Tag Archives: GDPR

Major GDPR Fines Make the Case for Cyber Security

by Bharat Mistry

One of the most important and challenging parts of the CISO’s role is to communicate complex concepts into a language the board understands. Without this crucial skill, it might be difficult to secure much-needed top level buy-in for major projects and cultural change. That is, until now. With the advent of the GDPR, data protection, privacy and cyber security became a board-level issue. This week, things kicked up a notch further, with BA and Marriott fined over £282m (€313m) collectively by the UK regulator.

If they have been stonewalled in the past, now is the time for CISOs to make the case more urgently than ever for extra investment to mitigate the clear business risk of regulatory fines.

The phony war is over
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was instrumental in helping to draw up the GDPR, and it was acting as the lead supervisory authority on behalf of other EU Member State data protection authorities when it issued the fines this week. Marriott International was handed a penalty of just over £99m (€110) while British Airways was given a fine of over £183m (€204m). This amounts to 1.5% of its worldwide turnover in 2017, and significantly less than the possible maximum 4%. Both will appeal the size of the penalties, but one thing is clear: no board room anywhere in the world can ignore the potential impact of GDPR on their bottom line and corporate reputation.

In the case of Marriott, the firm’s woes were inherited from Starwood hotels group it acquired in 2016. But that’s no excuse, the ICO said. The hotel giant should have undertaken more effective due diligence and put in place “proper accountability measures to assess not only what personal data has been acquired, but also how it is protected”. It’s also a US firm, but 30m of the 339m guest records exposed in the massive multi-year breach belonged to EU citizens. The reach of GDPR is global.

For BA, it was a 2018 breach of 500,000 customer records, including card numbers, travel booking details and names and addresses. Attackers compromised its website with notorious digital skimming code known as Magecart, in what appears to have been a highly targeted attack in which they did their best to stay hidden. Still, the ICO said it could and should have done better. The bottom line, said information commissioner Elizabeth Denham, is this: “When you are entrusted with personal data you must look after it.” This also sends a stark message that if you use 3rd-parties for any type of service or outsource then you should take adequate steps to ensure the supply chain is secure as you are still ultimately responsible and will be fined should there be a breach. 

Time to focus on security
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to GDPR compliance – just as there is no guaranteed way to remain 100% breach free. All organisations can do is to prove they have the best interests of their customers at heart, by following industry best practices and proven frameworks. As part of these best practices, we’d encourage a defence-in-depth approach to security combining a range of cross-generational threat protection techniques at server, endpoint and network layers.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Conduct a thorough data audit to work out what you process, where it flows and how high-risk it is
  • Apply appropriate security controls to that data. Endpoint, network, server and web/email gateway protection should ideally come from a single reputable provider. Trend Micro’s XGen approach offers a combination of connected threat defence techniques at each layer
  • Apply strong encryption to high-risk data at rest and in transit
  • Restrict access controls and apply multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Implement continuous networking monitoring for threats
  • Improve end-user education, with phishing simulation tools like Phish Insight
  • Keep all devices and software up to date
  • Follow best practice standards and frameworks, such as Cyber Essentials, BS 10012:2017 personal information management system (PIMS) and ISO 27001:2013 information security management system (ISMS)
  • Audit your supply chain to mitigate third-party risk and update contracts reflect the new GDPR regime

Most importantly, European firms must remember that compliance is not a destination that can be forgotten about once you reach it. Instead, it’s an ongoing journey that will require constant attention, and investment, as technology environments, the threat landscape, and regulatory requirements change.



Helping Firms Secure their Digital Transformation at Cloud Expo Europe

by Ian Heritage

The quest for competitive advantage through digital innovation has hit the mainstream. Organisations across the globe are turning to agile development practices, cloud and mobile platforms, smart devices and more to drive profits and get closer to their customers. Yet going digital means new risks, a larger corporate attack surface and more work for stretched IT teams.

Finding a solution to these challenges is not easy, but it is essential to the success of crucial digital transformation projects. That’s why our Principal Security Strategist, Bharat Mistry, will be offering some guidance for IT leaders at this year’s Cloud Expo Europe in London next month. His presentations will cover security for CI/CD environments and the value of Managed Detection and Response (MDR). Continue reading

Why Google’s £44m GDPR fine should be a wake-up call for organisations everywhere

by Ian Heritage

We’ve been waiting some time for European GDPR regulators to flex their muscles since the legislation came into force at the end of May 2018. Well, now they have, after Google was handed a €50m (£44m) fine in France. Although this particular case revolved around privacy and transparency over how consumers’ information is used, rather than data security, it clearly serves as a warning notice for firms, wherever they are.

In light of the judgement, IT and data protection teams should be redoubling their compliance efforts. As we predicted in December, a maximum 4% fine is still on the cards for this year, and the next one could be for a major data breach. Continue reading

Latest Sextortion Campaign Highlights Impact of Poor Corporate Security

by Bharat Mistry

The UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre is warning UK netizens of a new sextortion campaign in which the attackers threaten to publish an intimate webcam video of their victims. They make the threat more realistic by including a genuine password that the victim has used in the past. While user education is the most effective way to counter this kind of opportunistic digital blackmail, the case highlights yet again the potential downstream impact of corporate breaches.

By improving enterprise security standards across the board and migrating away from password-based systems, organisations can not only reduce data breach costs but also the knock-on effects of PII compromise that may haunt customers for years.

A new take
Online extortion is nothing new, in fact it’s what has made ransomware such a popular money-maker for cyber-criminals. But this campaign is slightly different in that it includes the victim’s password in the subject line. Action Fraud claimed to have contacted several of the 110+ victims who reported the unsolicited scam email and they confirmed the credential to be recent. It’s more than likely that they were bought on a dark web site, after originally being stolen from an online provider.

Having grabbed the recipient’s attention by posting the valid password, the extorter then claims to have recorded a webcam video of the individual watching pornography, and to have used malware to harvest all of their social media contacts. Users are required to pay $2,900 in Bitcoin within 24 hours.

The email concludes:

“If I do not receive the BitCoins, I will definately send out your video recording to all of your contacts including close relatives, co-workers, and many others. Nevertheless, if I receive the payment, I’ll destroy the video immidiately. If you need evidence, reply with “Yes!” and I will send your video to your 10 friends. It is a non-negotiable offer, therefore do not waste my time and yours by responding to this message.”

What can we learn?
Action Fraud is quite rightly urging netizens not to panic, not to pay up and to always respond to any unsolicited message like this critically. It also pays to cover up your webcam, just in case. While this sextortion campaign is clearly a scam, previous ones have used malware to genuinely record individuals via their webcams. In fact, it was estimated in 2016 that thousands of Brits are likely caught out by such attacks each year, with at least four suicides linked to the trend.

But pulling back even further, this particular scam campaign is made possible in part via breached credentials. One could argue that if organisations worked harder to secure customer data in the first place, as the GDPR demands, there would be fewer opportunities for follow-on blackmail and fraud. That means choosing a trusted partner to provide security at every layer of your infrastructure, from endpoint to web/email gateway, network and server. Trend Micro’s cross-generational blend of cyber-defence tools is optimised to offer protection where you need it most from the huge range of modern threats.

Best practice security today also dictates moving away from static password-based systems for your employees and customers and towards multi-factor authentication. With no passwords to steal, breaches become harder to carry out and the resulting impact on users diminishes.

Scams like this one are just the tip of the iceberg and we could see an escalation in similar blackmail attempts using breached PII as a highly effective social engineering tactic. The GDPR should be your guide here. Only with improved security processes backed up with state-of-the-art technologies can organisations minimise opportunities for the cyber-criminals and reduce the risk of long-term post-breach brand damage.