Legal ≠ Secure

A recent discussion about the security of an application generated the response "But this was OK'd by Legal so no more needs to be done".

Legal ≠ Secure. When a Legal department is asked for input, they are purely concerned with determining whether whatever is being presented to them contravenes the law. Most of the time the law will state something along the lines of "due care must be taken not to disclose data" rather than "you must use a minimum of 128-bit encryption to encrypt the data and the transmission".

What is due care? Well that's up to the judge to decide after the lawsuit has begun. Lawyers aren't normally Information Security professionals (well none I know!) and in fact often suffer from the same mideset as most non-IT professionals in that they tend to lump all things IT into the same basket*. As far as they're concerned, if someone in IT said we've done our best to secure something, they'll assume we've done due diligence and sign off, not really making the distinction of whether the 'IT guy' (or gal!) is technical or non-technical, a programmer, sysadmin or IT security expert. It may only be later during the court case when a prosecuting expert testifies that using DES to encrypt those passwords wasn't a good idea.**

When an IT Security Professional is asked for input, they generally have a pretty good grasp of legal requirements (well the good ones will!) and can always see legal for clarification. They are the ones who can ensure from a technology standpoint that the company is obeying the letter and the spirit of the law.

You wouldn't ask an IT Professional to to organize your legal defence, so don't ask a lawyer to vet the security of your applications. While the lawyers have their part to play, in ensuring that the law is being upheld, Legal ≠ Secure.


*In fairness to lawyers, I probably lump them all into the same basket too, not really paying attention to the difference between a patent lawyer and an ambulance chaser.
**If you're a lawyer reading this and don't understand this comment, go ask a friendly IT Security Professional!

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