Breach notification laws: Better privacy or the 10th circle?

Today (April 19th) New Mexico became the 48th state to enact a data breach notification law.  Only Alabama and South Dakota do not have a notification law on the books.

On the one hand this is good news for the privacy on New Mexicans.  They are now ensured they will have notice of a breach of their personally identifying information.  They will have the opportunity to mitigate the damage resulting from such a personal exposure.

For security and privacy folks, though, there is a different perspective.  We now have 48 distinct regulations to track.  If I have a client that does business across the country, I have to ensure I am able to help them comply with 48 different (and sometimes contradictory) regulations.  As an example, assume I have a client doing business in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado:

  • In Texas and Oklahoma consider a drivers license an element of personally identifying information; Colorado does not.
  • Colorado requires notification to the credit reporting agencies (CRA) if more than 1000 records are breached.  CRA reporting is required in Texas if more than 10,000 records are breached.  Oklahoma does not require CRA reporting at all.
  • Oklahoma allows for electronic communications if the cost of written communication exceeds $50,000; in Texas and Colorado it is only allowable if the costs exceed $250,000.

Add the other 45 states to the mix and the mapping becomes complex.  I won’t comment on whether there is a “better” rule, but the hodgepodge of requirements makes it more difficult for everyone.   This is the type of conflict that is ripe for a federal rule to unify requirements.  Unfortunately the attempts to do so over the past few years have failed to garner much attention.

BTW:  For the curious, there are at least 89 different counties with breach or privacy laws.  A breach at a multi-national corporation can be very complex.

InfoSec SouthWest and other conference

It has been an interesting few months.  Since joining Gardere last November I’ve presented more than I can remember doing so in the past.  Now, in general I don’t really like presenting.  It isn’t one of my greatest fears, but it also isn’t a big deal.

What I do enjoy about the past few months of presentations, though, is the audiences.  I’ve been lucky enough to present to CIOs, clients, college students, and numerous lawyers through internal and external Continuing Legal Education (CLE) events.

Now, I’m a security guy right?  Why not present to security people?  Because it is less important to present to people that already “get it”.

The technology world, and specifically the security world need to be exposed to people outside of security.  The lawyers need to understand how to protect their clients and firms.  CIOs need to hear that security is important from someone other than their CISO.

Normal human beings need to understand how to protect themselves.

It has been very rewarding.

This weekend (in Austin) is the InfoSec SouthWest (ISSW) conference.  This will bring together some amazing security professionals.  I’m not presenting at ISSW but really looking forward to hearing people smarter than me educate me about security philosophy and technology.  There is always room to learn and grow.

Apple increases encryption of iOS devices

As reported by The Register, Apple released iOS 10.3 today.  Included in the update is a new file system designed specifically for iOS devices.  The Apple File System (APFS) is designed for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

APFS brings strong “full-disk encryption” to protect files and metadata from exposure.  The interesting part is that APFS uses a multi-key encryption.  One key protects the data and a separate key protects metadata.  Separating these keys makes the attacker’s job more difficult.

Last year there was a very public debate around the role of encryption and backdoors for law enforcement investigations.  Apple fought FBI requests to decrypt an iPhone used by terrorists in California.  The FBI eventually found a way to decrypt the phone without Apple’s aid.

Doubling down on encryption, Apple is now making the process to gain access to iOS devices even more difficult.  It seems that relevant XKCD is even more relevant for Apple devices.

Bugs in the clouds

Amir Etemadieh (Zenofex) of Exploitee.rs has a great write up on a series of vulnerabilities in the Western Digital My Cloud storage appliances.  Zenofex is an amazing vulnerability researcher and all around good guy.

I’m not singling out Western Digital.  I think they make some good products.  The types of flaws that Zenofex found in this appliance are the same type that many IoT and personal “cloud” appliances contain.  The devices are made to be super easy for a consumer to setup and they allow the owner to connect to them from anywhere (many times with a smartphone app).

This ease of setup and access, though, means that they really should be hardened and secured like real commercial production system.  Hardening these types of systems should include changing passwords, closing unnecessary ports, validating and testing interfaces, using encryption at rest and in transit, etc.

This type of hardening is well beyond the average consumer and things like validating web applications for injection attacks is beyond many security professionals.

So, again, I’ll harp on manufacturers.  They need to build in security by default.  They need to test and validate their apps.

Folks like Zenofex do all of us a great service by finding these types bugs in consumer products, but it should not be up to a curious researcher.  It is the responsibility of the vendors to sell products that are safe for deployment.