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May 7, 2024
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 min read

A Guide to Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Azure

Explore Azure DLP's role in protecting data, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks in cloud environments. Find out how to ensure sensitive data is secure.

A Guide to Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Azure
Calendar Icon White
May 7, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

A Guide to Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Azure

Explore Azure DLP's role in protecting data, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks in cloud environments. Find out how to ensure sensitive data is secure.


  • Microsoft Azure offers a range of cloud services, such as virtual computing, analytics, and storage, which inherently face security vulnerabilities.
  • Azure DLP aims to protect sensitive data, ensure compliance, and reduce financial risks by preventing unauthorized access and more.
  • The article discusses Azure's in-built DLP capabilities, highlighting an overview, limitations, and detailed implementation guidance.
  • Organizations shall consider opting for a third-party DLP for Azure to enhance operational and economic stability.
  • For businesses seeking improved features and customization, Strac offers a DLP solution optimized for Azure environments.

Microsoft Azure is a multi-faceted cloud computing platform offering services from virtual computing to analytics, storage, and networking, all essential for business scalability. However, cloud storage often requires stringent security measures due to its inherent vulnerabilities. 

According to industry reports, organizations face financial and security challenges, with annual losses averaging $15.4 million due to insider threats, and 83% of organizations experience multiple data breaches. These staggering statistics underscore the need for robust security measures in cloud environments like Microsoft Azure. 

That's where DLP (Data Prevention Loss) in Azure comes in. It safeguards sensitive data from unauthorized access and breaches, ensures compliance with data protection laws, and mitigates financial risks. Implementing an effective DLP solution protects valuable information and is crucial in reinforcing organizations' operational and economic stability. This blog covers the fundamentals of Azure DLP, its advantages, drawbacks, steps for implementation, and more. Let’s begin. 

Understanding The Azure Data Ecosystem

Azure's data ecosystem comprises a range of services, tools, and processes for storing, managing, and analyzing data. Let’s take a detailed look at them.

1. Types of Data Stored in Azure

Data is stored across various Azure services tailored to users’ needs. These include:

  • Blob Storage

Azure Blob Storage accommodates unstructured data such as images, documents, and backups. It offers scalable storage solutions, making it ideal for large data quantities for user access or analytical purposes.

  • Virtual Machines (VMs)

Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) provide virtualized servers, allowing users to run cloud applications. They handle everything from application data and configurations to operating system files, offering a scalable and flexible computing environment.

  • Databases

Azure supports multiple database services like SQL Database, Cosmos DB, and Azure Database for PostgreSQL. These services manage structured data critical for application functionality, ensuring efficient data handling and quick retrieval.

2. Common Data Security Challenges in Azure

Azure faces typical data security challenges that require proactive management. This includes:

  • Insufficient Awareness of Responsibility

Organizations must understand that while Azure secures the infrastructure, they are responsible for correctly configuring the platform and services. Inadequate security measures and poor access control can result in data breaches and failure to comply with regulations such as GDPR.

  • Open Access to Azure Services

Misconfigured firewall settings can often lead to unauthorized access to Azure services and resources, exposing sensitive data. Organizations need to control access permissions to secure their data against breaches rigorously.

3. Regulatory Compliance Considerations

Storing data in Azure involves adherence to various regulatory compliance requirements:

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

Organizations dealing with EU citizens' data must meet GDPR requirements dictating data protection, privacy, and user consent standards. Azure aids organizations in achieving GDPR compliance through specific tools and functionalities.

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

For healthcare organizations managing sensitive patient information, HIPAA compliance is mandatory. Azure supports these requirements with HIPAA-compliant services and features that ensure secure data storage and processing.

  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)

Organizations that collect personal information from California residents are bound by CCPA, which mandates data privacy and consumer rights. Azure assists organizations in complying with CCPA through features that protect consumer data and ensure privacy.

Azure Built-in DLP Capabilities

Azure's built-in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) capabilities are designed to help organizations prevent the loss, misuse, or unauthorized access to sensitive data. These capabilities are integrated across various Azure services and Microsoft applications, providing a comprehensive approach to safeguarding critical information. 

Apart from that Azure Information Protection (AIP) and Microsoft Purview are two distinct solutions offered by Microsoft, aimed at enhancing data security and governance across an organization's digital estate. Both play crucial roles in managing sensitive information, but they focus on different aspects of data protection and governance.

Below, we explore the key aspects of Azure's DLP capabilities, including policy creation, content inspection, and integration with other services.

Policy Creation and Management

Azure's built-in DLP allows organizations to define and apply DLP policies across their digital estate. These policies enable the identification, monitoring, and automatic protection of sensitive items across Microsoft 365 services such as Teams, Exchange, SharePoint, and OneDrive accounts. Policies are the cornerstone of DLP, outlining rules and conditions for identifying sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or confidential documents, and specifying actions to prevent unauthorized disclosure or exfiltration.

Content Inspection and Classification

Another capability is the ability to scan and analyze data in real time, both at rest and in transit. This content inspection aims to identify sensitive information based on predefined criteria, encompassing emails, documents, chats, and other communication channels. Once identified, sensitive data is classified and labeled accordingly, applying metadata tags or encryption to enforce security controls. This classification enables organizations to track and manage data throughout its lifecycle.

Integration with Microsoft and Non-Microsoft Services

Azure DLP is deeply integrated with Microsoft 365 cloud services, Office apps, and Microsoft Edge, providing built-in protection without the need for additional agents. Moreover, DLP controls can be extended to Chrome and Firefox browsers through the Microsoft Purview extension and to various non-Microsoft cloud apps such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and others through integration with Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps.

Azure Blueprints

Azure Blueprints facilitates the orchestration of consistent deployment of Azure resources, including specific DLP settings. This helps ensure that data protection configurations are uniformly applied across Azure services, simplifying compliance and enforcement of security policies.

How Azure Information Protection (AIP) Classifies & Protects Data?

Azure Information Protection (AIP) is designed to safeguard sensitive data within cloud and on-premises environments. It offers tools for classifying and protecting information effectively.

Data Classification in AIP

AIP enables organizations to assign classifications to documents and emails according to sensitivity. This process uses predefined or custom labels, which can be implemented automatically, manually, or through a hybrid approach, ensuring data is consistently categorized.

Data Protection in AIP

Following data classification, AIP implements protection protocols such as encryption, access restrictions, and visual markings. These measures secure sensitive data and ensure that organizational policies strictly govern access.

Tracking and Revocation

AIP provides capabilities to track how shared data is used and to revoke access when necessary. This feature enhances control over data distribution and helps mitigate unauthorized access risks.

Configuring AIP Policies

Setting up AIP involves defining how data is classified, labeled, and protected within the organization.

Label Configuration

Administrators have the flexibility to create custom labels or utilize AIP's default options, like

  • Personal
  • General
  • Confidential, and
  • Highly Confidential

These labels can be tailored with specific protection actions to meet the organization's needs.

Automatic Labeling

AIP can automate the application of labels based on specific triggers, such as content characteristics or metadata within documents and emails, enhancing efficiency and compliance.

User Guidance

To promote uniform data classification application, AIP policies may include user instructions detailing the implications of each label and providing guidance on applying labels manually when necessary.

Monitoring and Reporting with AIP

AIP's monitoring and reporting tools offer vital insights into managing and protecting sensitive data.

Activity Logging

AIP logs user activities, including document access, modifications, and sharing. This logging supports compliance and security audits by providing detailed records of data interactions.


AIP generates multiple types of reports, such as usage summaries, label activity reports, and protection status reports. These documents help organizations understand their data protection landscape and guide improvements.

Dashboards and Analytics

Integration with Azure Sentinel and other SIEM tools allows AIP to extend its analytics capabilities. These tools offer advanced insights into data protection trends and anomalies, aiding in proactive security management.

Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention

Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention helps organizations protect sensitive data by discovering and classifying vital information. Some of its features include:

1. Identifying and Protecting Sensitive Data Across Azure Services

Microsoft Purview Data Loss Prevention is designed to identify and protect sensitive data across Azure services. It provides tools for real-time data monitoring, classification, and enforcement of security policies to prevent unauthorized access and breaches.

  • Data Classification

Purview DLP can classify data based on predefined or custom sensitive information types (SITs), allowing organizations to understand their sensitive data across Azure.

  • Data Protection

Once sensitive data is identified, Purview DLP can secure it with protection measures such as encryption, access restrictions, and visual markings.

  • Unified Visibility

Purview DLP offers a centralized view of sensitive data across Azure services, including cloud apps, endpoints, and on-premises environments, providing comprehensive data protection.

2. Creating DLP Policies in Microsoft Purview

Purview DLP allows organizations to create and configure DLP policies to govern the handling of sensitive data:

  • Policy Definition

Administrators can define DLP policies that specify the sensitive data to monitor, the actions to take (e.g., block, notify, encrypt), and the scope of enforcement (e.g., cloud apps, endpoints).

  • Policy Components

Purview DLP policies consist of elements like sensitive information types, conditions, actions, and exceptions, which can be customized to meet the organization's specific requirements.

  • Policy Management

The Microsoft Purview compliance portal provides a centralized interface for creating, managing, and deploying DLP policies across the organization.

3. Detecting and Responding to DLP Policy Violations

Purview DLP helps organizations detect and respond to potential data loss incidents:

  • Alerts and Notifications

When a DLP policy is triggered due to a potential data loss event, Purview DLP generates alerts that can be viewed and investigated in the compliance portal.

  • Incident Management

Purview DLP integrates with other Microsoft security solutions, such as Microsoft Defender for Cloud, to provide a comprehensive view of security incidents and enable efficient incident response.

  • Reporting and Analytics

Purview DLP offers reporting and analytics capabilities to help organizations understand data loss trends, identify high-risk areas, and optimize their DLP policies over time.

How to Implement DLP in Azure?

Implementing Data Loss Prevention (DLP) in Azure involves several steps to ensure that sensitive data is identified, monitored, and protected across your Azure environment. Here’s a detailed guide on how to set up DLP in Azure:

1. Understand Your Data

Before implementing DLP, it's crucial to identify and classify the sensitive data within your organization. This involves understanding what data you have, where it resides, and its level of sensitivity. Tools like Azure Information Protection can help classify and label data.

2. Choose a DLP Solution

Select a DLP solution that integrates well with Azure. Microsoft offers native DLP capabilities through Microsoft Purview, which can be used across various Azure services. Alternatively, advanced DLP solutions like Strac seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Azure, offering robust data protection and compliance features, advanced content inspection, and policy-driven controls, helping organizations safeguard sensitive information across Azure services.

3. Set Up DLP Policies

Configure DLP policies tailored to your organization's needs. These policies define the rules for what constitutes sensitive data and the actions to take when such data is detected. Microsoft Purview allows you to create, deploy, and manage DLP policies directly from its compliance portal.

  • Create Policy: Define what sensitive information types (SITs) to look for (e.g., credit card numbers, health records). Microsoft provides predefined templates or allows for custom policies.
  • Deploy Policy: Apply these policies to relevant Azure services such as Azure SQL Database, Azure Storage, and virtual machines where sensitive data might be stored or processed.

4. Monitor and Protect Data

Implement continuous monitoring to check compliance with your DLP policies. Azure offers tools like Azure Security Center and Azure Monitor to track and report policy violations. This step is crucial for maintaining visibility over data movement and usage within your cloud environment.

5. Manage Alerts and Incidents

Set up alerts to notify administrators of potential policy violations. Microsoft Purview provides an alert management system where you can configure notifications and automate responses to detected incidents. This helps in quick remediation and prevents data leakage.

6. Regular Audits and Compliance Reports

Conduct regular audits to ensure DLP policies are effective and compliant with regulatory requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. Use Azure's compliance and audit reports to assess the effectiveness of your DLP implementation and make necessary adjustments.

7. Integration with Other Security Measures

Integrate DLP with security measures like encryption, access controls, and threat detection systems. This layered approach enhances the overall security posture by preventing data loss and protecting against external and internal threats.

Best Practices for Increasing Effectiveness of Azure DLP

Building on the foundational security measures provided by Azure’s built-in DLP features, organizations can further enhance their data protection strategies by adopting specific best practices. These practices maximize Azure DLP's effectiveness and foster a comprehensive data security culture within the organization.

1. Defining Clear DLP Policies

Establishing clear and comprehensive Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies is critical to effectively deploying Azure DLPy. Such policies should outline the types of sensitive data and information assets that need protection, set forth data classification levels and corresponding security measures, and specify permitted and prohibited data handling activities. This foundation is essential for maintaining consistency in securing sensitive data across various organizational facets.

2. Training Employees on DLP Policies and Procedures

To ensure that DLP policies are effectively implemented, training employees is crucial. Comprehensive education on data classification, labeling, and the specific protection measures each classification entails should be mandatory. Highlighting the importance of DLP and the potential risks of non-compliance can also drive home the critical nature of these practices. Continuous updates and training refreshers help align the workforce with policy changes and new security protocols.

3. Regularly Monitoring and Auditing DLP Effectiveness

Effective DLP requires not just initial setup but ongoing oversight. Regular monitoring and auditing of Azure DLP controls help verify their effectiveness and pinpoint areas needing enhancement. Establishing clear metrics and performance indicators, regularly reviewing logs and alerts for anomalies, and conducting periodic audits are all practices that ensure DLP measures are not only in place but also fully functional and effective.

4. Updating DLP Policies as Needed

The dynamic nature of the digital landscape means that DLP policies must evolve. Regular reviews and updates of DLP policies ensure they remain effective and relevant. Updates should incorporate insights from DLP incidents, adapt to new data types and technologies, and align with evolving regulatory and industry standards. Staying proactive in policy management helps organizations adapt to emerging threats and maintain a strong data protection stance.

Drawbacks of Azure's in-built DLP

Here are some key limitations of Azure's in-built DLP capabilities compared to independent DLP solutions:

1. Complexity and Expertise Required

  • Azure's DLP requires expert management and maintenance, including patching and server monitoring, which can be challenging for organizations not fully engaged in monitoring their cloud servers effectively.
  • Ensuring all components work efficiently together demands expertise, and a failure to understand the platform's nuances can lead to suboptimal performance and higher costs.

2. Limited Customization and Flexibility

  • The search results need specific details on the customization and flexibility of Azure's in-built DLP features compared to third-party solutions.
  • However, the general emphasis on the need for expertise to manage Azure DLP suggests that the platform may be less user-friendly and require more technical know-how to customize and configure than some third-party DLP tools.

3. Potential Integration Challenges

  • Integrating security solutions across hybrid environments (combining cloud-native and on-premises infrastructures) is a significant challenge.
  • This could imply that integrating Azure's in-built DLP with on-premises systems or other cloud services may be more complex than dedicated third-party DLP solutions designed for cross-platform integration.

4. Limited Scope or Functionality

  • Azure's inclusion of DLP in its broader data ecosystem suggests that it may have a more limited scope or functionality than specialized external DLP tools.

Overall, Azure's in-built DLP may require more expertise to manage and configure, offer less customization and flexibility, and face integration challenges compared to dedicated third-party DLP solutions. 

Strac’s DLP for Azure: A Powerful Solution to Protect Sensitive Data

Strac’s DLP for Azure emerges as an exemplary solution for securing sensitive data within cloud storage environments. Here's why:

  • Real-time Monitoring and Data Redaction

Strac excels in offering real-time monitoring, a crucial feature that allows you to identify data breaches immediately. Its sophisticated data redaction capabilities ensure that sensitive information is either obscured or eliminated, providing a solid barrier against unauthorized access.

Sensitive data redaction in Intercom
  • Comprehensive Data Element Catalog

Strac DLP boasts an extensive catalog of data elements, encompassing personal identification, financial details, protected health information, and more. This comprehensive catalog supports accurate identification and provides robust protection for diverse data types, thereby reassuring the audience about the thoroughness of our data security measures.

  • Regulatory Compliance Assurance

Strac guarantees adherence to regulatory standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI, equipping organizations to meet stringent data protection requirements and avoid compliance penalties.

  • Seamless Integration with Azure and Office 365

Strac DLP integrates seamlessly with Azure and Office 365, ensuring a smooth transition and delivering a cohesive data protection strategy across your cloud platforms. This integration simplifies security management and ensures consistent safeguarding of your sensitive data.

Sensitive data redaction in Gmail
  • Zero Data Architecture

Employing a Zero Data Architecture, Strac DLP ensures that sensitive data is tokenized and secured without storage on backend servers, significantly reducing the risk of data exposure and improving protection.

  • Role-based Access Control (RBAC)

Strac implements role-based access control, enabling organizations to specify and regulate user permissions according to individual roles and responsibilities. This detailed control ensures that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data, enhancing security and maintaining confidentiality.

By adopting Strac DLP for Azure, organizations can leverage these advanced features to ensure robust security, regulatory compliance, and efficient management of sensitive data in the cloud.

Schedule a demo with Strac today and get started with DLP in Azure, which protects your data unlike ever before.

Founder, Strac. ex-Amazon Payments Infrastructure (Widget, API, Security) Builder for 11 years.

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