Victorian Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection sorts sheep from the goats

The old data protection framework and information systems in the Victorian public sector were in severe need of rectification, according to David Watts, the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection in Victoria.

As a result, new legislation was passed on 17 September 2014 with the new Office Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection commencing official operations the next day. They developed the Victorian Protective Data Security Framework applies to over 2500 bodies and agencies - including the Victorian Sheep and Goats Farmers Association.

“I’m proud to live in a state where we separate the sheep from the goats,” joked Watts.

Securely managing and sharing data is critical. Watts told the story of the murder of Luke Batty - a young child who was killed by his father who was known to psychologically unstable. However, data sharing between agencies didn’t work with information that might have saved the child’s life not shared between agencies.

His role is complex with 20 standards in play. Although many are related to governance, others are focussed on specific woman areas such as Information, Personnel, ICT and Physical Security. By the start of 2016 he expects all of the standards the office is developing to be issued with just a couple still in development.

“The role is about developing a coherent, practical and proportional protective data standards and underpinning implementation with effective guidance"

"We’re not taking a compliance based approach. We’re taking a risk-based approach,” he says.

The approach Watts’ office take is to take a whole of data lifecycle view. That includes privacy obligations and retention regimes. This is a challenge given some data must be held in perpetuity.

The key guiding principals are confidentiality integrity and availability,” Watts says. the focus is on supporting the government in doing business. By using design theory, the office is embracing security by design.

“Security is built into the systems and processes, from the outset. Its not an expensive bolt-on after the fact”.

Watts told the audience the impact of the standards won’t just be something government needs to be aware of. The obligations set in the framework will be a part of every commercial contract the government enters into.

Reflecting one of the major themes we’re already seeing throughout AusCERT 2015, Watts noted many of the worst security breaches we’ve seen over recent years have been the result of personnel breaches. Citing breaches at Victoria Police some years ago, he says

“The most egregious breaches that I’ve seen in security are personnel security. This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night. Insider intrusion threats are a key focus for us”.

With the breadth of organisations Watts’ office needs to deal with, there is a challenge in offering appropriate support. Some sectors will have significant infosec resources and expertise while others will be less well equipped.

“There will be high risk agencies, medium risk and low risk,” he says. “The framework will apply to all of them but all of them don’t need exactly the same tools. You don’t need the same tools on a jet engine as you do on a car”.

The office’s approach will be to provide practical support, answering questions such as how to go about security classification or amending your risk management plan to include security or putting tougher a business continuity plan. Watts’ approach will be to look at different sectors and offer services that are targeted.

“We’ll provide some of those centrally. We can’t provide all of those centrally but there will be an ongoing dialog with government about what is needed and where government’s going to spend some money”.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags governanceinformation systemsVictorian Privacy CommissionerDavid WattsCSO Australia#Auscert2015Luke Batty

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