Charlatan

GDPR: How to Spot the Charlatans

Here we go again. A regulation or standard gets released and suddenly everyone’s an expert, every vendor has a solution or silver-bulletin technology, and hundreds upon hundreds of organisation spend a fortune on something they were far better off doing themselves.

It happened with PCI, SoX, and a plethora of other smaller or more region/sector specific regulations, and now it’s happening to GDPR. All because most of us are just too damned lazy to do a little bit of homework to find a real expert.

Or in a lot of cases, too lazy to even read the damned standard! Yes, it’s dull, but it’s not that difficult to decipher to the point you can’t ask a few intelligent questions.

But the real problem stems from the fact that most people don’t even know what privacy is. Personally, I am not an expert in privacy, I’m an expert in cybersecurity. If you think those two things are the same, or even very similar, you are already way off the mark. Yes, there is an overlap, but only in so far as a data breach can possibly lead to a loss in privacy.

But that’s the point, it’s only a possibility. Just because someone stole your data, does not mean they’re going to use it against you.

To summarise in a very general way:

Security = Preventing unauthorised ACCESS to your data;

Privacy = Preventing unauthorised USE of your data.

It’s because this distinction is universally misunderstood, cybersecurity vendors are often the first ones organisations turn to. However, instead of steering these poor deluded fools in the RIGHT direction, vendors sell them what they asked for. What they got, and are still getting, is a fraction of what’s required. 3.34% to be exact.

I’m not saying a security expert cannot be a privacy expert as well. I’m also not saying that every vendor lacks integrity. But I am saying you’re the one blame if you end up with a muppet.

So How DO You Spot the Charlatans

Actually it’s rather easy, they use phrases like:

  • Avoid hefty fines by ensuring you’re GDPR compliant!;
  • Time is running out, save your business!;
  • Ask our security experts how to [enter rest of lie here];
  • They claim that ISO 27001 can cover the entirety of the regulation;
  • Any combination of words that includes “GDPR compliance” or “GDPR certification”;
  • Any sales pitch or article that leads with possible fines (unless it’s to put down those that try).

…or they are:

  • Regular cybersecurity vendors;
  • Any vendor selling ‘GDPR software’;
  • A recent Certified General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Practitioner (and has no other privacy experience);
  • Anyone with CISSP, CISA, CISM, CRISC etc. emblazoned on their LinkedIn profiles (and has no other privacy experience);
  • NOT A PRIVACY EXPERT!

Finding a real expert is not that difficult, you just have to look for people who have been doing privacy stuff for a long time. These people do not HAVE to be privacy lawyers, but it certainly helps. And while there will be a whole swarms of scum-bag lawyers chasing the GDPR ambulance, there are a lot of good ones anxious to help.

On the positive side, look for things like this instead. These were bullet points taken from a free seminar that I have actually signed up for:

  • Understand the implications of the GDPR on your business-critical processes;
  • Learn how to prepare for the implementation of the GDPR;
  • Gain invaluable instruction and insight on the regulation and how to comply;
  • Discover the security solutions that can help to mitigate risks and assist in meeting your security obligations under the GDPR

This is the kind of education I can get behind. I really hope it’s not a well disguised sales pitch…

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GDPR Vulture

Want on the GDPR Bandwagon? Be Qualified, or Stay the Hell Off!

First, what do I mean by ‘qualified’? – I mean that the only people truly qualified to lead a GDPR project are lawyers specialising in privacy. That’s it.

EVERYONE else only has a part to play. Often a very significant part, but that’s it for them as well. A part.

I’m NOT saying that every single organisation has to make the significant investment in a privacy lawyer to meet the intent of GDPR. I’m saying that the only ones qualified to determine ‘intent’ in your organisation’s specific context, are privacy lawyers. No-one who is an expert in information technology, or cybersecurity, or any other subject is qualified …unless they are also a privacy lawyer.

To even further labour the point, a qualified person is neverCertified EU General Data Protection Regulation Practitioner …unless – you guessed it – they are also a privacy lawyer.

I’ve seen every type of vendor from Cyber Insurance providers, cybersecurity consultants, to single-function technology vendors, make the most ridiculous claims as to their suitability to ‘help’ with GDPR. All to make a bit more money while the GDPR bandwagon is on the roll.

The prize so far goes to a consultant who maintains that the entire GDPR can be ‘operationalized’ under the ISO 27001 standard. Unfortunately this attitude is pervasive, as no organisation seems to want to share the opportunity with appropriate partners. The attitude of ‘land-the-gig-and-we’ll-work-out-how-to-deliver-it-later’ cannot apply here. GDPR is a law, one with significant penalties attached, so unless you really know what you’re doing, stick to what you know. And ONLY what you know.

For example, I can be [very] loosely categorised as a ‘cybersecurity expert’, so that limits my ability to help with GDPR to:

  1. Data Security – As I’ve said a few times now, of the 778 individual lines of the GDPR Articles, only 26 of them are related directly to data security. That’s only 3.34%. Yes, I can help you implement ISO 27001 to cover that 3.34% (a.k.a. “appropriate security and confidentiality”), but if GDPR is the only reason you have to implement ISO, don’t bother, you’ve missed the point;
    o
  2. Secure Technology Implementation – GDPR is not about technology, but the implementation of GDPR will have significant technology implications. From collection of consent (Recital 32), to age identification (Recital 38), to the rights to erasure and rectification (Recital 39), technology will play a big role. All of this technology will require appropriate security wrappers in-line with demonstrable good security practices; and
    o
  3. Governance Design and Implementation – Any organisation that has a Governance function already has a GDPR Implementation Team in place. Since there can be no true Governance without full departmental representation (Technology, Security, Legal, PMO, Sales, Marketing and so on), it follows that the Security team will have full understanding of GDPR’s impact from the Legal team. In turn, Technology and Security will have significant input to Legal’s decisioning, and it’s this ‘negotiation’ under the Governance umbrella that gives GDPR its ‘organisation specific context’.

This should be more than enough for any security consultant, but apparently it’s not enough for some consultants who want to replace Governance all by themselves. But, what’s wrong with partnering up with others to do the parts you absolutely should not touch? Is it not better to be really good at the one thing you do for a living and be part of a team of experts who can cover the other bases?

To put this another way, do you really want to ruin your reputation by lying to your clients now, or be the resource they come to to solve every similar problem from this point forward? Do you want to sell used cars or be a trusted advisor?

GDPR, like security, is not complicated. It’s actually very simple, just BLOODY difficult to implement. There is not one individual who can simplify this for you, not even a privacy lawyer. So if you’re looking to implement GDPR, you can rest assured that anyone who is a) not a privacy layer, AND 2) not part of a team of experts with collaborative skill-sets, AND 3) trying to sell you something, should be listened to with caution.

As always, I am not going to lay the blame entirely at vendor’s feet, they too have a business to run. In the end, the only people who get the answers they need on GDPR are the ones asking the right questions.

You MUST do your homework!

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GDPR Certified

There is No Such Thing as GDPR Certification …Yet!

If you’re looking for more information on GDPR, and surprisingly few of you are, you will likely have seen vendors selling things like; Certified EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Practitioner, some of whom also promise delegates that they will be “awarded the ISO 17024-accredited EU GDPR Practitioner (EU GDPR P) qualification by IBITGQ”.

Sounds really impressive, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean a damned thing.

ISO 17024 – Conformity Assessment – General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons only covers the “principles and requirements for a body certifying persons against specific requirements, and includes the development and maintenance of a certification scheme for persons.” and the IBITGQ (International Body for IT Governance Qualifications) are only “dedicated to the provision of training, qualifications and the continued professional development of information security, business resilience and IT governance professionals.”

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either ISO 17024 standard or the IBITGQ, when applied appropriately, they have absolutely nothing to do with GDPR certification. The ‘practitioner’ course itself may cover aspects GDPR, but there are no certifications yet available for GDPR, let alone accredited certification bodies who can provide it.

For example, in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will be the ‘supervisory authority’ responsible for the:

  1. “...establishment of data protection certification mechanisms and of data protection seals and marks, for the purpose of demonstrating compliance with this Regulation of processing operations by controllers and processors.” – GDPR Final Text, Article 42, Para. 1, and;
    o
  2. “…accreditation of certification bodies as referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article [which] shall take place on the basis of criteria approved by the supervisory authority...” – GDPR Final Text, Article 43, Para. 3

In other words, without the ICO there is no GDPR certifications available from anyone for anything. To date the ICO have release nothing on certification / accreditation, not even guidance. Nor have the Article 29 Working Party (Art. 29 WP) to whom the ICO refer.

One of the  challenges is that the term ‘certification’ means several things even within the GDPR itself. From the certification of ‘appropriate measures’ between processors and controllers (GDPR Final Text, Recital 76), to the “The adherence of the processor to an approved code of conduct or an approved certification mechanism…” (GDPR Final Text, Recital 81), the nature and extent of these certifications will vary considerably.

What IS out there however are organisations offering GDPR foundation classes. These courses are designed to instruct and inform, not offer useless acronyms. It’s these courses you should be looking into, but like everything else, you must ask the right questions.

For example, if you’re:

  1. a Data Protection Officer (DPO), you will need to know how the GDPR affects your responsibilities and management reporting;
  2. a contract lawyer, you’ll need to know how all of your vendor AND client contracts will be affected;
  3. an IT manager you’ll want to know how the GDPR will be implemented from an infrastructure perspective; and
  4.  responsible for cybersecurity, how do you demonstrate ‘appropriate measures’?

But worse than vendors trying to provide training certificates are the ones providing GDPR compliance consultancy, or worst yet, software. I can understand privacy lawyers offering these services, but cybersecurity vendors!? Data security is less than 5% of the work organisations will have to perform to bring themselves into compliance with GDPR. Not only that, in the ICO’s Guide to Data Protection they already mention ISO 27001 under Principle 7 – Information Security, so it’s fairly clear against which benchmark security programs will be measured.

GDPR is not an IT problem, it’s certainly not just a data security problem, it is a business problem, and one that will affect every individual in your organisation to a greater or lesser degree. The first step is not to buy the first training course that comes your way, it’s to raise the awareness of GDPR to the people whose very arses are on the line. Whether you call them the Senior / Executive Management, the C-Suite, or the Leadership Team makes no difference, the implementation of GDPR starts with those at the top. They are the ones who will be held accountable, so they are the ones who should ensure that everyone has the training and awareness they need.

Every new data protection regulation is seen by vendors as a way into your wallets. The GDPR is no different. Do your homework, and ignore any organisation offering services predicated on fear, uncertainty and doubt. Or worse, utter nonsense.

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GDPR Fines

GDPR and Cybersecurity, a Very Limited Partnership

If a security vendor has ever told you that the GDPR is imposing fines of up to 4% of annual global revenue for data breaches, they are either:

  1. ignorant of the standard; and/or
  2. lying to you.

Being generous, they may not actually know they are lying, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) isn’t exactly easy to decipher, but even a cursory review tells a rather obvious story. I will attempt to address the following assumptions in the course of this blog:

  1. The GDPR is >95% related to enforcing the RIGHT to privacy, not the LOSS of privacy through data breach;
    o
  2. The maximum fines for ANY organisation are 2% of ‘annual turnover’ for even the most egregious loss of data through breach, not 4%; and
    o
  3. Fines are entirely discretionary, and an appropriate security program will significantly reduce any fines levied.

Wait, there are 2 types of privacy!?

Ask a lawyer in the EU what privacy is and s/he’ll likely quote Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

From a GDPR perspective, this equates to two of its three fundamental aspects. Grossly simplified these are:

  1. Explicit consent; and
  2. Legitimacy of processing.

In other words, the vast majority of the GDPR is concerned with obtaining explicit consent for the personal data collected, and then ONLY using that data for legitimate purposes in-line with the consent received.

Even when GDPR refers to ‘security’, it is more concerned with these two fundamentals than it is with security of the data itself. That is what they mean by “security of processing“.

However, from a cybersecurity professional’s perspective – and the third fundamental aspect of the GDPR – privacy also involves loss. i.e. The data was stolen during a breach, or somehow manipulated towards nefarious ends. This is a very important part of the GDPR, Hell, it’s a very important part of being in business, but it should never be used to sell you something you don’t need.

Maximum fines?

Of the 778 numbered or lettered lines of text in the GDPR Articles section, there are only 26 that relate directly to data security (or 3.34%). These are contained within Articles 5, 25, 32, 33 and 34.

Per Article 83(4)(a) (a.k.a. ‘2% fines’) – “(a) the obligations of the controller and the processor pursuant to Articles 8, 11, 25 to 39 and 42 and 43;

While Article 5 is contained within Article 83(5)(a) (a.k.a. ‘4% fines’), all but one line refers to security of processing, not the security of the data.

So, if it can be assumed that if the maximum fine for ANY data breach, no matter how egregious, is 2% of the annual revenue from the previous year (in the case of an undertaking), that 2% is what the EU considers the maximum for a fine to qualify as “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” (per Article 83(1)). Therefore, a fine of €10,000,000 would be reserved for any organisation with revenue over €500,000,000 annually. Fines are never there to put you OUT of business!

It must follow that if 2% is the maximum, then fines will go down the less egregious is your offence. Everything you need to determine the level of ‘egregiousness’ is contained in the 11 lines of Article 83(2)(a) – (k). Words like ‘intentional’, ‘negligent’, ‘degree’, and ‘manner’ are bandied around, all of which can be answered by you.

In this spreadsheet, I have taken a stab at adding specific questions to each of the (a) – (k) line items. Answer them all truthfully and you’ll get an indication of what I consider to be an appropriate fine based on your annual revenue: GDPR Fine Worksheet. Caveat: I am NOT a lawyer, and this is based entirely on my own experience, not anything resembling known fact.

Finally, bear in mind that as per Article 58(2), there are many ‘corrective powers’ that a supervisory authority can resort to long before levying a fine, including simple warnings (Article 58(2)(a)). Fines should be considered as a worst case scenario in their own right, let alone the amount.

Appropriate security program?

There is no such thing as 100% security, so the more you can demonstrate that your security program is appropriate to the levels of risk, fines should be the least of your problems. As long as you have everything from senior leadership buy-in, to incident response, to disaster recovery and breach notification – you know, the basics! – it is not a foregone conclusion that fines will even be considered.

Go here for more on what a security program should look like: What is a Security Program?

In conclusion…

In the UK, if you are an organisation that processes personal data and you were already a) complying with the Data Protection Act (DPA), and b) doing security properly, GDPR compliance would require only relatively minor adjustments. For those that weren’t, you have a lot of work to do now once the supervisory authority has the powers that GDPR bring to bear, and not much time to do it in (May 25, 2018).

That said, don’t do anything for compliance alone. Do it for the business, do it properly, and compliance will fall out the back end. So while it is reprehensible that security vendors are trying to exploit the GDPR for profit, if you fall for it it’s entirely your fault.

By the way, if you’re a business that is predominantly centered around the processing of personal data, the Article 58(2)(f) – “to impose a temporary or definitive limitation including a ban on processing;” can take you offline indefinitely. And yes, you can be fined on top of that.

I hate to say it, but don’t do anything until you’ve spoken to a lawyer.

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Who is making cybersecurity so complicated?

Who’s Making Cybersecurity So Complicated?!

One of the goals of this blog, as well as the ultimate goal of my career, is to simplify all aspects of cybersecurity. Well, maybe not all. I have no idea how to simplify a penetration test (or even perform one), or encryption mechanisms, but I’ve got the high-level stuff covered! 🙂

From my perspective, cybersecurity is already simple. You would hope so, it’s what I do, but that’s not actually what I meant. Which is that every aspect of cybersecurity must be simple for it to even be effective security in the first place. There is no room for complicated. It must also be accessible to everyone who needs it, regardless of their current role or previous experience.

It is therefore the job of every cybersecurity professional to make this stuff easy, but clearly we are not doing a very good job. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are certain elements that seem to go out of their way to make things difficult!

What / who are these elements, and why are they doing it?

o

  1. No offence, but Element 1 is You; While you may not be a security expert, you are every bit as responsible for security as those who are the experts. Ignorance of your responsibilities is no excuse, and if your organisation does not provide you the necessary training, demand that they do so. Unless you’ve lived in a hole for the last 10 years, you have seen the headlines related to data breaches. You really don’t want to be the cause of one.
    o
  2. Which is the ideal segue into the Element 2, which is; Senior Management. If they don’t care about security, there’s a very chance you don’t care (see element 1.). If cybersecurity is not in the Top 5 priorities of your BoD / CEO, then you likely have an entirely ineffectual security program. If you even have one at all. There is nothing more difficult and seemingly complicated than starting something from the very beginning, but start you must.
    o
  3. Element 3 is of course, Lawyers / Regulators. Not that they do this on purpose, it’s that they just can’t help themselves. The language of the law is practically incomprehensible to the rest of us, yet it has to be lawyers that write every contract, regulation, and [of course] law out there. Combine their legal-ese with something you already don’t understand [cybersecurity], and you’re left scratching your head in frustration. Or worse, avoiding it altogether.
    o
  4.  And the worst of the bunch, Element 4; Security Vendors. This is the one that is truly reprehensible. How many of you, for example, know what Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs) are? Or User and Entity Behavioral Analytics (UEBA)? What about Intelligence-Driven Security Operations Center Orchestration Solutions? No, me either. What I DO know is that you don’t need ANY of these things until such times as your risk assessment TELLS you need them! You have that process well oiled, right?

Of all the horrendous clichés out there, my favourite is ‘Back to Basics’. Cybersecurity is simple, bloody difficult, but simple. Anything that complicates it can be effectively ignored until such times as you’re ready for it. You will never get there by buying technology, and you will never get there until you get the basics right.

Luckily the basics are the cheapest things to fix. All you have to do is get your CEO to care, formalise your Governance, and get all of your policies and procedures in place.

Simple, right?

OK, that was facetious, but if you think any of these things is complicated you’re just not asking the right people the right questions.

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