Tag Archives: Legal

SharePoint and Information Security

Interesting survey was recently published by Cryptozone on SharePoint security. The results are evidence of need and importance of information management governance and proper, upfront design of the information systems. It appears that in most of organizations, the responsibility for assigning of the access rights to SharePoint documents still belongs to IT Administrators, as it was indicated by 69% of respondents. At least this segment of users knew who was in charge; in contrast to 22% who did not even know who managed it. The problem with ceding of the responsibility for content protection entirely to IT is that IT primary focus is on maintenance and configuration of the technical infrastructure, but with limited knowledge and understanding of the content and its specific protection needs. IT cannot and should not make decisions on how particular type of information should be protected, and who should have access to it.

So who should be responsible for making such decisions? The answer seems to be intuitive – the business – but 43% of respondents said that they do not trust document authors to control who should read their documents. This would indicate that most of the users have low levels of awareness and understanding of the security needs. This seems to be confirmed by another set of responses that indicated that over 45% of users did copy sensitive and confidential information to unprotected USB memory sticks and emails. 55% of these respondents claimed that reason for this was the need for sending necessary information to users without access to SharePoint, with further 43% needing it for working at home. Over 30% of users were more concerned about getting the work done rather than security, and another 47% did not even think about security or did not care.

One of the contributing factors leading to taking documents out of SharePoint’s control, was the need to share it with third parties – over 56% of respondents said that their organizations did not have external portals to help with collaboration outside of the organization.

The bottom line is that this exposes the organizations to risks including legal risks and intellectual property theft. Therefore proper solution would be to give some thought before SharePoint is rolled out, answering questions on how the information is going to flow across the organization, how it is going to be accessed, how users will be segmented by their needs and how it is going to be protected. This should lead to development of information management governance, that would clearly describe roles and responsibilities across the organization, and ways how the information should be distributed and protected. Lastly, the most important step is to make the users aware of the security needs, training them on the policies and periodically reinforcing this knowledge.

Master Data Management and Governance

DataMicrosoft SharePoint 2007 and then 2010 triggered rapid rates of adoption of collaboration and document management systems. Soon many organizations painfully realized the importance of Information Governance. Without it, the implementations quickly became digital landfill, just replacing but not improving shared drives problems. Often departments started building their own sites, with their own branding, cumbersome and unmanageable security structures, own metadata, poor or entirely missing taxonomies, leading to state of mess where users couldn’t find anything. Even worse, duplication of documents led to confusion, the business decisions based on outdated data, the storage size and backup costs exponential increase, and deterioration of systems performance. Worst of worst, since information was not purged or when it was, it happened randomly, this exposed the organizations to e-Discovery related legal risks and litigation costs.

To address these problems, organizations needed to develop set of aligned governance constructs within an overall Information Governance Framework. Among those constructs are Information Security Governance, Information Architecture, Data Quality, Records and Retention, Master and Reference Data just to mention few. I think that the latter plays very significant role and should be done early to get information under control.

So how Master Data Management could be defined? It is a set of processes, tools and organizational structures, where business and IT work together to address issues likes uniformity, accuracy, stewardship, and consistency and accountability of the organization’s data. This leads the data to become authoritative, secure, reliable and sustainable.  But not all data should get the same level of attention.  Master data is a ‘key’ data gathered and used by multiple departments during operations of the business like for example – customer data, information about products, employees, materials and so on. Master Data must contain most accurate and authoritative data available, and serve as single source of truth across the organization. Lot of organizations however find it difficult to secure the necessary funding and support from senior management, due to difficulty with measurement of return on investment.

Earlier this year, Gartner published some predictions related to Master Data Management governance and impact on organizations by end of 2016:

–          Only 33% of organizations that initiated MDM will be able to demonstrate its value. The difficulty here is that such initiative must present complete approach and be an ongoing process rather than once-off isolated project. This means that there needs to be consensus among senior executives and obtaining this is often quite challenging.

–          Spending on information governance must increase fivefold to be successful – and as per point above, needs to include other disciplines within the Information Management Governance Framework like quality management, lifecycle and retention, privacy and security. This will lead to building larger teams focusing on the governance and higher costs.

–          20% of CIOs in regulated industries will lose their jobs failing to implement information governance. IM governance is a construct that allows organization for compliance with regulations, and the primary responsibility for this lies with CIO and Legal Counsel.  Breaches in information security, leaks of confidential information, and breaches in privacy will lead to reputational and financial damage to those organizations.

The good news is that lot of organizations already recognize these risks, as according to Gartner, last year they have seen 21% increase in spending on MDM.


Where is that tap?

Fortis records managementHere is the latest example of poor records keeping, and associated costs, as it happened last week in the area where I live – Ruptured Line not on maps: Fortis. In short – an excavator ruptured natural gas line, which resulted in evacuation of whole neighborhood, organizing and transporting residents to temporary locations, closed businesses, rerouting traffic, full presence of police, fire and rescue services. It took a while for Fortis – natural gas provider, to locate the leak and cut off the supply. Contractor was not at fault here – before digging, they checked with Fortis if there were any pipes in the area. After the fact, Fortis stated that the pipe was more than 40 years old and was not indicated on the map. I am afraid that in reality the pipe was on a map, as it was supplying gas to a building that does not exist anymore. Rather the problem was that Fortis was not able to locate the latest version of the map, and they based their excavations approval on outdated records.

The positive side of this event is that it should be fairly easy for Fortis to develop and approve business case for an improved records management system. One of the biggest problems facing implementation of information management projects is that they are always low priority, due to the intangibility of most of the benefits and risks. There is always something more important generating revenues. Documents and records management are mostly perceived as cost centers – until accidents like this happen. Fortunately in this case there was no further damage and nobody was injured. But definitely this is an opportunity to quantify the costs and risks in the business case and get the problem fixed. In this case – these will be the costs of the emergency services, evacuation, investigation, and problem rectifying and so on. Safety, Health and Environment risks will come on the top of priorities and let’s not forget about reputational risks – protecting the public trust, and the organization in litigation, would one follow. One door closes, another opens….

Legal, statutory and regulatory foundation for Information Management programs

Any successful information management solution implementation requires establishing of a proper IM framework. Such framework will help with forming governance, setting up priorities, definition of constraints, and will give the overall direction to any future information programs.

The foundation of such framework is based on existing legal, statutory and regulatory requirements. Establishing of such basis, especially in larger organizations is not an easy task and requires involvement of several parties.  I made an attempt to capture some of these laws, standards and regulations used in the US and in Canada. This list is far from being exhaustive; every organization – depending on type of business – will have to establish their own baseline, which will include specific industry regulations.

United States:

Law, Statute, Regulation Short Description
Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) 404 and 409 – Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act SOX deals with monitoring of creation and management of financial records, as well as disclosing of information about changes in the financial conditions or operations of the organization. It affects primarily publicly traded companies including accounting and security firms, auditors and brokers.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA refers to protection of individually identifiable health information. It enforces that organizations handling such personal information notify the patients about their privacy policies.Organizations affected by this policy include health plans and health care providers.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) COPPA requires that online content providers, working with audiences that include children must use reasonable procedures to ensure that child’s parent is included in the process.
Department of Defense 5015.2 (DoD 5015.2) DOD 5015.2 identifies requirements based on operational, legal and legislative needs that records management solutions vendors must fulfill. It affects software vendors of electronic document and records management systems. Several government offices in the US require compliance with this standard, but also some other, larger organizations implementing information management systems, often use this standard during selection process. For this purpose, this standard is often used outside of the US.
Securities Exchange Act (Sec Rule 171-3 and 17a-4) SEC act outlines requirements for data retention, classification, and accessibility for organizations involved in financial securities trade.
Gramm-Leach Bliley Act The act is regulating handling and sharing of personal information, and disclosing of privacy policy to consumers. It primarily affects financial services organizations.
IRS Rev. Proc. 97-22 This guideline includes directives for taxpayers on maintenance of financial books and records using software applications.
Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) This act regulates use of electronic records and signatures in commercial transactions.
Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) It allows consumers to request and obtain free credit report every 12 months. It also contains provisions to reduce identity theft and secure disposal of consumer information. The financial institutions are mainly affected by this act.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) FCRA regulates the collection, distribution, and use of consumer information, including credit information. It affects consumer credit reporting organizations.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) It guarantees access to the full or partial previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the US government.
Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) This act requires federal agencies, where practicable, to use electronic forms, filing and signatures to conduct official business.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) OSHA governs occupational health and safety in the private sector and federal government.
Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) The purpose of this act is to integrate the differing State laws in matter of retention of paper records, and the validity of electronic signatures. It supports the validity of electronic contracts.



Law, Statute, Regulation Short Description
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) It governs how the private companies collect, use and disclose personal information in the course of conducting business.
Secure Electronic Signature Regulations (SOR/2005-30) These regulations stipulate how digital signatures are created and verified. It is related to Canada’s Evidence Act dealing with integrity and validity of electronic documents.
Access to Information Act Regulates access to the full or partial previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the Canadian government.
Privacy Act This act stipulates rules how the federal government must deal with personal information.
Limitations Act Limitations Act defines period of time during which legal proceedings maybe initiated, and thus influencing definitions of retention periods.
Ontario Bill 198 It provides regulations of securities issued in the province of Ontario. It roughly corresponds to Sarbanes-Oxley in the US.
Microfilm and Electronic Images as Documentary Evidence Standard This standard deals with microfilming and electronic image capture. It also describes process of establishing a program helping with ensuring document integrity, reliability and authenticity.
Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence Standard This standard delivers provisions to ensure that electronic information is trustworthy, reliable and authentic.


It is important to remember that the process of establishing such baseline requires deep involvement of legal department, and several business subject matter experts. Since the laws and regulations change from time to time, the organization should appoint a steward responsible for maintenance of the framework, and establish a governance model describing what to do, when such laws or regulations change.