The impact of Brexit on CISOs

Opinion by Paul McKay

One way or the other, the continued legal basis for data flow relies on the UK's data protection regulatory regime being judged equivalent to the EU's.

Brexit didn’t happen last Friday, October 31, and we still don’t know for certain whether the UK will leave the EU and if so, with a deal or not.

However, we do now know that we are most likely to leave with a withdrawal agreement that affects security at the institutional level — not dissimilar to the broad outline of what Theresa May and the EU concluded in November 2018 — or that we will leave all current security and defence cooperation arrangements. For security leaders wondering how all of this may affect them, CISOs are advised to focus on three primary areas of concern:

* International data flows between the UK and the EU. We know that, one way or the other, the continued legal basis for data flow relies on the UK’s data protection regulatory regime being judged equivalent to the EU’s. The various parties would begin working on this key adequacy decision, as it is known, following the UK’s exit from the EU (deal or no deal).

While there are a lot of similarities with the regimes as they currently stand, there is no way of guaranteeing that the decision will occur and in what time frame. In the event of a "no-deal Brexit," the legal default will be that the regimes are not equivalent and the EU will treat the UK as a third country, invalidating the legal basis currently used to promote legal data transfer between the UK and the other EU member states. It is recommended that CISOs and DPOs start looking into alternative means now for guaranteeing the legal basis for their international data flows between the UK and EU. This can either be through model clauses or a binding corporate rules programme, for example, which are already widely used for transfers outside of the EU.

*Staffing. Thankfully, both sides have agreed that whether a deal is agreed or not, they will work hard to provide some certainty to EU and UK citizens working outside of their home countries. For CISOs, this means that your staff will need reassurance and support if they need help with application procedures or, in some cases, the costs of applying.

The area that is going to be most problematic is in the realm of recruitment — a challenge that is already difficult enough with the security skills shortage. Brexit will require you to think more carefully about where you deploy your staff and security services. Restrictions on the numbers of EU citizens entering the UK and vice versa are generally expected, so review your operating model carefully to mitigate the impact that restrictions on freedom of movement could bring to your security organisation structure and headcount deployment. In addition, consider the implications for business travel for any service providers and staff supporting you from outside of your main headquarters locations.

* Regulatory relationships and obligations for reporting cyber-security breaches. Whatever your views on it, the EU has been one of the most active legislators of cyber-security and privacy regulations, creating a myriad of regulatory relationships across the EU. Many of these, particularly NISD, PSD2, and GDPR, contain requirements to report certain types of security events and incidents to regulatory bodies.

The relationships have been set up, and many organisations in the scope of this regulation will need to review and update regulatory reporting lines, as current regulatory relationships may change. Review and update incident response plans and supporting operational processes carefully to ensure that you capture these changes in regulatory relationships.

While there are many other implications to Brexit for CISOs to consider, these are some of the most common that come up in  conversations with clients. 

Contributed by Paul McKay, senior analyst, Forrester Research Limited. 

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media.

Reproduced courtesy of Forrester Research Limited. 

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