Google Drive DLP (Data Loss Prevention): The Essential Guide
Michael Osakwe
May 9, 2023
Google Drive DLP (Data Loss Prevention): The Essential GuideGoogle Drive DLP (Data Loss Prevention): The Essential Guide
Michael Osakwe
May 9, 2023

Google Drive DLP (Data Loss Prevention): The Essential Guide

On this page

Google Drive is an integral part of Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite). With over 6 million customers and over 2 billion monthly active users, Google’s platform is the world’s largest collaboration tool for companies both large and small. In Google Drive, employees across the world create, edit, and share files on a daily basis.

This, however, does not occur without the risk of data leakage. Read this online guide, for free, to learn how large scale collaboration in tools like Google Drive can increase the exposure risk for sensitive data like PHI, PII, passwords, other secrets, and how you can mitigate this risk. You can also download this guide here.

Is there risk of data leaks in Google Drive?

Platforms like Google Drive supplant traditional productivity tools, which ran locally as opposed to in the cloud, organizations are discovering that an ever-growing amount of their sensitive data now lives in the cloud.

It’s worth noting that:

  • Cloud platforms like Google Drive lack comprehensive out-of-the-box security options to help manage the proliferation of sensitive data in these environments.
  • Native and in-app security solutions are mostly meant to check boxes as opposed to provide flexible, low maintenance data security. See why Flatfile prefers Nightfall over Workspace DLP
  • Organizations cannot rely on traditional enterprise security solutions to protect data in the cloud as these don’t integrate at the API layer, limiting visibility and remediation options for addressing the types of sensitive data that can end up in Google Drive.

Without a dedicated security solution to address the problem of sensitive data leakage in cloud environments, organizations will remain at increased risk of incidents that violate data compliance policies and result in unauthorized data exposure. This ultimately increases business costs in the form of compliance violations, reputational harm, and related expenses.

How does Google Drive introduce data security risks?

Google Drive, like many collaborative SaaS platforms, has several attributes that can increase security risks for organizations.

  • Always on. Cloud environments like Google Drive are readily accessible at any  time from anywhere and cannot be deactivated or otherwise reconfigured outside of account settings provided to users by the service provider.
  • High volume of users and activity. Cloud environments, especially collaborative SaaS platforms like Google Drive, are a central point of access for most organizations that have multiple teams using these platforms to communicate and collaborate. The large footprint of these tools means that there’s a large volume of users, both inside and outside your org, who are creating, modifying, and sharing documents on a daily basis.
  • Permissions vary across files and users. Because these platforms involve collaboration across roles and teams, every user will need access and permissions managed according to their role. Google Drive specifically manages permissions at the file level, allowing the creator and editors of a file or folder to determine how to share it.
  • Troves of unstructured data. Environments like Google Drive are intended for sharing word processing documents, images, videos, and other unstructured data which makes it difficult to parse for sensitive content.

To better understand how these attributes of SaaS applications interact to impact data security risk, watch the following video.

What is data loss prevention (DLP) for in Google Drive?

Data loss prevention is an access control that ensures confidential information is kept on a need-to-know basis. DLP scans for content within messages and files to determine whether an unauthorized disclosure of business-critical information has occurred and can provide automated remediation on the basis of your established data security policies. Additionally, DLP can provide alerts and analytics that help organizations understand risk and employee behavior over time.

Like other always-on, SaaS environments with high volumes of activity, Google Drive makes violations of data security policies more likely, leading to data leakage risks as well as data compliance violations.

Organizations need to use tools like DLP in order to put into place controls that will help enforce data security best practices by preventing unauthorized parties from accessing documents and folders with sensitive information.

DLP ensures confidential or sensitive information (like credit card numbers, PII, and API keys) isn’t shared within Google Drive by scanning for content within files that break predefined policies.

DLP is important for both security and compliance reasons. With DLP in place, you’ll be able to:

  • Protect users from accidentally or intentionally sharing sensitive information.
  • Train and coach users on your data sharing policies.
  • Ensure compliance with HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, and more.
  • Reduce manual time spent reviewing sensitive data that might lead to incidental data exposure in Google Drive.

What data exposure risk does Google Drive introduce?

Environments like Google Drive increase the likelihood that unauthorized individuals can edit view, download, copy, or otherwise gain access to files containing sensitive data through improper permissions and poor management of accounts, files, and folders within an organization’s Google Drive. Additionally, Google Drive provides limited visibility into when and where these incidents occur, making it difficult to enforce your organization’s data security policies.

How does DLP for Google Drive work?

DLP helps organizations:

  • Discover sensitive data within designated environments.
  • Classify data on the basis of predefined token types, like PHI, PII, and other industry standard sensitive data types.
  • Protect data with manual or automated redaction, quarantine, or deletion of offending content.

What is Nightfall DLP?

Nightfall is a platform to discover, classify and protect sensitive data across cloud SaaS & cloud infrastructure.

  • Nightfall supports compliance efforts with a number of industry standards like PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and much more.
  • Nightfall works by continuously monitoring data flowing in and out of data silos and classifying that data with machine learning. Data marked as sensitive can be automatically quarantined, deleted, and redacted with workflows.
  • Nightfall integrates with Google Drive via API, so you can get started immediately. Start in minutes and tell Nightfall which files or folders to scan in real-time for PII, PHI, PCI, API keys, and more.

How does Nightfall work?

  • Discover: Continuously monitor sensitive data that is flowing into and out of files & messages in Slack.
  • Classify: Machine learning classifies your sensitive data & PII automatically, without prior tuning or tagging, so nothing gets missed.
  • Protect: Take manual actions or setup automated DLP workflows for quarantines, deletions, alerts, and more – saving you time and keeping your business safe.

Key Benefits of Nightfall

  • Install in minutes – no setup, tuning, or agents required.
  • Leverage pre-trained, standard detectors out of the box for PII, PHI, PCI, credentials & secrets, and more.
  • Customize Nightfall detectors and build your own detectors.
  • Apply permissions with a high level of granularity to individual files, folders or drives.
  • Lock down specific files containing sensitive content, prevent downloads or printing.
  • Get real-time alerts directly in Slack for ease of use.
  • Integrate with multiple SaaS applications like Slack, Salesforce, Jira, and GitHub, and use the same detection settings across them.
  • Enterprise-grade security including TLS and AES256 encryption and SOC 2 Type compliance. Nightfall also fits in your security workflow by integrating with products like your SIEM, issue tracking, and more.
  • Detailed Help Center, high-touch support, and dedicated customer success manager.

What does Nightfall DLP detect in Google Drive?

  • DLP solutions should be equipped to scan a broad set of data types, including personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), Finance and payment card information (PCI), Health, Networking, Credentials & Secrets (API keys, cryptographic keys), and more.
  • Nightfall comes with pre-built detectors out of the box that cover a comprehensive set of data types, industries, and geographies.
  • Nightfall provides the ability to add in custom detectors, rules, keywords, and regexes as well.
  • Review our list of Detectors and learn more about them in our Help Center.

Does Nightfall DLP for Google Drive scan files too?

  • Nightfall supports a broad set of file types including but not limited to xls/xlsx, doc/docx, csv, plain text, ppt/pptx, PDF, HTML, and more.

How do I get started?

Nightfall Mini Logo

Getting started is easy

Install in minutes to start protecting your sensitive data.

Get a demo