How engineers can tackle data privacy and security
July 13, 2022

How engineers can tackle data privacy and security

Vanta joins The Stack Overflow podcast to discuss the state of data privacy regulations, how engineers can help maintain security, and the importance of data tracking.

As massive amounts of personal data continue to surge through tech tools and new products, regulatory frameworks are forced to adapt. These changes create a domino effect that cascades through every facet of an organization, and startups with smaller teams are feeling it the most. 

The Overflow—a podcast that explores software development and coding—recently hosted Vanta’s own Matt Cooper, Principal, Cybersecurity and Data Privacy, and Rob Picard, Security Lead. 

They discuss how small businesses and their engineering teams can get a handle on data privacy, security, and automation. Here’s a snapshot of the conversation. Listen to the full episode here.

What’s happening in the data privacy world right now? 

“Security is a journey, not a destination,” Matt states. Constant change is simply the nature of regulation, and companies should anticipate more of it. As regulatory frameworks seek to modernize, companies will have to adjust the way they protect personal data and prove compliance. 

The infosec framework ISO 27001 is reformatting its controls as a way of acknowledging companies with cloud environments instead of physical servers. PCI DSS recently moved from 3.2 to 4.0 which does away with self-attestation reports and now requires third-party audits.

Additionally, CPRA (an update to CCPA) goes into effect in 2023. Inspired by California’s privacy laws, Virginia and Colorado are creating new frameworks that are also planned to hit next year. 

International frameworks such as GDPR are constantly subject to change. “One of the inherent challenges is how dynamic this space is, how frequently things are changing, and companies are having to keep track of these things just to stay current and stay compliant,” Matt says.

What can engineers do to stay on top of privacy? 

Most startups are not going to have a dedicated in-house privacy expert at their disposal. Without that resource, it’s wise to find a knowledgeable external resource to guide you. But Matt suggests doing some homework first: “Making the effort to really understand the regulatory framework and how it applies to you can be hugely advantageous.”

Engineers working at startups can and should lean on a designated professional who is responsible for monitoring the regulatory environment. “You can work with your legal team - either external council or internal - to have some interpretation of what these [regulations] mean for your company. And you have to translate that into at least high-level requirements,” Rob shares.

In order for engineers to stay secure while growing a team and a product, Rob recommends tracking the procurement process, especially when it comes to buying tools and swapping data with vendors. Do the work of understanding what data you’re going to share—where, when, and how it will be used. “At the very least, you need to be tracking where your customer data is going,” Rob says.

What about automation and the future of data privacy? 

Automating tedious tasks, such as scheduled vulnerability scans, lets humans do what they’re good at—think critically and solve complex problems. When it comes to automating internal protocols, Rob recommends either allowing them or not. “A lot of automating security is just automating context at the right time…put up guard rails, not gates.”

To hit security and compliance goals, most companies simply need a single source of truth that automatically tells them what they need to do and when. Gone are the days of manual spreadsheets and documents. Matt predicts that in the next five years, almost every company will lean into compliance automation. 

Want to learn more about data privacy and compliance? Listen to the full Stack Overflow podcast.

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