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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

The California Attorney General Just Changed How We Will Think About Data Security

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Feb 23, 2016 9:12:00 AM

Mic drop! California leads the way, once again.

eBook Turning a Blind Eye to Data SecurityCalifornia started the data breach notification revolution with SB 1386 back in 2003. Almost all of the other US states and territories followed suit passing their own versions of SB 1386, or passing even stronger protections.

Then California strengthened the original law with several new regulations that more stringently define what qualifies as encryption, and how law enforcement agencies interact with encrypted technologies.

THIS MONTH, the California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris published the “California Data Breach Report, 2012 - 2015”. Citing the California constitution’s guarantee of the “inalienable right” to privacy of its citizens, the report makes a new case for strong data protections.

You can read the entire report here.

Not only does the report make the case for strong data protection, it makes this statement as the first recommendation on about page 27:

Recommendation 1: The 20 controls in the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls define a minimum level of information security that all organizations that collect or maintain personal information should meet. The failure to implement all the Controls that apply to an organization’s environment constitutes a lack of reasonable security.

That’s right, the highest law enforcement official at the California Department of Justice just said that failing to implement the CIS Critical Security Controls demonstrates a lack of minimum reasonable security. While not intending to be legal advice, you can bet that this language will make its way into every lawyer’s lexicon when litigating a data breach or any failure to protect personally identifiable information (PII). Say this phrase over and over to yourself:

“A lack of reasonable security”

You are going to be hearing this a lot very soon.

There is no doubt that the 20 Critical Security Controls are very important. They encapsulate the best working knowledge of the security community on what you should do to protect your systems. They intentionally reflect the combined wisdom and experience of security professionals on what is effective and what has proven to work to protect systems.

You can read the CIS Critical Security Control here.

There is a lot of helpful documentation and guidance on the CIS web site. You will find practical guides for each of the 20 critical controls, a spreadsheet to help you organize your work, and other backing documentation. It will be a great resource as you start to move forward.

The change in mindset that this report signals won’t happen overnight. But it will happen and you should get prepared now. Here are some practical things you can do right away:

  • Read the California Attorney General’s report. It will be old news for you security professionals, but for everyone else it is a great place to start. You can hand it out to your executives, too.
  • Read the CIS Critical Security Controls which is now in version 6 (see the link above).
  • Download the CIS Critical Security Controls spreadsheet. This will give you a template for the work you will need to do.
  • Create a team to take the lead on implementing the security controls. You will need a member from your business leadership, a member of your compliance committee, a security professional, a manager from your application development team, and a manager from your network team. If you are a VMware shop, be sure to add someone from the VMware infrastructure team.
  • The team should review and prioritize the security controls as the first task.

Now get to work implementing the controls! Some will be fairly easy to accomplish, and some are going to take some time and additional budget. But as I hinted above, it is going to be cheaper to do this now than to pay litigation costs and then have to do it under the gun.

As Laozi said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”


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Topics: Encryption, Security News

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