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How Cloudflare Area 1 and DLP work together to protect data in email


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How Cloudflare Area 1 and DLP work together to protect data in email

Threat prevention is not limited to keeping external actors out, but also keeping sensitive data in. Most organizations do not realize how much confidential information resides within their email inboxes. Employees handle vast amounts of sensitive data on a daily basis, such as intellectual property, internal documentation, PII, or payment information and often share this information internally via email making email one of the largest locations confidential information is stored within a company. It comes as no shock that organizations worry about protecting the accidental or malicious egress of sensitive data and often address these concerns by instituting strong Data Loss Prevention policies. Cloudflare makes it easy for customers to manage the data in their email inboxes with Area 1 Email Security and Cloudflare One.

Cloudflare One, our SASE platform that delivers network-as-a-service (NaaS) with Zero Trust security natively built-in, connects users to enterprise resources, and offers a wide variety of opportunities to secure corporate traffic, including the inspection of data transferred to your corporate email. Area 1 email security, as part of our composable Cloudflare One platform, delivers the most complete data protection for your inbox and offers a cohesive solution when including additional services, such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP). With the ability to easily adopt and implement Zero Trust services as needed, customers have the flexibility to layer on defenses based on their most critical use cases. In the case of Area 1 + DLP, the combination can collectively and preemptively address the most pressing use cases that represent high-risk areas of exposure for organizations. Combining these products provides the in-depth defense of your corporate data.

Preventing egress of cloud email data via HTTPs

Email provides a readily available outlet for corporate data, so why let sensitive data reach email in the first place? An employee can accidentally attach an internal file rather than a public white paper in a customer email, or worse, attach a document with the wrong customers’ information to an email.

With Cloudflare Data Loss Prevention (DLP) you can prevent the upload of sensitive information, such as PII or intellectual property, to your corporate email. DLP is offered as part of Cloudflare One, which runs traffic from data centers, offices, and remote users through the Cloudflare network.  As traffic traverses Cloudflare, we offer protections including validating identity and device posture and filtering corporate traffic.

Cloudflare One offers HTTP(s) filtering, enabling you to inspect and route the traffic to your corporate applications. Cloudflare Data Loss Prevention (DLP) leverages the HTTP filtering abilities of Cloudflare One. You can apply rules to your corporate traffic and route traffic based on information in an HTTP request. There are a wide variety of options for filtering, such as domain, URL, application, HTTP method, and many more. You can use these options to segment the traffic you wish to DLP scan. All of this is done with the performance of our global network and managed with one control plane.

You can apply DLP policies to corporate email applications, such as Google Suite or O365.  As an employee attempts to upload an attachment to an email, the upload is inspected for sensitive data, and then allowed or blocked according to your policy.

Inside your corporate email extend more core data protection principles with Area 1 in the following ways:

Enforcing data security between partners

With Cloudflare’s Area 1, you can also enforce strong TLS standards. Having TLS configured adds an extra layer of security as it ensures that emails are encrypted, preventing any attackers from reading sensitive information and changing the message if they intercept the email in transit (on-path-attack). This is especially useful for G Suite customers whose internal emails still go out to the whole Internet in front of prying eyes or for customers who have contractual obligations to communicate with partners with SSL/TLS.

Area 1 makes it easy to enforce SSL/TLS inspections. From the Area 1 portal, you can configure Partner Domain(s) TLS by navigating “Partner Domains TLS” within “Domains & Routing” and adding a partner domain with which you want to enforce TLS. If TLS is required then all emails from that domain with no TLS will be automatically dropped. Our TLS ensures strong TLS rather than the best effort in order to make sure that all traffic is encrypted with strong ciphers preventing a malicious attacker from being able to decrypt any intercepted emails.

Stopping passive email data loss

Organizations often forget that exfiltration also can be done without ever sending any email. Attackers who are able to compromise a company account are able to passively sit by, monitoring all communications and picking out information manually.

Once an attacker has reached this stage, it is incredibly difficult to know an account is compromised and what information is being tracked. Indicators like email volume, IP address changes, and others do not work since the attacker is not taking any actions that would cause suspicion. At Cloudflare, we have a strong thesis on preventing these account takeovers before they take place, so no attacker is able to fly under the radar.

In order to stop account takeovers before they happen, we place great emphasis on filtering emails that pose a risk for stealing employee credentials. The most common attack vector used by malicious actors are phishing emails. Given its ability to have a high impact in accessing confidential data when successful, it’s no shock that this is the go-to tool in the attackers tool kit. Phishing emails pose little threat to an email inbox protected by Cloudflare’s Area 1 product. Area 1’s models are able to assess if a message is a suspected phishing email by analyzing different metadata. Anomalies detected by the models like domain proximity (how close a domain is to the legitimate one), sentiment of email, or others can quickly determine if an email is legitimate or not. If Area 1 determines an email to be a phishing attempt, we automatically retract the email and prevent the recipient from receiving the email in their inbox ensuring that the employee’s account remains uncompromised and unable to be used to exfiltrate data.

Attackers who are looking to exfiltrate data from an organization also often rely on employees clicking on links sent to them via email. These links can point to online forms which on the surface look innocuous but serve to gather sensitive information. Attackers can use these websites to initiate scripts which gather information about the visitor without any interaction from the employee. This presents a strong concern since an errant click by an employee can lead to the exfiltration of sensitive information. Other malicious links can contain exact copies of websites which the user is accustomed to accessing. However, these links are a form of phishing where the credentials entered by the employee are sent to the attacker rather than logging them into the website.

Area 1 covers this risk by providing Email Link Isolation as part of our email security offering. With email link isolation, Area 1 looks at every link sent and accesses its domain authority. For anything that's on the margin (a link we cannot confidently say is safe), Area 1 will launch a headless Chromium browser and open the link there with no interruption. This way, any malicious scripts that execute will run on an isolated instance far from the company’s infrastructure, stopping the attacker from getting company information. This is all accomplished instantaneously and reliably.

Stopping Ransomware

Attackers have many tools in their arsenal to try to compromise employee accounts. As we mentioned above, phishing is a common threat vector, but it's far from the only one. At Area 1, we are also vigilant in preventing the propagation of ransomware.

A common mechanism that attackers use to disseminate ransomware is to disguise attachments by renaming them. A ransomware payload could be renamed from petya.7z to Invoice.pdf in order to try to trick an employee into downloading the file. Depending on how urgent the email made this invoice seem, the employee could blindly try to open the attachment on their computer causing the organization to suffer a ransomware attack. Area 1’s models detect these mismatches and stop malicious ones from arriving into their target’s email inbox.

A successful ransomware campaign can not only stunt the daily operations of any company, but can also lead to the loss of local data if the encryption is unable to be reversed. Cloudflare’s Area 1 product has dedicated payload models which analyze not only the attachment extensions but also the hashed value of the attachment to compare it to known ransomware campaigns. Once Area 1 finds an attachment deemed to be ransomware, we prohibit the email from going any further.

Cloudflare’s DLP vision

We aim for Cloudflare products to give you the layered security you need to protect your organization, whether its malicious attempts to get in or sensitive data getting out. As email continues to be the largest surface of corporate data, it is crucial for companies to have strong DLP policies in place to prevent the loss of data. With Area 1 and Cloudflare One working together, we at Cloudflare are able to provide organizations with more confidence about their DLP policies.

If you are interested in these email security or DLP services, contact us for a conversation about your security and data protection needs.

Or if you currently subscribe to Cloudflare services, consider reaching out to your Cloudflare customer success manager to discuss adding additional email security or DLP protection.

We protect entire corporate networks, help customers build Internet-scale applications efficiently, accelerate any website or Internet application, ward off DDoS attacks, keep hackers at bay, and can help you on your journey to Zero Trust.

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