Equifax Happened: What Are We Going to Do About It?

Posted: October 3, 2017 by IntentionalPrivacy in Financial vulnerabilities, Security Breach
Tags: , ,

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Equifax. You can point fingers and say … well, you can say all kinds of things. Equifax should have patched faster, they should have notified faster, they should have been more organized about their response, they should have spent more money on security … While every one of those statements are true, they do not resolve the problem of breach response. They will not prevent future breaches. They do not make us safer.

What is  going to make us safer?

What have we learned from all these breaches? What will keep our information safe going forward? That is what really matters. What happened in the past only matters if we learned something from it (unless you are an attorney running a class-action lawsuit or, God forbid, your identity was stolen).

Regulations

Should the US implement regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)? Will more regulation make us safer?

There’s no doubt we need better regulations and oversight, especially on data brokers. There are more than 2500 data brokers in this country; your information is their product. For the most part, you cannot opt out and you cannot control what data brokers do with it. And if your file contains errors, chances are you will not be able to correct those errors. For an interesting overview of data brokers, read Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s article “Data Brokers and ‘People Search’ Sites.”

Won’t automation or lots of expensive tools keep us safer?

Part of the problem is that big companies in particular want to throw technological solutions at data security. Maybe technological solutions make the board feel safer. Maybe they cannot find personnel. Maybe it is because people are expensive.

Layers of security

When an organization gets breached because they did not patch or no one was paying attention to alerts, management may be surprised because they thought spending money on expensive tools would save them from breaches.  The vendors say it was not their fault because the tools were not correctly implemented. The staff says they did not get training or they were testing it or it does not work the way it is supposed to or there were too many extraneous alerts.

Organizations need tools, but their focus should be on the basics. Organizations should know how their data flows: how it comes in, where it goes internally, and when and where it leaves. Private personal information (PPI) should be encrypted whether it is moving or at rest. Organizations should know what and where their assets are. They should understand that employees are going to make mistakes and plan for them. Back up, disaster recovery, and redundant systems are necessary. Flat networks are a disaster waiting to happen: put things in security zones and implement authorization and authentication practices. Enact user training. Be careful who has administrative privileges. Practice safe passwords. Implement policies and procedures and physical security.

Security people know these layers; management should know and understand them also.

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