Retailers under pressure to tighten security


Even so, retailers have done a relatively good job of protecting consumer data so far, said Bob Belair, a partner with the Washington-based law firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair.

The key now is being able to show that companies have done all they can to protect their consumer data, he said. That means having a formal information security plan that embodies protections commensurate with the sensitivity of the information at risk, he said. Such a plan has to be dynamic to a changing threat environment and should include processes for periodic reviews and audits. There also needs to be clear accountability and processes for training and educating those who handle consumer data, he said.

"You do all these things and a hacker still breaks in, chances are you are not liable because you have acted in a reasonable manner," Belair said.

There are four initial steps companies can take to mitigate the risk of a data security breach, Michele DeMaree, president of DeMaree Consulting Inc., said during a presentation at the show. The first is to identify key data assets and determine what information needs to be protected. The second is to create cross functional teams to deal with privacy, security, legal and compliance issues. The third step is to begin assessing risk by measuring the frequency of policy violations against customer data and other information assets. And finally, companies need to educate data owners about risks.