Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security //


// // //
08:05 AM
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
News Analysis-Security Now

EU's NIS Directive Compounding GDPR Burdens & Confusion

With the eyes of the tech world focused on the day GDPR goes into effect, many have been missing the compounding factor of separate EU member-state InfoSec rules that will coincide with GDPR. Here's a look at the NIS Directive.

The European Union's regulatory revolution in data stewardship is not limited to the uber-hyped General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect on May 25. A separate deadline for each of the 28 EU member states to enact their own individual mishmash of cybersecurity rules is happening only 16 days before GDPR Day.

The European Union's 1995 Data Protection Directive ("Directive 95/46/EC") is typically only talked of these days in terms of how it is being phased out by GDPR.

However, GDPR only preempts some of this Directive. In particular, Directive 95/46/EC remains alive and kicking under the EU's Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems ("NIS Directive") -- which incorporates Directive 95/46/EC as to private-sector processing of personal data.

\r\n(Source: Flickr)\r\n

\r\n(Source: Flickr)\r\n

Adopted on July 6, 2016, the NIS Directive gives EU member states until May 9, 2018 -- slightly more than two weeks before GDPR takes effect -- to have a complying legal framework and national InfoSec strategy in effect. Whereas GDPR is focused on individual autonomy as to personal data, the NIS Directive's goals are higher-level -- directing EU member states to enact their own laws and regulations themselves, such as achieving a more data-secure EU, while meeting other requirements as well.

Those that stand to feel the biggest brunt of the double whammy of GDPR and the NIS Directive will be the so-called "digital infrastructure" sector, comprised of cloud providers, e-commerce outlets -- "online marketplaces" -- and search engines. These three industries are among the most effected under GDPR, and yet they are expressly implicated under the NIS Directive as potential "operators of essential services" -- critical infrastructure subject to enhanced regulatory oversight and incident-notification duties.

Moreover, there is the problem of a lack of regulatory cohesion across the EU in interpretation and enforcement.

One of the top apprehensions over GDPR compliance stems from the idea that each of the 28 EU member states will interpret and enforce GDPR differently, due to the ambiguities inherent in the sweeping legalese. This could happen despite politicos' stated goals of achieving unity on data-protection policy through GDPR. (See: GDPR Territorial Scope: Location, Location, Location? and GDPR: Broad, Complex & Coming Soon.)

The NIS Directive represents even greater compliance problems because, unlike a regulation, it merely directs member states to enact their own particularized laws and regulations in the furtherance of relatively more generalized policies. Accordingly, one member state's laws and regulations promulgated under the NIS Directive may differ from those of another member state.

This has already begun to happen because of the differing characteristics and needs of each individual member state.

For instance, Pieter Kalis, a legal scholar at Leiden University in the Netherlands, observes that his country named the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management as critical infrastructure as part of its NIS Directive regulatory scheme -- despite such an entity or purpose not being identified as an "operator of essential services" to be mandatorily regulated for the NIS Directive's purposes -- likely because of the nation's "unique dependence on water infrastructure such as canals, rivers, locks and dikes" (and, therefore, potentially greater susceptibility to flooding).

Consequently, Kalis warns, as each member state marches to the sound of its own separate NIS drummer, "the NIS aim may not be achieved" because of this lack of cybersecurity policy cohesion across the EU.

To be fair, the NIS Directive merely represents a floor; for the most part, the NIS Directive does not prohibit individual member states from enacting legislation and regulations that are stricter than called for. To this end, the EU regulatory environment on cybersecurity will begin to resemble the breach-notification and data-privacy regulatory environment in the US -- where, while individual states have their own laws and requirements, everyone pays most attention to those few states with the strictest rubrics.

However, this is the fundamental flaw of ongoing EU policy in data protection.

The data-protection policy experiments represented by the NIS Directive in tandem with GDPR are important ones for the EU -- particularly as the institution is weakened on the brink of Brexit. While GDPR is so far-reaching as to have global impact, the NIS Directive is touted as the first hard, EU-wide legislation on cybersecurity -- calling for firm requirements, as opposed to the US's softer approach of optional standards of rubrics like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (albeit somewhat less optional for financial-services firms and government contractors).

Data-protectionist hawks may applaud breadth and depth of EU policymaking here, but -- data libertarianism aside -- these broad-stroke, EU-wide approaches risk the attendant consequences of policy confusion and compliance burdens.

Related posts:

—Joe Stanganelli, principal of Beacon Hill Law, is a Boston-based attorney, corporate-communications and data-privacy consultant, writer, and speaker. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeStanganelli.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
The 10 Most Impactful Types of Vulnerabilities for Enterprises Today
Managing system vulnerabilities is one of the old est - and most frustrating - security challenges that enterprise defenders face. Every software application and hardware device ships with intrinsic flaws - flaws that, if critical enough, attackers can exploit from anywhere in the world. It's crucial that defenders take stock of what areas of the tech stack have the most emerging, and critical, vulnerabilities they must manage. It's not just zero day vulnerabilities. Consider that CISA's Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEV) catalog lists vulnerabilitlies in widely used applications that are "actively exploited," and most of them are flaws that were discovered several years ago and have been fixed. There are also emerging vulnerabilities in 5G networks, cloud infrastructure, Edge applications, and firmwares to consider.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2023-03-17
The Bookly plugin for WordPress is vulnerable to Stored Cross-Site Scripting via the full name value in versions up to, and including, 21.5 due to insufficient input sanitization and output escaping. This makes it possible for unauthenticated attackers to inject arbitrary web scripts in pages that w...
PUBLISHED: 2023-03-17
The WP Express Checkout plugin for WordPress is vulnerable to Stored Cross-Site Scripting via the ‘pec_coupon[code]’ parameter in versions up to, and including, 2.2.8 due to insufficient input sanitization and output escaping. This makes it possible for authenti...
PUBLISHED: 2023-03-17
A vulnerability was found in SourceCodester Student Study Center Desk Management System 1.0. It has been rated as critical. This issue affects the function view_student of the file admin/?page=students/view_student. The manipulation of the argument id with the input 3' AND (SELECT 2100 FROM (SELECT(...
PUBLISHED: 2023-03-17
A vulnerability classified as critical has been found in SourceCodester Student Study Center Desk Management System 1.0. Affected is an unknown function of the file Master.php?f=delete_img of the component POST Parameter Handler. The manipulation of the argument path with the input C%3A%2Ffoo.txt le...
PUBLISHED: 2023-03-17
A vulnerability classified as critical was found in SourceCodester Student Study Center Desk Management System 1.0. Affected by this vulnerability is an unknown functionality of the file admin/?page=reports&date_from=2023-02-17&date_to=2023-03-17 of the component Report Handler. The manipula...