10 Data Privacy and Encryption Laws Every Business Needs to Know

What encryption laws does your organization need to comply with? Get
started with this handy guide.

You’ve probably heard that every business needs to stay
up to date on and comply with the latest encryption and privacy laws. Failure
to comply will result in fines that can range upwards of tens of millions of

But which laws do you need to comply with, and what do
you have to do?

If you’re like us, when you’re curling up with a book and
a mug of tea (or coffee) after a hard day’s work, you don’t really want to read
encryption laws. Encryption laws tend to be very broad or, in some cases, can
even be described as nebulous. There are many types of data encryption laws on
the books with governments and regulatory bodies around the world — some cryptography
laws require encryption; others prohibit it or place restrictions on its use. International
encryption laws vary by country and industry.

For example, some countries:

  • Guarantee the right for individuals to use
    encryption technologies and services.
  • Require a license (or another form of
    registration) to provide or use encryption software or services.
  • Have frameworks
    for voluntary and mandatory industry
    assistance to law enforcement
    concerning encryption technologies.
  • Require encryption to be used to protect the
    rights of data subjects (such as consumers, citizens, patients, etc.).
  • Prohibit the export of cryptography technology
    or algorithms.
  • Require enhanced transparency and communication
    about how data can be used.

For the sake of this article, we’re just going to focus
on the regulations and laws that require encryption or reference the protection
of encrypted data. These regulations and laws are sometimes called data
encryption laws, data privacy laws or data protection laws (depending on the
term you prefer to use). While narrowing down the topic helps somewhat, there
are still many laws that fall into this category that govern your business and
government alike depending on your location or industry. So, how do you know
which laws apply and what they mean to your organization?

Grab your mug and get comfortable — you’re going to be
here a while.

Let’s hash it out.

The top 10 data privacy and encryption laws from around the world

Identity theft is on the rise and companies are making
headlines almost daily with news about debilitating data breaches. As such,
concerns about privacy and protecting personal information are taking center
stage as technology continues to evolve and more lives are becoming intricately
entwined with the digital world. These concerns often manifest in data
protection laws and privacy regulations.

Note: We’re just touching on the encryption and data
protection aspects of these laws. There is far more information involved with
these laws. For more in-depth information, you should go directly to the laws
or speak with a legal professional about how these laws may apply to your
organization and industry.

Here are 10 of the encryption laws or regulations you should
know. They’re listed in alphabetical order and not in any order of importance
because they’re all important and play essential roles in protecting
user data and privacy around the world.

1.  California Consumer Privacy Act
of 2018 — United States

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This law applies to organizations who deal with California
customers and/or their personal data. Some small companies are exempt, as it
only applies to organizations who either:

  • share the personal info of at least 50,000
  • have more than $25 million in gross revenue, or
  • derive 50% or more of their annual revenue from
    selling consumers’ personal information

What it

The law states that companies who do not encrypt data or
neglect to employ “reasonable security procedures” are liable to be sued by
consumers whose data is compromised.

What you
should do:

Regardless of where your business is located, if you process
the data of Californians, you should ensure that you’re:

  • Encrypting all private data by using in-transit
    encryption (e.g., SSL) and at-rest encryption.
  • Employing reasonable security best practices to
    protect all nonpublic data in your possession.

The nitty-gritty

We’ve kicked our list off on the west coast of the United
States with the first of our US quasi-encryption laws. The
California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018
(CCPA) is a piece of legislation that
aims to protect the right to privacy of consumers in the U.S. state of California.
The Act arose after the creation of the European Union’s General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which we’ll speak more about later in this
article — and though it shares some similarities, it is vastly different in
many ways and isn’t as stringent.

The purpose
of the encryption law
is to:

  • Give California consumers the right to what and
    how their information is used and hold businesses accountable for info
    compromised in breaches.
  • Require businesses to disclose any sales of
    California consumers’ personal information, cease sales of personal information
    when requested by consumers, and take “reasonable steps” to protect the
  • Prevent businesses from discriminating against
    California consumers who request info about how their info is collected or
    sold, or who refuse to allow businesses to sell their information.

As part of these requirements, the act states that
California consumers’ personal information must be protected. According to
section 1798.150:

“Any consumer whose nonencrypted or nonredacted personal information, as defined in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 1798.81.5, is subject to an unauthorized access and exfiltration, theft, or disclosure as a result of the business’s violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information to protect the personal information may institute a civil action…”

What does it say about methods of security? Not much. Although
it doesn’t specify any specific methods of security, it does at least imply
that encryption should be used to help protect the information. It’s important
to note, however, that non-compliance with this regulation could spell out
fines and civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation or $7,500 for each
intentional violation.  

2. Data Protection Regulation — Denmark

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This data privacy regulation applies to any public
authorities as well as private companies and organizations who handle confidential
and sensitive personal data via email.

What it

The regulation states that encryption must be used when
transmitting confidential and sensitive information via email over an open
network (such as the internet).

What you
should do:

So long as your organization is handling sensitive personal
data, you need to ensure that you’re encrypting the information. This requires
assessing your organization to determine which method of encryption would be
best for your particular needs. This can include the use of:

  • Encrypting all sensitive, private data using
    in-transit encryption (e.g., SSL).
  • Encrypting such sensitive information using
    end-to-end encryption (such as S/MIME, PGP, and other methods that will be
    discussed below).

The nitty-gritty

Denmark’s Data Protection Authority is serious about email
security. The Data Inspectorate, the country’s central independent authority
that monitors data protection compliance, mandated the use of email encryption
for all emails containing personal data beginning in January 2019. The Data
Protection Regulation
specifies that this protective measure needs to be
used for all messages containing sensitive types of information.

According to the official notice:

“The Data Protection Authority has decided to sharpen its practice with regard to the transmission of confidential and sensitive personal data by e-mail in the private sector. In the future, it will thus be the Data Inspectorate’s opinion that it will normally be an appropriate security measure – for both public and private actors – to use encryption when transmitting confidential and sensitive personal data with e-mail via the Internet.”

To achieve end-to-end encryption, the Data
Inspectorate outlines that organizations can use various methods of encryption
such as pretty good privacy (PGP), NemID (Denmark’s logon solution for public
self-service, online banking solutions, etc.), and secure/multi-purpose
internet mail extensions (S/MIME), or what are known as email signing and
encryption certificates — which we’ll speak more about later in the article.  

Although the email privacy regulation does not specify
any penalties for noncompliance that we could find, it’s nice to see that they
at least provided some recommendations for data security methods such as the
use of S/MIME. 

3. European Banking Authority — European Banks — European Union

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This law applies to:

  • all “competent authorities” in the 28 member
    states of the European Union,
  • EU financial institutions that handle internet
    payment services, and
  • third-party e-Merchants who store, process, or
    transmit sensitive payment data.

What it

The regulation states that minimum security requirements
must be put in place by financial institutions that ensure “secure, end-to-end

What you
should do:

Whether you’re a financial institution or an e-Merchant that
handles payment data, you must ensure that:

  • You’re encrypting all sensitive data that can
    identify and authenticate customers.
  • Any e-Merchants handling or processing sensitive
    payment data are not storing it — or, if they are, that they have “the
    necessary measures in place to protect these data.”

The nitty-gritty

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has a series of the minimum
security regulations for financial institutions concerning internet payment
services and the obligations of payment service providers (PSPs). This document,
known as the Final
Guidelines on the Security of Internet Payments
, does not affect the
validity of the European Central Bank “Recommendations for the Security of
Internet Payments.” The internet payment services covered under this data
security regulation include:

  • Cards — the execution of card payments on
    the internet, including virtual card payments, as well as the registration of
    card payment data for use in ’wallet solutions.’
  • Credit transfers — the execution of
    credit transfers (CTs) on the internet.
  • E-mandate — the issuance and amendment of
    direct debit electronic mandates;
  • E-money — transfers of electronic money
    between two e-money accounts via the internet.

Did you know that all European banks are required to
use extended validation (EV) SSL certificates? No, we’re not making this
up just because The SSL Store™ happens to sell them. In section 4.2
(Risk Control and Mitigation), the guidelines specify that to restrict the use
of fake sites, “transactional websites offering internet payment services
should be identified by extended validation certificates drawn up in the PSP’s
name or by other similar authentication methods.”

This is particularly interesting considering that a recent Sectigo
shows that 25% of European banks lack EV (though it’s possible that
some of these institutions may be in countries that are not part of the EU).

In section 11 (Protection of Sensitive Payment Data), the
guidelines specify that any data that is used to identify and authenticate
customers should be appropriately secured against theft and unauthorized access
or modification. Section 11.2 also specifies:

“PSPs should ensure that when exchanging sensitive data via the internet, secure end-to-end encryption is applied between the communicating parties throughout the respective communication session, in order to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of the data, using strong and widely recognized encryption techniques.”

These types of data privacy regulations also extend to
third-party e-Merchants who store, process, or transmit sensitive payment data:

“In the event e-merchants handle, i.e. store, process or transmit sensitive payment data, such PSPs should contractually require the e-merchants to have the necessary measures in place to protect these data. PSPs should carry out regular checks and if a PSP becomes aware that an e-merchant handling sensitive payment data does not have the required security measures in place, it should take steps to enforce this contractual obligation, or terminate the contract.”

When the EBA regulation was finalized in 2014, all EU
financial organizations would’ve had two months to either comply with the
guidelines or to notify the EBA about their reason for not being compliant.
Considering it’s now 2019, though, everyone should be compliant with these
guidelines at this point. 

4. Federal Information Processing Standards – United States

Who this
encryption law applies to:

These federal standards pertain to non-military federal
agencies, government contractors, vendors, and other organizations who work
with them that “use cryptographic-based security systems to protect sensitive

What it

The standards state that federal agencies, contractors or
vendors must develop and implement cryptographic modules that protect
“sensitive but unclassified information.”

What you
should do:

If your organization is a federal agency (or works with one)
that uses crypto-based security systems, you should ensure that you’re using
cryptographic modules that meet the standards’ four increasing, qualitative
levels of security.

nitty-gritty details:

The Federal
Information Processing Standards
(FIPS), which is mandated by the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is an entire computer security standards
program in which certain types of data require specific levels of cryptographic
security. This section of our list is, by no means, comprehensive. Rather, it
should serve as more of an overview of the newest standard because there is a
lot to know about FIPS and we simply don’t have enough time or space in one
article to cover it all.

In a nutshell, FIPS includes four security levels to examine
cryptographic modules as part of its Cryptographic Module Validation Program
(CMVP) validation process. It specifies what each level comprises, going as
granular as specific ciphers and elliptic curves, but there is no uniform
application. It varies from one organization to the next based on their
function and the data they collection. When an organization can prove it has
satisfied all the requirements, it’s considered FIPS certified. The 140-1 standard
was replaced by 140-2 in 2001, which focuses on the module that will still
sensitive information.

The newest FIPS
testing standard
, FIPS 140-3, will become effective beginning on Sunday, Sept.
22, 2019. This standard specifies the requirements that any device’s encryption
system must meet if it is to be used by the federal government. FIPS 140-3 —
which draws from NIST SP 800-140 and, for the first time, points to the
international standard ISO 19790 — will supersede FIPS 140-2. Testing for FIPS
, the current standard, will continue for at least one more year after
FIPS 140-3 testing commences.

So, what does all of this mean for manufacturers and product
testing laboratories? As a news
from NIST states:

“Any product that adheres to the international standard—known as ISO 19790—will therefore use an encryption approach that is acceptable both within and outside the United States. This should streamline a manufacturer’s process for bringing a device to market because it reduces redundancy for companies trying to sell products internationally.” 

Although there are no penalties for being non-compliant with FIPS
regulations, non-compliance does place your organization at a greater risk of
data breaches. 

5. General Data Protection Regulation — European Union

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This privacy law applies to organizations that use the
private data of European Union citizens (known as “data subjects” in the
legislation), regardless of where the organizations’ locations, for the purpose

  • Offering them goods or services regardless of
  • Monitoring their behaviors (that take place
    within the union).

The regulation does not apply to authorities whose
purposes are the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of
criminal offenses or execution of criminal penalties

What it

The law states that any organizations who don’t protect
personal data using “appropriate safeguards” are non-compliant and may be
liable to fines and penalties as a result.

What you
should do:

Regardless of where your business is located, if you process
the data of EU citizens, you should ensure that you’re:

  • Implementing appropriate safeguards and measures
    to protect all private data (which could include data at rest and data in
    transit protection mechanisms).
  • Regularly testing and evaluating the
    effectiveness of your technical and organizational measures for security.

nitty-gritty details:

The General Data Production
(GDPR) is a European data protection law with teeth. Since it
became effective in May 2018, this sweeping regulation gives data subjects (the
EU citizens) the “right of access” to their personal data, as well as the
“right to be forgotten” and “right to be informed.”

This omnibus law is comprehensive in scope and regulates
much of what companies around the world are allowed (and not allowed) to do
with personal information of data subjects (EU citizens) — particularly concerning
its collection, use, and storage. GDPR also specifies who is responsible for
the safety and security of that personal data once it is collected.

According to Chapter
4, article 32
of this European data protection law:

“The controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk, including inter alia as appropriate:

the pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data;

the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of processing systems and services;

the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident;

a process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.”

The regulation is intentionally vague as to the technical
methods that should be used to secure personal data with the exception of
explicitly mentioning encryption (though it does not specify any encryption
methods). It also places the responsibility on the controller and the processor to
recognize and address risks concerning the processing of personal data.

When it
comes to imposing fines and penalties for non-compliance, GDPR shows that it
means business. Article 83 states that infringements of some of the provisions within
the regulation may “be subject to administrative fines up to 20 000 000 EUR, or
in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 % of the total worldwide annual turnover
of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.”

Depending on
the size of the offending organization, we’re talking about serious fines and
penalties for noncompliance. Just look in the headlines for examples of what we
mean. Just one year after it became effective, some major companies like Google and Facebook find
themselves potentially facing significant fines over data breaches involving
the personal information of EU citizens.

6. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act — United States

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This law applies to financial institutions and organizations
of all sizes within the United States (such as banks, securities firms,
insurance companies, and other financial service providers) who are involved
with providing financial products or services to consumers.

What it

The law states that companies who don’t protect the integrity and
security of consumers’ data are subject to criminal and civil penalties.

What you
should do:

If your business is located in the U.S. and you process financial
information, you should ensure that you’re:

  • Encrypt all customer information “held or
    transmitted” by you using both in-transit and at-rest encryption methods.
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated threats
    to the security of the data.
  • Establish and employ standards and best
    practices to protect data and access to it.

nitty-gritty details:

Let’s head back across the “pond” to the U.S. to discuss a law
that was intended to modernize the financial services industry. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley
is one that requires financial institutions to protect the
privacy of a consumer’s “nonpublic personal information” (NPI) and to communicate
their information-sharing practices to them. The encryption law does
distinguish between “customers” and “consumers,” and requires notice about your privacy
practices to be given to all of your “customers,” and to your
“consumers” as well if you share their information in certain ways.

In its
Privacy Obligation Policy in Title V — Privacy, the Act states that each
financial institution has “an affirmative and continuing obligation” to respect the privacy of its customers and to
protect the security and confidentiality of their nonpublic personal
information. It goes on to state that each financial institution:

“shall establish appropriate standards for the financial institutions subject to their jurisdiction relating to administrative, technical, and physical safeguards–
(1) to insure[sic] the security and confidentiality of customer records and information;
(2) to protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of such records; and
(3) to protect against unauthorized access to or use of such records or information which could result in substantial harm or inconvenience to any customer.”

In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released
its Privacy of Consumer Financial Information final rule in 2000 and its Standards for
Safeguarding Customer Information
final rule in 2001. The latter requires
financial institutions to:

“[…] develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive information security program that is written in one or more readily accessible parts and contains administrative, technical, and physical safeguards that are appropriate to your size and complexity, the nature and scope of your activities, and the sensitivity of any customer information at issue.” (16 CFR § 314.3)

This is where things get more specific. §

of the FTC’s 2001 standards specifies that every financial organization
needs to “protect by encryption all customer information held or transmitted by
you both in transit over external networks and at rest.”
If the encryption
of customer information isn’t possible for some reason, the rule states that you
may instead “secure such customer information using effective alternative
compensating controls reviewed and approved by your CISO.”

We’ll speak more to what it means to protect data at rest
and data in transit later in the “Takeaway” section of this article. For
now, let’s move on to the seventh encryption law on our list.

7. Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — United States

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This law applies to U.S. organizations that handle patients’
sensitive and confidential personal information, including:

  • health plans,
  • healthcare clearinghouses,
  • healthcare providers, and
  • their business associates.

What it

The law states that companies who disclose confidential and
personal information through any method are liable to varying levels of penalties
depending on their level of intention:

  • Those who “knowingly” obtain or disclose the
    information face fines of up to $50,000 and up to one year in prison (or both).
  • Confidential and personal health information
    obtained through “false pretenses” can result in penalties of up to $100,000
    and up to five years in prison (or both).
  • Offenses committed with the intent to “sell,
    transfer, or use individually identifiable health information for commercial
    advantage” can result in up to $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison
    (or both).

What you
should do:

If your business handles, stores, or processes electronic
protected health information (ePHI), then you need to ensure that you’re:

  • Performing assessments to determine the best
    methods of protection of ePHI. 
  • Adopting integrity controls and encryption as
    “addressable implementation specifications.” This could include in-transit
    (SSL) and at-rest data encryption.

nitty-gritty details:

What is there to know about Healthcare
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA) data security? A lot,
and yet very little at the same time. At its core, HIPAA was created to protect
and regulate the availability of health insurance policies for all individuals
and groups. It is administered by the Department of Health and Human Service’s
(HHS’s) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and has had multiple updates and
“guidance notices” issued for it over a 10-year period, including: 

  • Privacy and Security Rules that were added in
  • The HIPAA Enforcement Rule that was added in
  • HITECH Act requirements that were incorporated
    in 2009.
  • The Final Omnibus Rule that was created in 2013.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the HIPAA Security
itself is purposefully vague. This is because the legislation’s
creators recognized that technology would evolve over time, so they didn’t want
to require specific safeguards that could soon become obsolete. Their way
around this was to instead outline the responsibilities that any
organizations handling the sensitive information would need to address and
leave the method of choice up to them. This approach aimed to protect privacy
while also not limiting the affected organization from adopting new technologies
that would improve patient care and efficiency.

For example, in §

(1) Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic protected health information the covered entity or business associate creates, receives, maintains, or transmits.
(2) Protect against any reasonably anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of such information.
(3) Protect against any reasonably anticipated uses or disclosures of such information

However, the rule doesn’t go much into specifics about how
the affected organizations or entities should accomplish these tasks. Instead,
what it does say in § 164.306(b) is that:

“Covered entities and business associates may use any security measures that allow the covered entity or business associate to reasonably and appropriately implement the standards and implementation specifications as specified in this subpart.”

A few technical safeguards mentioned in § 164.312, including:

  • (2)(iv): “Encryption and decryption
    Implement a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt electronic
    protected health information.”
  • (2)(e)(1): “Standard: Transmission Security.
    Implement technical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to
    electronic protected health information that is being transmitted over an
    electronic communications network.”
  • (2)(ii): “Encryption (Addressable).
    Implement a mechanism to encrypt electronic protected health information
    whenever deemed appropriate.”

If you’re looking for more info on HIPAA, the good news
is that we’ve written a few blog posts relating to the HIPAA framework and how
it aims to help to protect electronic protected health information (ePHI). One
of these articles break down the technical
that HIPAA’s Security Rule; others are examples of what happens
when healthcare-related organizations are noncompliant or suffer cyber
security breaches
. Hopefully, these articles will provide additional
insight for you concerning the HIPAA related data privacy.

Otherwise, we’re moving on to discuss financial services
encryption requirements in the Northeastern U.S.

8. New York Department of Financial Services — United States

Who these
encryption standards apply to:

These regulations apply to any person who participates in
the business operations of a covered entity, which includes those who operate
under a license, registration, charter, certificate, permit, accreditation, or
similar authorization under the:

  • Banking Law,
  • Insurance Law, or
  • Financial Services Law.

Some companies and individuals are exempt from the
requirements of select sections of the regulations, including covered entities:

  • with fewer than 10 employees.
  • less than $5 million in gross annual revenue in
    each of the last three fiscal years.
  • less than $10 million in year-end total assets.

What they

The law states that the superintendent can enforce these
regulations with companies who are noncompliant under any applicable laws.

What you
should do:

If you process or handle the nonpublic data of New York
consumers, you should ensure that you’re:

  • creating a cybersecurity program that includes
    the use of encryption.
  • using alternate compensating controls if
    encryption is infeasible.
  • periodically disposing of nonpublic information
    that’s not necessary for business operations or required to be retained by law
    or regulation. 

nitty-gritty details:

The New York State Department of Financial Services (NY
DFS) put in place Cybersecurity
Requirements for Financial Services Companies
that went into effect in
March 2017. These state-mandated requirements aim to protect consumers and
businesses alike by promoting “the protection of customer information as well
as the information technology systems of regulated entities.” They hold to
certain regulatory minimum standards without “being overly prescriptive so that
cybersecurity programs can match the relevant risks and keep pace with technological

Unlike some of the other regulations and laws on our
list, the NY DFS mandate does require the use of certain controls, including
encryption, as part of its cybersecurity program. This requirement aims to
protect sensitive, nonpublic information that is held or transmitted — meaning
it protects both data at rest and data in transit over external networks.
According to Section 500.15 (a):

“As part of its cybersecurity program, based on its Risk Assessment, each Covered Entity shall implement controls, including encryption, to protect Nonpublic Information held or transmitted by the Covered Entity both in transit over external networks and at rest.”

In the event that encryption isn’t feasible for data at
rest and data in transit applications — which, really, when would that realistically
be the case? — “alternative compensating controls reviewed and approved by the
covered entity’s CISO” could apply, and the effectiveness of such measures
would need to be reviewed at least annually by the chief information security

These requirements aren’t only expected of the primary
organizations — they also apply to third parties who handle nonpublic
information. Section 500.11 states that the organization’s policies and
procedures also must address third-party service providers’ policies and
procedures as well in the event that such a party has access to consumers’
sensitive data. Such documents must discuss the policies and procedures for the
use of encryption.

Like the CCPA, there are certain organizational size
requirements to qualify as a covered entity. For the NY regulation, entities
with fewer than 10 employees, less than $5 million in gross annual income (in
each of the last three fiscal years), or less than $10 million in year-end
total assets are exempt from certain requirements.

For something more broad-reaching, let’s look at one of
the world’s most impactful international encryption laws.

9. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard — Global

Who these
encryption standards apply to:

These standards apply to virtually any entities or
organizations that handle payment card data, including financial institutions,
merchants, and service providers. If a bank account number is a primary account
number (PAN) or contains PAN digits, then these standards would also

What they

These standards require that companies who do not encrypt
data and employ adequate security procedures are liable to fines and penalties
that are defined by the payment card brands. The PCI Security Standards Council
(PCI SSC) itself does not impose consequences, fines, or penalties for

What you
should do:

Since these standards are issued by a global council, if
your business handles, processes, or stores payment card data, you should
ensure that you’re:

  • using encryption and other methods to render
    certain information unreadable, including data at rest and data in transit
    encryption methods.
  • implementing appropriate policies, processes,
    and procedures to protect all payment card data in your possession.

nitty-gritty details:

If you’re an organization that processes, transmits, or
stores payment card data — debit and credit cards alike — then you ought to be
at least familiar with the Payment
Card Industry Data Security Standard
(PCI DSS) v3.2.1. This standard is
essential to helping protect cardholders and the payment card ecosystem as a

The most recent version of PCI DSS was developed to
provide supplemental guidance and not to supersede, replace, or extend
requirements in any Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) standards.
Like many of the other encryption laws and regulations on our list, it also
doesn’t endorse the use of any specific technologies, products, or services.

PCI DSS dictates that all entities involved in payment
card processing must protect the storage and transmission of data across open,
public networks. Requirements 3 and 4, respectively, provide guidelines on

  • Protecting stored cardholder data:
    • through
      retention and disposal policies, processes, and procedures;
    • by
      rendering certain types of information unreadable;
    • by
      using disk encryption or column-level database encryption; and
  • Encrypting the transmission of cardholder data
    across open, public networks (including the internet, wireless technologies,
    cellular technologies, general packet radio service, and satellite

The Payment
Card Industry Security Standards Council
, a global forum, is the authority
that responsible for the development of these industry standards. However,
they’re not responsible for enforcing compliance with them — that’s left up to
the five major payment card brands:

  • American Express,
  • Discover,
  • JCB International,
  • Mastercard, and
  • Visa.

PCI SSC also has released a number of other PCI standards
and resources, including the PCI
3-D (PCI 3DS) SDK Security Standard
and Payment
Card Industry Point-to-Point Encryption (PCI P2PE) Standard
. These documents
provide additional guidance concerning security requirements, assessment
procedures, and processes for software development kits and point-to-point
products. The current industry standard for P2PE is PCI Point to Point
Encryption v2.0. The next version of the standard, PCI P2PE v3.0, is
anticipated to be published in Q4 2019 to Q1 2020. 

There is much more that could be covered about PCI DSS
and other PCI-related standards at the granular level. However, we only have so
much time (and we’ve already spent a lot on this so far!). So, for now, we’ll move
on to encryption law that hails from the Great White North.

10. Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act— Canada

Who this
encryption law applies to:

This law applies to private-sector organizations that handle
Canadian consumers’ personal data for commercial activity. This includes
businesses that operate within the country but have personal data that crosses all
provincial or national borders — with the exception of organizations that operate
entirely within:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Quebec.

The law does not apply to organizations that don’t engage in
commercial, for-profit activities.

What it

The law states that individuals and the Office of the
Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) can file complaints against companies who
do not use collected personal data as specified or implement appropriate
security safeguards. The results of a subsequent investigation could result in
fees and penalties against the organizations.

What you
should do:

If your business handles Canadian consumers’ personal data
for commercial purposes, you should ensure that you’re:

  • Only using consumers’ personal information for
    the specific purpose that it was collected for.
  • Implementing security safeguards that are
    appropriate to the sensitivity of the information, which should include

nitty-gritty details:

Canada has its own data privacy regulations — such as the Personal
Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
(PIPEDA). This federal
privacy law is intended for private-sector organizations and outlines how
businesses must handle personal information in the course of commercial
activity. Although this is a Canadian law, it does also apply to businesses
that operate within the country and handle personal data that crosses
provincial or national borders.

Much like GDPR, the law specifies that a person’s personal
information can only be used for the purpose it was collected — so a company
can’t say they’re collecting the info for service-related functions only and
then turn around and use the contact information for marketing purposes.
Instead, they’d have to obtain consent again while specifying that the
information would be used for that new purpose. The law also specifies that
people have the right to access their personal information and challenge its

All businesses operating under PIPEDA are required to follow 10
fair information principles:

  1. Accountability
  2. Identifying Purposes
  3. Consent
  4. Limiting Collection
  5. Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention
  6. Accuracy
  7. Safeguards
  8. Openness
  9. Individual Access
  10. Challenging Compliance

Throughout this dense and strangely-worded regulation is the
clause, “to protect that information by security safeguards appropriate to the
sensitivity of the information…” Although the regulation does not specify
particular safeguards — which is likely by design due to continually changing
technologies — it could entail the use of encryption, firewalls, and security

Non-compliance should be a concern for covered
organizations. As Global News reports:

“Failure to report the potential for significant harm could expose private-sector organizations to fines of up to $100,000 for each time an individual is affected by a security breach, if the federal government decides to prosecute a case.”

Bonus Round: The Proposed New York Privacy Act

You may have heard that individual states are now working to
develop their own version of the CCPA. New York is next on the list with its
proposed new privacy legislation known as the New York Privacy
(NY SB 224), or what may be cited as the “Right to Know Act of 2019.” The
goal is to modernize the state’s current privacy law to give NY residents more
control of their personal information and how it is collected and disclosed.

While there are some similarities between the CCPA and the
NYPA, there are some notable differences as well:

  • There is no minimum size for organizations that
    would be subject to the requirements of the Act.
  • More responsibilities are imposed on businesses.
  • New York residents can sue violating companies
    directly rather than having to wait on the district or state attorney general’s
    office to take action.

As of this point, the act doesn’t include any specific
methods of protection for consumers’ data information, such as the use of
encryption or email signing certificates. It also does not specify any government
penalties or fines for violations of the act, nor does it outline any consumer
actual or statutory damages. Hopefully, the legislation will be updated to
provide a bit more specific recommendations or requirements concerning data
security methods.

Takeaway: What these encryption laws mean for you

As we said at the beginning, some of these laws may not
apply to your business depending on your industry or location. However, it’s
important to be aware of which ones do because some encryption laws and
regulations, such as GDPR and PCI DSS, are far-reaching and apply to
organizations beyond their geological borders. The GDPR, for example, applies
to organizations inside and outside the EU that handle the personal
information of EU citizens, and PCI DSS applies to virtually anyone who handles
card payments.

What can you do to increase data security? In general, there
are some methods of protection that should be implemented across the board (regardless
of industry or location) to be compliant with data privacy and encryption laws:

Use SSL/TLS to protect data in transit

When you transmit information over an open network such as
the internet, you have no control over which servers and devices the
information will pass through along the way. This is why it’s imperative that
everything within your organization uses a secure, encrypted connection via
your website.

There’s no way around it: If you handle the transfer of sensitive
data such as consumers’ personal and financial information on your website, you
need to use a secure, encrypted protocol (HTTPS). This means using an SSL/TLS
(secure sockets layer/transport layer security) certificate. HTTP is not secure
(even Google
says so
) and leaves your site and its visitors vulnerable.

When you use SSL on your site, it reassures site visitors by
displaying a padlock indicating that shows the site is secure. In Google

Use other encryption methods to protect data at rest

In addition to protecting data in transit, it’s also vital
that your organization protects data at rest as well. What’s the difference? Data
in transit only protects data while it’s being transmitted through a secure,
encrypted channel. Once it arrives at its destination, though — typically a web
server or even another data storage device — it’s no longer protected by the
SSL/TLS protection and is vulnerable.

Let’s consider email as an example. Email involves both data
and rest and data in transit. When an email sits in your email inbox, it’s
considered data at rest. Once you create a new message and click “Send,” it
becomes data in transit. Once it arrives in your recipient’s email box, it
again becomes data at rest. Wouldn’t you want it to be secure and encrypted to
ensure that no one except your intended recipient can access your plaintext
message and any attachments?

A secure/multipurpose internet mail extension (S/MIME)
certificate can help you do just that. S/MIME certificates is a way to keep
your data at rest secure through email encryption. When you send an email using
an S/MIME certificate, you’re taking the plaintext email message you’ve written
and encrypt it so that only your intended recipient can decrypt it using a
corresponding secret key. This means that when you send an email using an email
signing certificate, it remains encrypted both when it’s in transit and at

An added bonus of S/MIME is that because it’s also an email
signing certificate, it means that you can use a trusted certificate authority
(CA) to authenticate yourself to your email recipient and show that you really
are who you claim to be.

Sounds like a win-win situation to us.

But what if you need to encrypt other data at rest that
isn’t email? Other methods of data at rest encryption involve the use of third-party
encryption solutions, such as BitLocker or VeraCrypt, that use various
encryption algorithms including Advanced
Encryption Standard (AES) or Rivest Shamir, and Adleman (RSA) encryption

What are the differences between these two encryption
algorithms? AES is a symmetric algorithm that uses up to a 256-bit key for both
encryption and decryption. It’s fast, efficient, and often involves the use of
a passcode. RSA, on the other hand, is what’s known as asymmetric encryption,
meaning that it uses a separate public key and private key for the encryption
and decryption processes. RSA is more computationally-intensive counterpart
that’s best left to encrypting small amounts of data.

Commercial database solutions (such as MS SQL) also come
with encryption solutions for protecting records stored in your database. Check
your database documentation to see what encryption options are available and to
determine whether you’re already using them.

Final thoughts

Phew. That was a lot of information — and we’ve just touched
the tip of the iceberg. There are many other encryption laws in place or in the
works around the world. Some laws are comprehensive while others are more
simplistic. A little more than a year after the GDPR launched, we’ve seen
several other laws become enacted or at least start the process of development.
It’ll be interesting to see what new laws will be put into effect in the next
couple of years and how the world of data privacy and encryption regulation
will continue to change — hopefully, for the better.

If you want to get the most up to date news on the
encryption industry, data privacy, and everything cyber security, be sure to
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As always, leave any comments or questions below…

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Hashed Out by The SSL Store™ authored by Casey Crane. Read the original post at: