What Is Microsoft Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

Digital Transformation
Last updated:
May 2, 2021

What Is Microsoft Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention (DLP) is one of the most talked-about security technologies in recent years.

Many organizations are looking at DLP solutions to protect their most important data from leaving their corporate networks. But what is DLP, exactly?

Microsoft defines DLP as β€œthe process of monitoring, controlling, and protecting sensitive information as it traverses both physical and network boundaries.” Therefore, it's so important: DLP solutions can monitor and protect any data, whether it's stored in a file or database or present in an email, a text message, an image, or an instant message.

Basically, DLP is a process/strategy to prevent sensitive data is not lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorized users. DLP can be implemented by creating security policies, exact data matching, regular expression, security teams, or by machine learning to prevent unauthorized users from accessing.

DLP is a great way to secure sensitive files in cloud storage from:

  • Ransomware Attacks
  • Phishing Attacks
  • Sensitive File Being Leaked
  • Prevent Loss Incidents
  • Malicious Insiders


Lastly, with DLP, depending on which provider or solution you go with, it should have a way to report any potential leaks (leak detection) and alert security staff for suspicious activities.


Why Do You Need Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?

It's no secret that the cloud is increasingly becoming the norm for storing important business data. This is because it offers many advantages over traditional storage options.

But with the cloud comes new challenges, especially when it comes to data loss. And while it may seem like you're saving money in the long run, it could cost you big time if your worst fears come true. Data loss can occur for many reasons, but oftentimes, the damage can be hard to spot.

In fact, a data breach can go unnoticed for a long time and only become apparent when the costs of fixing the damage from a data breach start to mount up. This can lead to not only a loss of customers but also financial losses.

How Does DLP Work?

According to Microsoft, with a DLP policy, you can:

Identify sensitive information across many locations, such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Microsoft Teams (cloud storage service).‍

  • For example, you can identify any document containing a credit card number that's stored in any OneDrive for Business site, or you can monitor just the OneDrive sites of specific people (content awareness).
  • Example #2: Securing intellectual property from insider threats/activities.

Prevent the accidental sharing of sensitive information (sensitive content protection).

  • For example, you can identify any document or email containing a health record that's shared with people outside your organization and then automatically block access to that document or block the email from being sent (leakage prevention).

Monitor and protect sensitive information in the desktop versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

  • Like in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business, these Office desktop programs include the same capabilities to identify sensitive information and apply DLP policies. DLP provides continuous monitoring when people share content in these Office programs.

Help users learn how to stay compliant without interrupting their workflow.

  • You can educate your users about DLP policies and help them remain compliant without blocking their work. For example, if a user tries to share a document containing sensitive information, a DLP policy can both email them a notification and show them a policy tip in the context of the document library that allows them to override the policy if they have a business justification. The same policy tips also appear in Outlook on the web, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

View DLP alerts and reports showing content that matches your organization's DLP policies.

To view alerts and metadata related to your DLP policies, you can use the DLP Alerts Management Dashboard. You can also view policy match reports assessing how your organization is complying with a DLP policy. If a DLP policy allows users to override a policy tip and report a false positive, you can also view what users have reported.

You create and manage DLP policies on the Data loss prevention page in the Microsoft 365 Compliance center.

Microsoft 365 Compliance center policies

With DLP, the rules are created via DLP policy. The policy contains 3 major key pointers.

  • Location (e.g. Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive etc.)
  • Conditions (the condition to trigger the DLP)
  • Actions (deny, allow etc.)
Microsoft 365 Compliance center data loss prevention policy

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