The General Data Protection Regulation & The Duty to use Encryption

The General Data Protection Regulation, abbreviated to GDPR, raised a storm when it arrived. In reality, it merely tightened up on existing good practice according to digital security specialists Gemalto. The right to withhold consent and to be forgotten has always been there, for example. However, the GDPR brings a free enforcement service for consumers, thus avoiding the need for third party, paid assistance.

The GDPR Bottom Lines for Data Security
Moreover, the GDPR has penalties it can apply, of the order that might have a judge choking on his wig. Under it, data security measures such as pseudonymisation (substitution of identifying fields) and encryption (encoding including password protection) have become mandatory. Businesses must further respect their client data by:

a) Storing it in a secure environment supported by robust services and systems
b) Having proven measures to restore availability and access after a breach
c) Being able to prove frequent effectiveness testing of these measures.

The General Data Protection Regulation places an onus on businesses to report any data breaches. This places us in a difficult situation. We must either face at least a wrist slap upon reporting failures. Alternatively, pay a fine of up to €10 million, or 2% of total worldwide annual turnover.

The Engineered Weak Link in the System
Our greatest threat of breach is probably when the data leaves our secure environment, and travels across cyberspace to an employee, stakeholder, collaborator, or the client themselves. Since email became open to attack, businesses and individuals have turned to sharing platforms like Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, and so on. While these do allow an additional layer of password protection, none of these has proved foolproof. The GDPR may still fine us heavily, whether or not we are to blame for the actual breach.

How Hacking is Approaching Being a Science
We may make a mistake we may regret, if we do not take hacking seriously. The 10 worst data hacks Identity Force lists are proof positive that spending lots of money does not guarantee security (any more than having the biggest stock of nuclear weapons). We have to be smart, and start thinking the way that hackers do.

Hacker heaven is finding an Experian or a Dun & Bradstreet that may have shielded 143 million, and 33 million consumer records respectively, behind a single, flimsy cyber-security door. Ignorance is no excuse for them. They should simply have known better. They should have rendered consumer data unreadable at individual record level. The hackers could have found this too demanding to unpick, and have looked elsewhere.

How Data Encryption Can Help Prevent Hackers Succeeding
Encrypting data is dashboard driven, and businesses need not concern themselves about it works. There are, however, a few basic decisions they must take:

a) Purge the database of all information held without explicit permission
b) Challenge the need for the remaining data and purge the nice-to-haves
c) Adopt a policy of encrypting access at business and customer interfaces
d) Register with three freemium encryption services that seem acceptable
e) After experimenting, sign up for a premium service and be prepared to pay

Factors to Consider When Reaching a Decision
Life Hacker suggests the following criteria although the list is a one-size-fits-all

a) Is the system fast, simple, and easy to operate
b) Can you encrypt hidden volumes within volumes
c) Can you mass-encrypt a batch of files easily
d) Do all other files remain encrypted when you open one
e) Do files automatically re-encrypt when you close them
f) How confident are you with the vendor, on a scale of 1 to 10

It may be wise to encrypt all the files on your system, and not just your customer data. We are always open to a hack by the competition after our strategic planning. If we leave the decision up to IT, then IT, being human may take the easy way out, and encrypt as little as possible.

How Small Irish Businesses Avoid the GDPR Sting

Accountants providing chartered accounting services and tax advice are alerting smaller Irish companies to the consequences of the pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They believe these are going to feel the most pain come 25 May 2018, if they do not implement GDPR by then. We are trying our best to help avoid this situation by providing advice.

How to Kick the GDPR Ball into Play

The Irish Information Commissioner’s Office has produced a toolkit regarding where’s best to start. They suggest beginning with an information security assessment to determine the gaps companies need to close. Once quantified, this leads naturally to a plan of action, and resources needed to fulfil it. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Start by assessing your current ability to identify, assess, and manage threats to customer data security. Have you done anything at all to date? You must be holding some customer information surely, and it is highly likely the GDPR applies to you.

2. Next, review your company’s current customer data security policies. Are they documented and approved, or do new employees discover them sitting next to Nellie? Rate yourself on a scale where ten is successful implementation.

3. Now consider how well you have pinned responsibilities on individuals to implement policies and take the lead on GDPR. The latter should be the business owner, or a board member with clout to make things happen.

4. By now, you should have a grasp of the scale of work ahead of you, remembering the EU deadline is 25 May 2018. If this sounds overwhelming, consider outsourcing to your accountant or a specialist provider.

5. Under the General Data Protection Regulation you have only 72 hours to report a breach of customer data security to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Do you have a quality assurance mechanism to oversee this?

Tangible Things to Bring Your Own People on Board

With all the changes going on, there is a risk of your employees regarding GDPR as ‘another management idea going nowhere.’ Thus, it is important to incorporate the new EU regulations in staff training, particularly with regard to data security generally. They may fully come on board only once they see tangible signs of progress. You should in any case put the following measures in place unless you already have them:

1. A secure area for your servers and for any paperwork your customers provided. This implies access control on a need-to-know basis to protect the information against loss, damage, and theft.

2. A protocol for storage media and record disposal when you no longer require them or something supersedes them. You are the custodian of other people’s information and they deserve nothing less.

3. Procedures to secure customer data on employee mobile devices and computers: This must extend to work done at home, at consultant sites, and by remote workers.

4. Secure configuration of all existing and new hardware to minimise vulnerability and storage media crashes. These quality assurance measures should extend to removable media and remote backups.

So Is This the Worst of the Pain?

We are at the heart of the matter, although there is more to tell in future articles. You may be almost there, if you already protect your proprietary information. If not, you may have key company information already open to malware.We should welcome the EU General Data Protection Regulation as a notice that it is time to face up to the challenges of data protection and security generally. The age of hacking and malware is upon us. The offender could be a disgruntled employee, or your competition just down the street. It is time to take precautions.

Is the GDPR Good or Bad News for Business

The European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) is a new data authority coming into force on 25 May 2018. It replaces the current Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, while extending the remit to include the export of personal data outside the EU. It aims to give EU citizens and residents living there more control over their personal information. It also hopes to make regulatory compliance simpler for participating businesses.

The Broad Implications for Business
The GDPR puts another layer of accountability on businesses falling within its remit. It requires them to implement ‘comprehensive but proportionate governance measures’ including recording how they make decisions. The long-term goal is to reduce privacy infringements. In the short run, businesses without good governance may find themselves writing new policies and procedures.

Article 5 of the European Union’s General Data Protection Act lays down the following guidelines for managing personal data. This shall be …
• Processed transparently, fairly, and lawfully
• Acquired for specific, legitimate purposes only
• Adequate, relevant and limited to essentials
• Not used for any other, incompatible purpose
• However it may be archived in the public interest
• Kept up to date with all inaccuracies corrected
• Ring-fenced when the information becomes irrelevant
• Adequately protected against unauthorised access
• Stored in a way that prevents accidental loss
Furthermore, affected businesses shall appoint a “controller responsible for, and able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles.”

Implementing Accountability and Governance
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has issued guidelines regarding provisions to assure governance and accountability. These are along the lines of the ‘don’t tell me, show me’ management approach the office has generally been following. In summary form, a business, and its controller must:
• Implement measures that assist it to ensure demonstrated compliance
• Maintain suitable, relevant records of personal data processing activities
• Appoint a dedicated data protection officer if scale makes this appropriate
• Implement technologies that ensure data protection by design
• Conduct data protection assessments and respond to results timeously

Implementing the General Data Protection Act in Ireland
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has decided it is unnecessary to incorporate the GDPR into Irish law, since EU regulations have direct effect. The office of the Commissioner is working in tandem with data practitioners, and industry and professional bodies to raise awareness in business through 2017. It has produced a document detailing what it considers the essentials for business compliance. Briefly, these pre-requisites are:
• Ensure awareness among key personnel, and make sure they incorporate the GDPR into their planning
• Conduct an early assessment of quality management gaps, and budget for additional resources needed
• Do an audit of personal data held, to determine the origin, the necessity to hold it, and with whom shared
• Inform internal and external stakeholders of the current status, and your future plans to implement the GDPR
• Examine current procedures in the light of the new directive. Could you ‘survive’ a challenge from a data subject?
• Determine how you will process requests for access to the data in the future from within and outside your organization
• Assess how you currently obtain customer consent to store their data. Is this “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”?
• Find how you handle information from underage people. Do you have systems to verify ages and obtain guardian consent?
• Implement procedures to detect, investigate, and report data breaches to the Data Protection Commissioner within 72 hours
• Implement a culture of always assessing the effect on individual privacy before starting new initiatives

So Is the GDPR Good or Bad for Business
The GDPR should be good news for business customers. Their personal data will be more secure, and they should see their rate of spam marketing come down. The GDPR is also good news for businesses currently investing resources to protect their clients’ interests. It could however, be bad news for businesses that have not been focussing on these matters. They may have a high mountain to climb to come in line with the GDPR.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and not intended as a comprehensive guide.

The Future of Cloud Backup and Recovery

We came across a post on Docurated that pulled together thirty-seven suggestions for the top cloud storage mistakes user companies make. Given that cloud storage seems to be the best backup solution for now at least, we decided to turn these ideas around to sense the direction cloud backup and recovery needs to take, if it is still to be relevant in say ten years’ time.

Has Cloud Storage Largely Saturated the West?
It probably has. Outside of major corporates who make their own arrangements – and SME’s that use free services by email providers – the middle band of companies in Europe and America have found their service providers, although they may have never tested the recovery process, to see if it works.

The new gold rush in the cloud backup and recovery business is, or should be emerging markets in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. There, connectivity is brittler than over here. To be relevant in these fragile, more populous areas our cloud backup and recovery industry need to be more agile and nimble.

• It must provide a simpler service emerging commerce can afford, refresh its user interfaces in third world languages, have more accessible help, and be patient to explain how cloud storage works to newbies. In other words, it must source its call centre operators in the areas it serves.

• It must adapt to local connectivity standards, and stop expecting someone with ADSL broadband to keep up with cloud server networks running at up to 1GBPS compared to their 10MBPS at best. For user sourcing and retention purposes, these new cloud backup and recovery services must be the ones who adapt.

• It must facilitate disaster recovery simulations among its clients in calmer moments when things are going well. Are they backing up the right files, are they updating these, and are their brittle ADSL networks able to cope with their cloud service providers’ upload and download speeds?

• It must develop lean and agile systems slim enough to accommodate a micro client starting out, but sufficiently elastic to transfer them seamlessly to big data performance. The Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern regions are volume driven, and individual economies of scale are still rare.

• It must not expect its users to know automatically what they need, and be honest to admit that Western solutions may be wrong-sized. Conversion funnels in the new gold rush are bound to be longer. Engagements there depend on trust, not elevator sales letters. Our competition in these countries already works this way.

• It must be honest and admit cloud storage is only part of the solution. To recruit and retain users it must step back to 1983, when Compuserve offered its customers 128k of disc space, and spent an amount of effort explaining how to filter what to put there.

Cloud Storage of Data is Only One Part of the Solution
Governance reports and stock certificates burn just as easily as do servers in a fire. We must not transfer bad habits to exciting new markets. We close this article with the thoughts of John Howie, COO of Cloud Security Alliance, as reported in the Docurated post we mentioned, and these apply across the globe, we believe.
There is no single most important thing to carry forward into the future of cloud backup and recovery. We must be mindful when moving data that this can be fragile too. We must also create layers of backup the way insurance companies reinsure, that make any one cloud backup and recovery business redundant if it happens.
We hold the trust of our customers in our hands but trust is delicate too. We must cease trying to make a pile of money quickly, and become more interested in ensuring that data transferred back and forth is synchronised. The cloud backup and recovery industry needs only one notorious mistake, to become redundant itself in the ten years we mentioned.