Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


03:00 PM
Tom LaSusa
Tom LaSusa

Let's Raise The Stakes For Data Loss Culpability

After a year of unbelievable (and in some cases incomprehensible) data loss among corporations both big and small, I propose we adopt a brand-new catchphrase for 2008. To borrow somewhat from culinary personality Emeril Lagasse: It's time to kick the penalties up a notch.

After a year of unbelievable (and in some cases incomprehensible) data loss among corporations both big and small, I propose we adopt a brand-new catchphrase for 2008. To borrow somewhat from culinary personality Emeril Lagasse: It's time to kick the penalties up a notch.Think about it -- what's a few million dollars in fines to a multibillion dollar company? We're talking a pittance here. What if instead, for every lost record, the business was charged a standardized fee? A recent study by the Ponemon Institute determined that every single lost, stolen, or compromised customer record costs about $200. Now let's see -- T.J. Maxx "misplaced" about 45 million customer records. Hmmm.

OK, OK, I'm not really suggesting they pony up a ridiculous, Doctor Evil-esque amount of $9,000,000,000. But how about $50 per record for Fortune 500 companies, with a lesser fine for companies in a smaller tax bracket? Depending on the total number of records lost, the fine wouldn't be enough to cause the business to collapse but would definitely hurt -- enough that security practices would start to be considered more than just an add-on or afterthought.

What about accountability? Shouldn't someone's head be on the chopping block for these transgressions? Sure, the guy who left his laptop unattended while he hit the airport bathroom will probably lose his job. The guy that sneaked in after hours and intentionally stole the data will get prosecuted. But what about the CEO or the CSO? Shouldn't they be taken to task for failed security measures or lack of policies? Shouldn't one of them be handed a pink slip? Or maybe a little time in prison would make these folks think twice before being so lax with customer data. I'm being too harsh, you say? Some things are just beyond our control? Perhaps you've never heard of gross negligence or breach of duty? Our courtrooms are full of cases where one party's conduct failed to uphold "the legal standard required of a reasonable person in protecting individuals against foreseeably risky, harmful acts of other members of society."

Simple Scenario: If the guy who runs the local deli fails to repair a broken sidewalk, he's held liable by the courts if someone is injured. The owner had a reasonable opportunity to correct the situation and chose not to. The injured party, on the other hand, is not responsible to know that there was a hazard. How is that any different than when a company fails to update its security policies (or neglects to implement any), resulting in the "injury" to thousands, if not millions, of customers' identities? Bottom line, companies are getting off light when it comes to being held accountable for data loss. It's time to take everyone responsible for these incidents to task. Higher penalties, loss of jobs, maybe even the threat of a little white-collar prison time might prompt the management to start caring a little more about the little guy.

What do you think -- do data loss punishments and fines fit the crimes? Or should we be hitting these companies -- and their officers -- harder ... a lot harder?

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
In CiviCRM before 5.21.3 and 5.22.x through 5.24.x before 5.24.3, users may be able to upload and execute a crafted PHAR archive.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
In CiviCRM before 5.28.1 and CiviCRM ESR before 5.27.5 ESR, the CKEditor configuration form allows CSRF.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
HashiCorp Nomad and Nomad Enterprise up to version 1.0.4 bridge networking mode allows ARP spoofing from other bridged tasks on the same node. Fixed in 0.12.12, 1.0.5, and 1.1.0 RC1.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
An XSS issue was discovered in manage_custom_field_edit_page.php in MantisBT before 2.25.2. Unescaped output of the return parameter allows an attacker to inject code into a hidden input field.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-17
All versions of package lutils are vulnerable to Prototype Pollution via the main (merge) function.