With just a year to go until GDPR takes effect, there are concerns that around half of businesses may not meet the new data protection standards in time. While the majority of IT security professionals are aware of GDPR, a recent poll found just under half are preparing for its arrival.

So what is GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the result of years of work by the EU to bring data protection legislation in line with the way in which we now use data. The introduction of GDPR will bring with it tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches and gives people a much greater say over what companies can do with their data. It’s worth noting that if you are currently subject to the Data Protection Act, it is likely that you will also be subject to GDPR.

When will it come into force and who does it affect?

The GDPR will apply in all EU member states from 25 May 2018. It will also apply to all businesses who hold the data of EU citizens, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in the region or, in the case of the UK, are members of the EU community. This also means that organizations in the US and the rest of the world will have to comply if their customer base, data controller, and data processors extend to Europe.

What happens in the event of a data breach?

One of the biggest legislative changes brought about by GDPR will be the organizational response to a data breach.

If you suffer a data breach that puts the rights and freedoms of individuals at risk, you must notify a data protection authority within 72 hours of your organization becoming aware of it. This also applies to those individuals affected by a breach. Failure to comply with these timescales could see you saddled with a fine of up to €10m, or 2% of your organization's annual turnover, whichever is greater.

To put that into context, TalkTalk’s record £400,000 fine for its data breach back in 2016 would amount to £59m under GDPR!

Failure to comply with the basic principles of GDPR could make an even bigger hole in your finances – fines could reach as much as €20m or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater.

The GDPR opportunity

Though the consequences of non-compliance are eye-watering, the introduction of GDPR presents significant opportunities for security improvements.

For years CIOs and CISOs have been trying to impress upon their exec colleagues the importance of good data management and robust cyber security. Too often, people only start to listen when a threat hits…when it’s too late.

Over the past few years, cyber risk has taken its place right next to credit risk, liquidity risk and operational risk as the most pressing threats to the enterprise. The introduction of GDPR only heightens that sense of importance, particularly when the financial and reputational stakes are so high.

The hope is that the introduction of GDPR legislation, as well as a host of other compliance mandates, will be a watershed moment for the security community.

It has to be said that meeting tick box compliance standards does not necessarily equal good security practice. It’s an opportunity to review policies, procedures, technologies and best practices to strengthen defenses and improve data integrity. As the GDPR enforcement date approaches, we can expect more detail, more guidance and more noise about the regulations – just don’t leave it too late to start planning for your compliance.

Some helpful reading:

6 myths about GDPR https://twitter.com/search?q=GDPR%20&src=typd&lang=en-gb

GDPR Mapped out in a diagram https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/download/Data-Flow-Mapping-and-the-EU-GDPR-September-2016.pdf