Mobile portable public toilet WiFi provider Purple recently added a “Community Service Clause” to its usual terms and conditions for wireless service:

The user may be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following:

  • Cleansing local parks of animal waste
  • Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs
  • Manually relieving sewer blockages
  • Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events
  • Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence
  • Scraping chewing gum off the streets

More than 22,000 people accepted these terms during Purple’s two-week-long T&C gambit, with only one attentive person claiming the prize Purple offered to anyone who noticed this silliness. Purple conducted this experiment “to highlight the lack of consumer awareness when signing up to use free WiFi.” Winners include snails, local parks, sewer lines, and stray dogs and cats, now the potential beneficiaries of up to 22 million community service hours.  The clear loser? Those. Who. Don’t. Read. Notices.    Continue Reading Reading privacy policies to avoid surrendering your firstborn child

“GarGarbage Dumpbage in, garbage out” – we know that already, right?  Well … what we know about information quality and what we do are not always in sync. Just for kicks, consider information quality through the lens of the industrial quality movement.

Looking down from 30,000 feet, the history of industrial quality goes something like this – Medieval Guild craftsmanship, then Industrial Revolution product inspection, and then the post-World War II focus on quality process management.  It sounds arcane, until one remembers the 1980’s visceral fear that Japanese manufacturers were beating the pants off of U.S. manufacturing in terms of quality and value. Enter W. Edward Deming, who had been deeply influential in Japan’s post-war industrial recovery, and who became the evangelist for quality management practices in U.S. industry.  Deming exhorted American management to adopt product and service quality as the driving force in all business practices.

What’s that got to do with Information Governance?  It’s this – regardless of industry, in today’s world you’re actually in the information business.  So, business quality increasingly means information quality.   Continue Reading Why govern your information? Reason #5: Bad information results in bad decisions.

Business woman screaming at laptopMany years ago, before common sense kicked in, I thought it would be a good idea to rent a storage space for all the extra furniture and other stuff I could not fit in my new house.  Knowing it would only be temporary, I stashed everything from upholstered and leather furniture, to boxes of books.  Fast forward twelve months.  The rental agreement was expiring, and I realized that I would never need nor have room for all that I’d stored, so I decided to have a sale to dispose of it.  When I went to the storage space I was horrified to see that everything was covered in a thin film of mold.  (This was years before climate-controlled storage was widely available.)  I had no choice but to trash it all, which both cost me money and prevented me from converting my goods to profit.

I was reminded of this long-ago event when I heard about the latest ransomware attack.  We’ve been reminded countless times of the importance of backup, and ransomware is only the most recent reason.  If you have ever had a hard drive fail, you know the pain that comes with irretrievable data.

So what happens when your backup media fails.? Or your archival media?  Don’t CDs last forever? Continue Reading Backup failure in the age of ransomware

Dr. Lawrence WeedAmerican architect Louis Sullivan, who coined the iconic phrase “form ever follows function,” was flat wrong – at least when it comes to the relationship of what we do and how we capture it with data.  The reality is instead that the medium shapes the message, and that record-keeping alters the processes it records.  Need a current example?  One only has to consider how the President’s staccato bursts of tweets now drive public attention, media focus, and policy debates, both domestically and abroad.

But a more profound example is the life’s work of Dr. Lawrence Weed, who passed away last week at age 93.   Continue Reading With business processes and records, we have it backwards – function follows form

checklistIt’s a common complaint – most U.S. laws requiring data security never cough up the specifics of what must be done to comply. Unlike other areas of business regulation, data security requirements seem hopelessly vague:

  • Several states’ PII laws require businesses to implement and maintain “reasonable security procedures and practices” to protect PII from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.
  • Regulations under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act compel financial institutions to have a “reasonably designed”comprehensive information security program with administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of customer information.
  • FACTA regulations require that consumer report information be disposed of “by taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to or use of the information….”
  • HIPAA covered entities and business associates must address the security standards for ePHI in a way that protects against “reasonably anticipated threats or hazardsto ePHI security or integrity.
  • The FTC enforces reasonable data security under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts in commerce, without explicitly mentioning data security and without any supporting regulatory standards for specific data safeguards.

Obviously, we can’t just put “remember to have reasonable data security” in a compliance checklist or internal audit protocol, because “reasonable” tells us nothing concrete about what specific security controls are needed to be compliant.  So, why do these laws stop short of telling us specifically what to do?

Continue Reading Why don’t data security laws simply tell us what we need to do?

disk cleanupIn a previous post I suggested that Information Technology is really in a good position to help identify and clean up ROT (redundant, obsolete, and trivial information).  Sometimes, though, IT needs a helping hand to get the attention of those who can approve a budget for clean-up initiatives.  Here’s where Audit comes in.

Over the years, I’ve seen many information governance clean-up programs come to life in the wake of an expensive e-discovery effort, or an embarrassing and costly data breach.  Needless to say, such events draw the attention of the C-suite and boards of directors.  That attention usually translates into emergency funding and action to shut down e-mail retention, delete old files, and generally do what should have been done all along: better manage information.  Audits, whether external or internal, can serve the same function.

Continue Reading InfoSec Audit’s role in cleaning up ROT

Lawyer holding a target on his faceWhile preparing for an upcoming presentation for in-house lawyers on data security, I dusted off the events of three months ago, when Yahoo! Inc. unceremoniously fired its general counsel on March 1st, the very same day it filed its 10-K for fiscal year 2016.  Yahoo’s 10-K disclosed the contemporaneous dismissal as a “Management Change” resulting from its Board of Directors’ Independent Committee investigation into Yahoo’s immense 2013-2014 data breaches, which were not disclosed until 2016. Unlike prior mega-breaches, in which the head of IT or the CEO was let go (Target, Sony), Yahoo singled out its lead in-house lawyer for firing … without separation compensation of any kind.

Henceforth, whether fairly or not, March 1 will be known as In-house Counsel Data Security Awareness Day – because it’s now clearer than ever before that in-house lawyers must take a hands-on approach to breach response, breach response readiness, and data security generally.

Continue Reading In-house Counsel in the Cybersecurity Crosshairs

… wMan with starting pistol over a background of ready racersell, not quite that fast.  But nine minutes is pretty quick, as FTC researchers recently confirmed.

The FTC’s Office of Technology Research & Investigation (OTech) ran an experiment in April and May, posting made-up personally identifiable information in plain text on two different Internet paste sites.  The phony PII was consumer account information for 100 fictitious people, including name, address, phone number, email address, password, and payment means (credit card number, online payment account, or Bitcoin wallet).  Then, OTech waited to see what would happen, monitoring for access attempts on email and payment accounts, attempted credit card charges, and calls and texts received.

The results, and the speed of those results, were a surprise to all but the most jaded.  Here’s what OTech’s monitoring revealed:

Continue Reading How quickly is stolen PII fraudulently used? Faster than you can tweet “covfefe”

dominoes fallingSometimes one must look past the headlines (Target’s $18.5 million deal with the states) to see what’s truly important in effective data breach response.

Last week, in the Experian data breach litigation, the District Court denied plaintiffs’ motion to compel production of the forensic analysis report on the breach, prepared by Mandiant.  Why?  Because it was Experian’s law firm that retained Mandiant to perform the forensic analysis and prepare its report, in anticipation of litigation.  According to the court:

  • Jones Day hired Mandiant to assist the law firm in providing legal advice to the client Experian;
  • Mandiant’s report was based on server images that are independently discoverable, without the report;
  • only a summary, not the full report, was shared with Experian’s internal Incident Response Team; and
  • though Mandiant had in the past worked directly for Experian on other matters, this engagement was separate.

On this basis the court held that the report was protected work product, without even reaching the additional point of attorney/client privilege.

So what’s the big deal?  It’s this – in the heat of an unfolding security incident (in Experian’s case, impacting 15 million people), things move fast.  Really fast.  Victim companies scramble to understand what happened, when it happened, what must now be done, and by when. The what and when are of course important, but  so too are the who and how of effective breach response.  For example, a natural move under the gun is to have the infosec folks immediately bring in an outside security/forensics firm and turn them loose.  Sounds great … until litigation ensues, and all of the forensic firm’s analysis is fair game in discovery – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This is a no-win situation, for both the unprepared and the semi-prepared:

Continue Reading In breach response, who and how are just as important as what and when

Ransomware - Ransomnote on ComputerI hope you were not affected by last Friday’s WannaCry ransomware hack.  If you were, you are unfortunately part of the biggest on-line extortion scheme seen to date.  And it may not be over, as new variants are appearing, so although you may have dodged the bullet for now, experts suggest that this attack is “nothing compared to what might be coming.”  So who are the lucky ones whose data is safe?