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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Reasonable Security Measures

GDPR: How Do You Define ‘Appropriate’ Security Measures?

Ask a lawyer what ‘appropriate’ or ‘reasonable’ means and they’ll come back with something like; “What would be considered fair by a disinterested third party with sufficient knowledge of the facts.”, or “Fair, proper, or moderate under the circumstances.”

Now translate that into what kind of security measures are considered appropriate? How would you justify that what you are doing is reasonable, fair, or proper under the circumstances?

Because that’s what you’ll have to do if things go wrong under GDPR. You’ll have to justify that the measures you took to protect personal data were underpinned by an appropriate program for measuring and treating risk. If your breach was shown to be anything other than a determined attacker, all you’ll have in your defence will be poor excuses. This is no better than negligence.

When you consider that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – and every other regulatory compliance for the matter – was written by lawyers, should we not be able to work out what ‘appropriate’ means for a security program? After all, lawyers have no problem defining the word ‘reasonable’, they even apply it to their fees!

The good news is that the process is not only well known, it’s simple; it’s called Risk Management, and it’s been around for decades.

Step 1: Complete your Asset Register;

Step 2: Map your assets to your business processes (which should already be mapped to revenue);

Step 3: Map your business processes to your business goals;

Step 4: Run a Risk Assessment against all business processes and / or key IT systems;

Step 5: Document the business impact of each risk (mapped against both revenue and business goals);

Step 6: Document Senior Leadership’s risk appetite against each business goal;

Step 7: Perform full analysis of security controls, determine if there are any gaps between the current state and the risk appetite;

Step 8: Fill the gaps;

Step 9: Document everything; and

Step 10: Repeat annually, or prior to any major changes.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an auditor after you have been breached. What are they going to task you for? What could anyone reasonably expect of you to have in place if you were taking your duties seriously?

If I was an auditor I’d ask for 5 things up front, as without them I know there is no way you have an appropriate security program in place:

  1. A mapping of your policies, standard and procedures to whatever security framework you based your on;
  2. Your risk assessment procedure, and the results of the last one conducted;
  3. Your risk register;
  4. Your change control procedure; and
  5. Your incident response procedure.

At this stage I would care nothing for your technology, or how much you spent on it. A technology purchase outside of a properly defined business need is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Besides, no regulator has ever tried to qualify how much you spent. It’s up to you to show why you spent what you did, and why you didn’t spend more.

Thing thing to bear in mind here is that the validation of ‘appropriateness’ is not a conversation, it’s documentation. It’s not even evidence of the technologies you have running, it’s showing that the technologies you do have meet the risk you have defined. While from a lawyer’s perspective, appropriate is demonstrated by precedent, in cybersecurity, appropriate is demonstrated by the extent and capability of your security program.

Complying with the cybersecurity of the GDPR is simple, every step is written down for you somewhere. There are a few things to bear in mind though:

  1. GDPR is 90% about how you get the data, and what you then do with it when you have it. Anything you spend on security should be justified against the business goals, not a compliance requirement;
  2. There is no cyber insurance against loss of reputation, this should not be about the money;
  3. Any security vendor offering “GDPR Compliance” is at best telling you 10% of the story, at worst, is lying to you.

While I agree it may be difficult to sort through the good advice and the crap when it come to this stuff, there is no excuse for  doing nothing. GDPR and every regulation to come will not change the basics, security will be same regardless.

The issue is not regulation, it’s that organisations still aren’t asking the right questions.

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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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What Will Brexit Mean for Cybersecurity?

No idea.

But let’s be honest, everyone will be making wild speculations at this point, just as ‘experts’ in every other field will be. The only thing for certain, is that the UNcertainty will be used by security vendors to try to scare UK companies into buying something.

This one is unrelated, but is actually very good and you should read it first; Brexit: The Implications for the Insurance Industry.

Two of the pending EU laws in the pipeline that will be most cited are the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While both of these do not relate to information security per se, security is an enormously important component of each, and penalties will be commensurate with the egregiousness of the data misuse/loss.

The UK would have had to make these law within the next 2 -3 years, but now what? If we’re not IN the EU, do we have to follow the EU rules? Can’t we just do our own thing, like the US?

Well yes, we could, all we’d have to do is adopt something like Safe Harbor and all EU countries would be more than happy to do business with us. Right?

I don’t think so somehow.

Clearly the UK would never put itself in that position [praying silently], and seeing as both PSD2 and GDPR are fully supported by the UK, I would very much doubt any UK-only law would be markedly different. But ANY difference will still complicate things for UK businesses. It will likely require UK organisations to be far more pro-active in the demonstration of their compliance than would otherwise be necessary.

And if there’s one thing that no organisation I have ever come across is good at, it’s the demonstration of good security practices.

Not one.

Luckily for us, there is absolutely nothing in ANY regulation of which I am aware that requires anything more than ‘appropriate’ controls. From the GDPR for example; “Personal data should be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security and confidentiality of the personal data, including for preventing unauthorised access to or use of personal data and the equipment used for the processing.

This is the greatest thing about my chosen career; Information security cares nothing for law, regulation, compliance, geography, or politics, it’s about a piece of data, on a computer, that someone wants to steal. Everything else is just reporting.

However, getting to the point where the demonstration of compliance is business as usual, is extremely difficult. Not complicated, just difficult. It’s actually very simple, all you have to do is get the CEO/BoD to care about it and it will happen. Easy, right?

UK organisations had 2 years from May 25th to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR, now [potentially] they have to demonstrate their equivalent compliance to every EU business with whom they want to transact. And you thought answering RFPs was bad now!

Nothing will change anytime soon, but in the meantime, just do what you know you should have doing all along, but start now.

Don’t know how, ask.

Thinking About Using the PCI DSS as a Standard for Other Regulations? Don’t.

In a recent article in SC Magazine; “An Inconvenient Truth: New Customer Data Regulations Coming” Jeremy King of the SSC suggests that Payment Card Industry (PCI) “provides the most complete set of data security standards available globally.” I can only assume he means that the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) contains a list of basic security controls every organisation should have in place, and not that the PCI DSS in any way resembles real-world security.

Because it doesn’t, and you only have to look at the number of breaches involving ‘PCI compliant’ merchants and service providers to see that PCI, by itself, does little to prepare organisations against the challenges they face.

PCI compliance is a commercial obligation, nothing more, and any fines levied are only paid because the merchant or service provider who was breached wants to keep taking plastic. The Payments Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be LAW in the 28 countries of the EU, and attract both legal and financial repercussions that could potentially cripple even the largest of businesses. No standard based on a bare minimum set of controls will ever protect personal data in a meaningful way.

Nor will any ISO standard, or COBIT, or any other information security framework for that matter. At least the PCI DSS puts its money where its mouth is and tells you what controls to implement, all security frameworks do is tell you something is a good idea, never how to do it a manner appropriate to your business.

Because they can’t, only the individual organisation can ever provide definition, and business justification, around the horribly inexact – but regulation standard – phrases; ‘appropriate’ and/or ‘reasonable security’.

The implementation of a security program that can meet the intent of ANY regulation includes very specific processes that the PCI DSS does not cover, and if they do, it’s in a very limited fashion with no-where near the emphasis required to express the importance. For example;

  1. The Risk Assessment (RA) is way down in section 12, when it should have been the very first thing performed before PCI compliance was even contemplated. An RA performed in-line with the PCI DSS would not be sufficient.
  2. The only nod to Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning is a single bullet in 12.10.1, when these processes are absolutely central to any organisation staying in business responsibly.
  3. The requirements related to 3rd party due diligence are entirely inadequate relative to the risk involved.

…and so on. I have addressed the inadequacy of the actual PCI controls many times, so I won’t bother repeating them here. Suffice to say, the majority of the controls would be no-where near enough.

There are only 3 main ways to appropriately address the current and new tranche of regulations / directives:

  1. Make the CEO legally responsible for security breaches, and apply criminal penalties in-line with the egregiousness of the negligence – Clearly fines don’t worry CEOs enough, perhaps some jail time would.
  2. Ensure the policies, procedures, and standards are world-class – There is no security program without the application of accurate corporate knowledge
  3. Training & Education – This should be self-explanatory

Compliance with any of the upcoming regulations is no different from any regulation already in place. There is nothing outside of an appropriate security program that will ever be required, so just do the things you should have been doing from the very beginning.

Security is not easy, but it IS simple.