In this series on establishing security classifications for your company’s information, last week’s post looked at one aspect – the widely varying definitions of Protected Information under state PII breach notification statutes. But if your organization is a covered entity or business associate under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the definition of Protected Health information (PHI) is also a key puzzle piece for your classification scheme.

HIPAA establishes national standards for the use and disclosure of PHI, and also for the safeguarding of individuals’ electronic PHI, by covered entities and business associates. Merely having information commonly thought of as “protected health information” does not mean that HIPAA applies. And there are some surprises in which organizations are – and are not – covered by HIPAA. So, that’s the first question to answer – is your company a HIPAA covered entity or business associate?Continue Reading Adding more class to Information Governance (Part 2)

When governing information, it works well to identify and bundle rules (for legal compliance, risk, and value), identify and bundle information (by content and context), and then attach the rule bundles to the information bundles. Classification is a great means to that end, by both framing the questions and supplying the answers. With a classification scheme, we have an upstream “if-then” (if it’s this kind of information, then it has this classification), followed by a downstream “if-then” (if it’s information with this classification, then we treat it this way). A classification scheme is simply a logical paradigm, and frankly, the simpler, the better. For day-to-day efficiency, once the rules and classifications are set, we automate as much and as broadly as possible, thereby avoiding laborious individual decisions that reinvent the wheel.

Easy so far, right? One of the early challenges is to identify and bundle the rules, which can be complicated. For example, take security rules. Defining what information fits in a protected classification for security controls can be daunting, given the various overlapping legal regimes in the United States for PII, PHI, financial institution customer information, and the like. So, let’s take a look, over several posts, at legal definitions for protected information, starting with PII under state statutes.
Continue Reading Adding some class to Information Governance (Part 1)

There are at least 1,040 reasons to love Florida. Who isn’t drawn to the sunshine, the pristine beaches, the food… and the tax fraud racket? For decades, South Florida has been the Silicon Valley for scam artists, drawn by the weather and the opportunity to make lots of money without actually doing much work. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida holds the highest per capita rate of identity theft complaints, followed by Georgia and California. While Medicare fraud, mortgage fraud, and securities fraud have traditionally been the bread and butter of South Florida scam artists, tax refund scams are definitely the new darling. But as the IRS recently announced, it’s the dawn of a new day for tax fraud prevention.
Continue Reading IRS shines the light on tax ID theft

Do data breaches cause lasting reputational damage for organizations? We all know breach response is expensive –  just ask Target, which posted data breach-related costs of $162 million through fiscal year 2014, plus another $129 million for the first half of FY2015, all net of $90 million in cyber insurance. That’s a lot of zeros, and it’s not over yet. According to Ponemon’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach study, the average U.S. cost of a “malicious or criminal breach” is $230 per compromised record, $210 per record for a “system glitch” breach, and $198 per record for “human error” breaches. The U.S. breaches in the study averaged more than 28,000 compromised records and an average total cost of over $6.5 million.

But beyond response hard costs, the X factor for many companies is a fear of crippling reputational damage in the wake of a large-scale data breach. As it turns out, such fears may be unfounded, and may also be unhelpful.
Continue Reading Will you still love me tomorrow, post-breach?

Ah, Federalism. In countless ways we benefit from a system in which individual states can express their respective policy interests in differing state laws, with the resulting quilt bound together by the Constitution, federal law, and judicial interpretation. But on some topics we end up with a “crazy quilt” … and PII breach notification is trending crazy.

Since 2002, when California enacted the seminal state law mandating notification of individuals whose personally identifiable information (PII) is breached, virtually every state has followed suit. Forty-seven states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have such statutes.  Only Alabama, New Mexico, and South Dakota are without one, and under Texas’ statute, companies doing business in Texas that have a PII breach must follow the Texas notification requirements for affected residents of these three states.

These laws are triggered by the affected individual’s residency, not where the breach occurred. So, when an organization with employees or customers in many states suffers a data breach, it must comply with a wide variety of differing and potentially conflicting state breach notification laws. And differ and conflict they do, as the following three examples illustrate.
Continue Reading State breach notification laws: the quilt is getting crazier

It’s a dangerous world for protected information, with major breaches in the news and a challenging cyber-threat environment behind the scenes. Organizations must be prepared to respond to data breaches, but effective response is no small matter. There are 10 different channels of response activity for an organization that has suffered a security breach: Security, Legal, Forensic, Law Enforcement, Regulators, Insurance Coverage, Public Relations, Stakeholders, Notification, and Personnel Management. Most of these activities are involved in every breach, and all must be dealt with in significant breaches. These activities are not sequential. They play out in parallel, with interrelated effects… and with the response clock ticking.
Continue Reading The 10 key activities for effective data breach response – Are you prepared?