The Flip Side of a Breach: Data Integrity

The Flip Side of a Breach: Data Integrity

The media tends to focus on the high-profile data breaches: OPM, Target, TJX, Home Depot, Equifax, the SEC (EDGAR), with the narrative typically centered on identity theft and/or credit card fraud.  However, as we delve further into these, we cannot, and should not ignore the other side of the data breach coin — namely, data integrity.

We have numerous vendors, from A to Z offering information security services, intrusion detection, network anomalies, data exfiltration detection, user training, etc., etc.  While these services are arguably important (and as the recent breaches show us, are rarely if ever fully implemented), we should be equally as interested in the integrity of our data as we are in the overall security of information.  If we focus on a breach in the context of data exfiltration and identity theft, then we are only looking at a small piece of the pie.  While criminal organizations are typically motivated by revenue, that comes in many forms.

Consider, the SEC hack, for instance, if that were focused on data manipulation then the effects could be far-reaching and significant.  The prospect of modifying filings within SEC could make stock price manipulation possible and tremendously profitable.  While there are controls in place and tracing transactions related to that are more likely to proceed in an investigation than a typical identify theft/card fraud hack, the fact remains that trying to implement data security while foregoing data integrity is exceedingly unwise.

When I was in software engineering we used source code control systems to ensure the integrity of our trunk and branches and to be able to “see” modifications to the code.  This was a critical component of the software development process and it would be unimaginable for a large software project to forego such a system.  The data that entities collect, and retain is often expensive to procure, to store, to retrieve, and to analyze. Thus, if the integrity cannot be guaranteed then all of those expenses may be for naught.  Suffice it to say that, data is the foundation of the world we live in.  Data that is missing or stolen causes a certain set of issues, however data that is tampered with is even more vexing since our current information security implementations may not even detect these.

Imagine a consumer that attempts to purchase a home only to find that they have multiple accounts that were flagged 90-days late.  The herculean efforts that would have to be undertaken to rectify erroneous items on a credit report would be extremely onerous for an individual consumer.  Now multiply that, and consider a scenario where a larger segment of the population is impacted.  What would the economic effect be if those persons most likely to enter into new credit agreements were unable to do so for 60-90-120 days?  What would the ramifications be if data from the credit agencies was deemed to be unreliable?

If we continue to take a point approach and look at each hack/breach as a discrete and distinct operation, we may fail to correlate joint activities, miss the bigger picture and altogether overlook the data integrity issues that we may already have been beset with.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

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Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

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Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

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is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography