Data Loss Prevention vs Data Leak Prevention: What's the Difference?

Data is the lifeblood of your business, and you must do everything in your power to protect it. The current landscape doesn’t make that easy. Threat actors are more intelligent, organized, and sophisticated than ever. And they’re not the only thing to account for. 

Systems fail. Facilities can be taken offline by natural disasters. And all the while, there’s the ever-present risk posed by your own employees—that they may accidentally or intentionally leak data to the outside world. 

Maintaining data confidentiality, control, and integrity requires more than a simple firewall or basic authentication. They require a set of processes, technologies, and policies.

You need Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

Or Data Leakage Prevention.

Or both?

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Many modern DLP solutions further muddy the waters by spanning both approaches in their functionality. 

What Is Data Loss?

Ransomware is one of the most disruptive, expensive threats facing organizations today. It’s also a perfect example of data loss. When a threat actor successfully infects a system, that system’s files are locked down. 

Without backups, organizations are left with two choices. They can either pay the ransom or accept that the data is lost. Other common causes of data loss include: 

  • Hardware failure
  • Accidental deletion
  • Intentional sabotage 
  • Power outages
  • Environmental disruption

What Is Data Leakage?

The concept of data leakage is slightly more complicated to define than data loss, particularly in an era of hybrid work. It refers to a scenario in which data has left an organization and gotten into the hands of an unauthorized party. As with data loss, this can be caused by a wide range of circumstances:

  • Social engineering attacks
  • Lost or stolen devices
  • Malicious insiders
  • Unsecured networks
  • Accidental sharing

Differences between Data Loss Prevention and Data Leak Prevention

Data loss prevention and data leakage prevention are defined by what they protect and how they protect it. Data loss prevention spans the cybersecurity spectrum—protection, detection, response, and recovery. Solutions such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs), and automated backups fall under the data loss prevention umbrella. An organization’s incident management, business continuity, and disaster recovery plans are also crucial. 

Data loss prevention is about protecting data from active threats that could potentially damage or destroy it. 

With data leak prevention, an organization is more concerned about managing data flow within its perimeter and without. Effective leak prevention typically requires a combination of data flow maps, digital rights management tools, and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) Risk management, data governance, compliance, and policy enforcement all help further cement an organization’s efforts.

Data leak prevention, in other words, is concerned with preventing the transmission of data to an unauthorized third party.  

What’s Better: Data Loss Prevention or Data Leak Prevention?

The two categories of DLP are by no means mutually exclusive, nor should they be. If you’re to safeguard your organization, you must adopt both. Otherwise, your data will still be at risk—no matter what else you do. 
CylanceAVERT protects organizations from monetary and reputational loss by preventing unauthorized exfiltration and collection of sensitive information through discovery, inventory, and categorization. This data protection solution also assists in remediation of security incidents and ensuring regulatory compliance.