Advancement in Internet technology
has been a double-edged sword. On
the one hand, it has increased the efficiency of some processes and made everyone’s life a lot easier. On the other, it has
made people’s sensitive information vulnerable and subject to theft by criminals.
By following a few basic steps, says Betty
Steele, of counsel in Baker, Donelson,
Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC’s
Nashville office, businesses can greatly mitigate the risk of loss of sensitive information
that is stored or transmitted electronically.
Smart Business asked Steele about the latest legislation governing information security
and what companies can do to safeguard
against the loss of sensitive information.
What are the key drivers behind federal,
state and international information security
laws and regulations?
Worldwide laws and regulations are proliferating in response to consumer concerns
about identity theft and privacy of personal
financial, health and other sensitive information, investor concerns about corporate
fraud and accounting irregularities, and government concerns about critical infrastructure and cyber attacks in light of terrorist
attacks around the world.
These drivers are continually being reinforced as high-profile security breaches are
being reported. For example, the TJX breach
of data on more than46 million credit and
debit cards used at TJX stores has spurred on
legislation aimed at making retailers and
other merchants liable to banks for the costs
associated with card data breaches through
such methods as consumer notification and
How does the constant introduction of new
and faster technologies impact the ability to
maintain sensitive information securely?
The constant introduction of new and
faster technologies means organizations, in
order to be competitive from a business perspective and have appropriate information
security controls, must ensure that processes
are in place for change control and integration of the administrative, physical and technical aspects of information security, privacy
and corporate governance.
Are there frameworks or best practices that
can be used so that legal, technology and
business requirements can be integrated into
processes and aligned?
Many public companies are already using
the COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology) framework
for internal controls for financial reporting in
order to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley
At the same time, those public companies
as well as nonpublic companies can also
effectively use ISO/IEC 17799 — now the ISO
2100 series and the de facto world information security management standard — in
order to comply with multiple laws and regulations in one integrated framework. ISO/IEC
17799 easily maps to COBIT and, for any
organization required to adopt the Payment
Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI
DSS) — i.e., organizations accepting credit
and debit card payments — this standard
easily maps to ISO/IEC 17799. Effective use
of these frameworks/standards may also
have the beneficial effect of reducing compliance costs and maximizing the chances for
What action steps should organizations take
at the beginning of the process?
A disproportionate number of information
security breaches occur because of insiders
intentionally and unintentionally violating
organizations’acceptable use of IT assets.
Many breaches occur because employees or
contractors lose electronic media containing
sensitive personal and/or organizational
information, or because employees access
sensitive information inappropriately. The
following approach is recommended for
organizations at the beginning of the information security management process:
1. Identify sensitive information, such as
credit card numbers, medical records and
employee files residing in both electronic and
non-electronic media, and determine who
has a need to use, disclose and request it.
2. Assign clearances to employees and vendors/service providers to access sensitive information based upon the concept of least
privilege. Clear security roles and responsibilities with appropriate policies, training and
accountability are key to the success of any
information security management program.
3. Document current policies, practices and
procedures, information flows, etc.
4. Provide a quick, basic risk analysis using
a best practices information security management framework.
5. Identify gaps that can be filled inexpensively and quickly and provide the most protection.
6. Put administrative, technical and physical controls in place that address these gaps,
many of which are caused by employees and
vendors/service providers failing to comply
with security requirements. These breaches
include downloading unauthorized software,
opening e-mail attachments from unknown
senders, leaving laptops and PDAs in cars,
and failing to encrypt sensitive information.
7. Consider using the highly prescriptive
PCI DSS for all sensitive information, not just
credit and debit card information.
8. Put together a realistic timeline and identify resources necessary to have an information security management program that
reflects reasonable best practices.
BETTY STEELE is of counsel in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC’s Nashville office and is a member of the firm’s
Business Law Department. She is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and concentrates her practice in technology, information privacy and security, corporate governance and international law. Reach her at (615) 726-5603.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell &