.

Email DLP tools monitor a company’s email communications to determine whether data is at risk of loss or theft. There are several methods of email DLP, all of which attempt to monitor data sent and received via email, detect suspicious email activity, and flag or block email activity that leads to data loss. As email is the most common method of corporate communication email DLP plays an important role in a security strategy. Email DLP can be used to help minimize human error, which is the most likely way sensitive information is exposed, whether by accident, neglect, or malicious intent. Email DLP has been a critical security component, especially for organizations that are subject to compliance audits.

email securitySeveral data loss methods with the goal of data exfiltration include ransomware, spear phishing, business Email Compromise (BEC), malicious attachments, vendor or third-party compromise, and corporate spying. Email data loss can have dire consequences, some common indicators that your data might have been exposed include:

  • Unusual Mail Rules: an employee auto-forwarding business emails to their personal email address or sending company emails to personal accounts can be a red flag. 
  • Wrong Recipients: accidentally replacing even one letter of the recipient’s email address means your company’s financial report was sent to a stranger or a competitor.
  • Suspicious Download Activity: be on the lookout for activities that don’t fit the pattern of normal behavior.
  • Confidential Data Leaks: employees may share confidential documents containing customer data with an unapproved third-party analyst, sometimes intentionally.
  • Suspicious or Anomalous Email Activity: unusual behavior can be a sign of sensitive or confidential data loss, such as sending a large number of emails outside of business hours

Supplementary Methods of Protection

Establishing email security best practices and training employees on the dangers of email data breach is always a good idea. However, there is more that your organization can do beyond proper security training and education. Email DLP software adds an extra layer of protection by monitoring, detecting, and taking action to prevent the malicious or unintended sharing of sensitive data over email: blocking emails from being sent, encrypting sensitive data within email communications with unauthorized recipients, and deleting emails across mailboxes.

Another method of prevention is to use multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a type of security technology that requires multiple pieces of authentication to confirm a user’s identity for logins and other transactions. MFA works by combining the user’s credentials to confirm the user logging into the account is the owner. An MFA scheme involves requiring a user to provide additionSupplementary Methods of Protectional factors of authentication, such as after entering a password, the authentication scheme might require them to provide a login prompt sent to their mobile device or a fingerprint before they can access their account. MFA helps to protect access to an authorized account, even in instances where malicious actors compromise the corresponding username and password. 

Likewise, phishing-resistant MFA is a process that is immune from attempts to compromise or wear down the authentication process commonly achieved through phishing attacks. This sometimes includes other attacks, such as spear phishing, brute force attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, replay attacks, and credential stuffing. This type of MFA requires not only proof of your identity but also intent through deliberate action. Passwords, SMS, and other One-Time Passwords (OTP), security questions, and even push notifications, contrary to popular belief, are not considered phishing-resistant mechanisms as they are all susceptible to some or all of the attacks previously listed.

How To Optimize Cloud Data Protection For Your Business

Basic protocols, such as using strong and unique passwords, are an important first step in your security strategy, however, there are several other techniques that can help improve your cloud implementation and DLP efforts. Some best practices to prevent data loss in the cloud and ensure essential tasks are completed include:

Train Your Employees

You can reduce insider data loss by training users on security policies and common social engineering scams, such as phishing attempts. Human error is a leading cause in data being compromised when faced with social engineering attacks or lack of proper education.

Security Monitoring

Cyber security threat monitoring detects threats and data breach. IT infrastructure monitoring is a crucial part of cyber risk management, enabling organizations to detect cyber-attacks as they emerge and respond to them before they cause damage. This will help the business understand how sensitive data is processed and assess the scope of any issues that need to be addressed by the cloud-based DLP approach.


Email compliance ensures that transmitted data in an email meets the requirements of all the regulatory and governing bodies involved. For many regulatory frameworks, email compliance requires that organizations maintain immutable archives as well as have measures in place to protect email data and personal information from theft or public exposure.


Complete visibility into the security of your email and the threats targeting your business is a necessity. This increases the level of security, effectiveness, and cost-efficiency while also enabling better cybersecurity planning, allocation of resources, and enforcement of company security policies, reducing your exposure to risk and providing control over your email systems.

Hacker Targets Iowa School District

Cloud Data Loss   Davenport School ExtortionA recent cyber attack on the Davenport Community School District in Iowa resulted in the theft of a large amount of student and other district data and information. District officials notified more than 6,000 students and staff members of the possibility their personal information, including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and medical information may have been stolen during the September cyber attack.

The group, known as Karakurt, claims to have stolen 845 GB of data from the Davenport Community School District. The incident also potentially impacted personal information belonging to certain current/former employees. The group posted online, writing "In this release, we will show you 845 GB of their data, which include a giant, massive array of student's personal information." Without knowing exactly how much data has been compromised, those affected may be at risk of attackers acting as a broker and selling the data on to other attackers or information ending up on lists sold on the dark web “marketplace.” Aside from this, there are consequences the district must face, such as remediation and the damage caused by the pervasive nature. 

Experts say, “They’ll have had access to the network, possibly for some time, and then will have stolen data… The data they may have stolen could include insurance policies, so they possibly know how much coverage the district has and how much it could potentially pay for ransom." The hacker group made a ransom demand by the end of October, but the district followed expert recommendations and decided not to pay. 

Keep Learning

Data protection is a necessary aspect of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy, as well as customer experience. Because email plays a significant role in both internal and external communications, it’s the most likely vector for critical information to be exposed. Email data loss prevention is vital for IT leaders in protecting sensitive data from security breaches. Adopting a cloud solution for data loss prevention is essential to manage threats while applying risk management protocols to protect against emerging threats. Theft, data leaks, or accidental disclosure of sensitive data can lead to consequences such as loss of intellectual property, harm to your reputation, as well as legal and regulatory penalty fees. Companies must have visibility into and protection of data, so cloud-based data storage and applications are essential.

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