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GDPR 101: Monitoring & Maintaining Compliance After the Deadline

Discussions about the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) reached a crescendo on May 25, the compliance deadline, but many companies continue seeking guidance.

The reason: A majority of companies missed the deadline, according to estimates from various sources, including Gartner, Crowd Research, IDC, Spiceworks, TrustArc, and Ponemon Institute, so it’s very likely that millions are still working on GDPR compliance.

Although GDPR has been in effect for months, “it’s clear that many organizations lack such a strategy or the tools needed to effectively protect sensitive data and maintain privacy and protection,” Gartner analyst Deborah Kish said in August.

To help companies still in the process of meeting the regulation’s requirements, the IT GRC Forum recently held a webcast titled “GDPR 101: Monitoring & Maintaining Compliance After the Deadline.” The webcast’s panelists included Qualys expert Tim White, who spoke about the importance of managing vendor risk and leveraging a control framework.

Tim White is Qualys’ Director of Product Management for Policy Compliance

White explained that IT security is a small yet key subset of GDPR. “The need to protect the privacy of the information, to prevent accidental or intentional disclosure, is a critical sub-component,” he said.

It’s also important to know that GDPR offers vague, general requirements for IT security, unlike other industry mandates and regulations that are very specific and prescriptive in this regard, said White, Qualys’ Director of Product Management for Policy Compliance.

“In GDPR, you’ve got to implement a good security program and apply the appropriate technical compensating and procedural controls to do due diligence to protect the information privacy,” he said.

The best way to achieve this is by leveraging a technical control framework, like the Center for Internet Security’s (CIS) Critical Security Controls or the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) 800-53 controls.

“It’s really important to make sure you have comprehensive coverage of all aspects of IT security, including vulnerability management, configuration management and patching, as well as all appropriate detection and preventative controls at the network layers,” White said.

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GDPR Is Here:  Assess the Security Configurations of Your IT Systems

In prior installments of this GDPR compliance blog series, we’ve discussed the importance of key security practices such as IT asset inventory and vulnerability management. Today, we’ll focus on another core component for GDPR: policy compliance.

As we’ve stated before, to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organizations must show they’re doing all they can to protect their EU customers’ personal data. Thus, InfoSec teams must provide a rock-solid security foundation that gives organizations superior data breach prevention and detection.

With a strong IT policy compliance program, organizations can deploy and manage their IT environment according to applicable government regulations, industry standards and internal requirements.

For organizations, it’s critical to establish a lifecycle for managing assets and controls to protect the data they contain. One must continuously: identify IT assets and scope, define control objectives, automate control assessment, prioritize fixes, and ultimately remediate the security configuration problems.

To be effective, this entire process must be trackable by auditors and must maintain the proper reports and dashboards necessary to drive continuous improvement. Organizations must have this knowledge not only to properly protect their EU customers’ personal data — the regulation’s core goal — but also to comply with other GDPR requirements.

After gaining complete visibility into their IT assets, organizations can create data maps and decide which technical controls it needs to secure EU residents’ personal data in a way that meets GDPR’s considerable expectations and strict requirements.

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DevSecOps: Practical Steps to Seamlessly Integrate Security into DevOps

To properly and effectively protect DevOps pipelines, organizations can’t blindly apply conventional security processes they’ve used for traditional network perimeters. Since DevOps’ value is the speed and frequency with which code is created, updated and deployed, security must be re-thought so that it’s not a last step that slows down this process.

Hampering the agility of DevOps teams has terrible consequences. These teams produce the code that digitally transforms business tasks and makes them more innovative and efficient. Thus, it’s imperative for security to be built into — not bolted onto — the entire DevOps lifecycle, from planning, coding, testing, release and packaging, to deploying, operating and monitoring.

If security teams take existing processes and tools, and try to jam them into the DevOps pipeline, they’ll break the automation, agility and flexibility that DevOps brings. 

“This doesn’t work,” Qualys Vice President of Product Management Chris Carlson said during a recent webcast, in which he explained how security teams can seamlessly integrate security into DevOps using Qualys products.

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Webcast Q&A: The GDPR Deadline Readiness and Impact to Global Organizations Outside the EU

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect in late May, organizations are hungry for clarifying information regarding its vaguely-worded requirements, in particular as they apply to cyber security and IT compliance. This interest in better understanding how to comply with GDPR was evident among participants of a recent Qualys webcast titled “The GDPR deadline readiness and impact to global organizations outside the EU.”

Here we’re providing an edited transcript of their questions and of the answers provided by webcast host and Qualys Director of Product Management Tim White. Darron Gibbard, Qualys’ Chief Technical Security Officer and Managing Director of the EMEA North region, contributed to some of the answers.

Are there any recommended frameworks for implementing controls and processes for information security that I could follow to ensure GDPR readiness?
There are a variety of different ways of implementing general security best practices. There are some specific recommendations and each member country is starting to post the requirements. The most advanced one is the U.K.’s ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). They provided a lot more depth about what InfoSec requirements you should put in place, but even their recommendations are still very vague. This isn’t like PCI where they say you have to implement a change detection solution to monitor critical changes to configuration files, and you must monitor log files on a regular basis. GDPR doesn’t have prescriptive controls like that. GDPR indicates that you have to implement the controls that are appropriate for the level of risk and that you need to protect the data from breaches of confidentiality, integrity and availability. So they basically say: “Do a good job at security.”

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GDPR: The Stakes Are High and Time Is of the Essence

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect in under three months, the countdown clock is fast approaching zero for organizations worldwide that handle personal data of EU residents.

GDPR is a very broad and wide-ranging regulation that requires organizations to obtain a lot of legal advice, and to implement business controls. Although these controls exceed the scope of information security, IT security and compliance are a significant subset of the regulation.

A special challenge for InfoSec teams is GDPR’s lack of details about specific security measures and requirements for protecting EU residents’ data.

“The GDPR regulation is extremely vague and doesn’t give any detailed prescriptive requirements of what the expectations are for data protection, but they’re very far-reaching,” Tim White, a Qualys Product Management Director, said during a recent webcast.

GDPR puts a heavier burden of accountability on organizations, forcing them, among other things, to accommodate significant new rights for individuals. For example, EU residents can request that organizations delete, disclose, correct and transfer their personal information.

To comply with these GDPR “subject access requests,” organizations must know what data they have, where it’s stored, with whom they’re sharing it, how they’re protecting it, and what they’re using it for.

Unfortunately, many organizations are far from ready to comply with GDPR.

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Continuous Security and Compliance Monitoring for Global IT Assets

In today’s information security world, all assets everywhere must be detected, visible, protected and compliant — all the time. It’s no longer enough to rely on “point in time” security and compliance assessments, such as scheduled weekly or monthly scans on handpicked critical servers.

“You must transition to continuous security and compliance monitoring of all of your global IT assets,” Chris Carlson, a Vice President of Product Management at Qualys, said during a recent webcast.

The reasons for this shift are many and varied, and include these three key ones:

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Cloud Security Improves, But Much Work Still Remains to Be Done

As cloud computing adoption accelerates among businesses, InfoSec teams are struggling to fully protect cloud workloads due to a lack of visibility into these environments, and to hackers’ increasingly effective attacks.

That’s the main finding from SANS Institute’s “Cloud Security: Defense in Detail if Not in Depth” report, which surveyed IT and security pros from organizations of all sizes representing many industries.

“We’re seeing more organizations moving to the cloud. They’re definitely moving quickly. And security teams aren’t wholly comfortable with the way cloud providers are giving us details about what’s going on in the environments,” report author Dave Shackleford, a SANS Institute analyst and instructor, said during a webcast to discuss the study findings.

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Implementing the CIS 20 Critical Security Controls: Make Your InfoSec Foundation Rock Solid

For almost 10 years, thousands of organizations eager to solidify their security and compliance foundations have found clarity and direction in the the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls (CSCs).

This structured set of 20 foundational InfoSec best practices, first published in 2008, offers a methodical and prioritized approach for securing your IT environment. Mapping effectively to most security control frameworks, government regulations, contractual obligations and industry mandates, the CSCs can cut an organization’s risk of cyber attacks by over 90%, according to the CIS.

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Implementing the CIS 20 Critical Security Controls: Delving into More Sophisticated Techniques

Corden Pharma needed a standardized security program to meet customer requirements. Link3 Technologies wanted to prioritize its network security improvements. Telenet was looking for a road map to implement its ISO-27000 compliance program.

These three companies — a German pharmaceutical contract manufacturer, an IT services provider in Bangladesh and a large telecom in Belgium — all found the InfoSec clarity and guidance they needed in the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls (CSCs).

They are among the thousands of organizations that over the years have successfully adopted the CSCs, a set of 20 security best practices that map effectively to most security control frameworks, as well as regulatory and industry mandates.

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Implementing the CIS 20 Critical Security Controls: Building Upon Foundational Cyber Hygiene

Most successful cyber attacks exploit known vulnerabilities for which patches are available, or take advantage of weak configuration settings that could have been easily hardened. You can significantly lower the risk of being victimized by this type of common, preventable attack by adopting the Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls (CSCs).

This set of 20 structured InfoSec best practices offers a methodical and sensible plan for securing your IT environment, and maps to most security control frameworks, government regulations, contractual obligations and industry mandates.

The CSCs were first developed in 2008 and are periodically updated by a global community of volunteer cybersecurity experts from government, academia and industry. “The CIS Controls provide a prioritized approach to cyber security, starting with the most essential tasks and progressing to more sophisticated techniques,” Tony Sager, CIS Chief Evangelist, wrote recently.

In this blog series, we’re explaining how Qualys Cloud Platform — a single, integrated, end-to-end platform for discovery, prevention, detection, and response — and its Qualys Cloud Apps can help security teams of any size to broadly and comprehensively adopt the CIS controls.

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