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11 Jun 2019

NBlog June 11 - resistance is futile

Generally speaking, there's no point in complaining about applicable laws and regulations: like it or not, compliance is obligatory. That's not the end of the matter though: it's not as simple as that. For starters, there are questions about precisely what the obligations are, their applicability, and the potential consequences of noncompliance.

Those questions are all the more interesting in respect of other kinds of rules, especially those that are not written formally by highly trained lawyers following strict drafting practices finely honed over hundreds of years - corporate security policies for instance. 

Positioning compliance as a business or risk management issue puts a different spin on things. One particularly worthwhile approach is to elaborate on and explore the objectives behind the wording of the rules. Why is it considered necessary to protect someone's privacy, for example? What might happen if personal information was unrestricted, freely available, a commodity that could be freely shared or traded? Such questions are trickier to answer than they might appear.

Consider the actual real-world effects of "major" privacy breaches such as the Target incident in 2013. Aside from the public outcry or outrage, the enforcement penalties and various other costs relating to the clean-up, the organizations concerned are mostly still operating ... but are they the same, or have the incidents changed things? And what if any are the effects on the rest of us?

One difference stems directly from the media coverage of major incidents, specifically headline news raises awareness of the related issues among the general population and management, right up to executive level. But once the furor has died down, awareness tends to subside gradually back towards pre-incident levels - maybe a little higher due to the residual memories and reminders such as this very piece! 'A little more awareness', then, is the net, long-term effect of incidents on those not directly affected, perhaps also the individual and corporate victims who were involved.

'A little more awareness' is the least we can reasonably expect to achieve through security awareness and training activities - hopefully more than just 'a little', of course! Repeatedly topping-up on awareness levels is the approach we have taken for decades: regular refreshers work for us, in the same way that each subsequent privacy breach reminds us, yet again, that there are compliance obligations in that area. It's a ratchet or cumulative effect, each episode raising the level by some amount. 

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