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Tip of the Hat

22 November 2019

Ransomware, CS and Privacy, and #FollowMonday


Welcome to this week's Tip of the Hat! Summer is in full swing this August, and the Executive Assistant is contemplating where would be the coolest place in the office to park herself to work. While she roams the office and while I make sure she doesn't make a small blanket fort connected to the office refrigerator, here are a couple of quick links and updates in the privacy and library worlds to start your week.
A refridgerator with its door open, and a green tent set up in front of the open door.

Ransomware strikes another library system

Last month, the Butler County Federated Library System in Pennsylvania became the latest library system to succumb to ransomware. As a result, the system has gone back to using paper to track circulation information. Like other ransomware attacks, the system might have to rebuild their online infrastructure if they are unable to retrieve the ransomed data.

If your library hasn't been hit with ransomware yet, the best defense against ransomware is to prevent it from taking over your system. Awareness programs and information security training can help with educating staff about the ways that ransomware and other viruses and malware can infiltrate the library system, and regular reminders and updates can also help keep staff current on trends and new infosec practices.

Training can only go so far, though, and having a plan in place will not only help mitigate panic when ransomware takes over a system, but also mitigate any overlooked vulnerabilities concerning patron data privacy. For example, while libraries have used paper for decades to track circulation information, automation in the last few decades has taken over this process. Making sure that staff are trained and have current procedures in handling sensitive patron data in paper format – including storage and disposal – can help protect against inadvertent privacy breaches.

H/T to Jessamyn West for the link!

Is it time for Computer Science curriculums to prioritize privacy?

In an op-ed in Forbes, Kalev Leetaru argues that CS curriculum should follow the way of library and information science and emphasize privacy in their programs. Near the end of the article, Leetaru illustrates the struggle between privacy and analytics:

Privacy naturally conflicts with capability when it comes to data analytics. The more data and the higher resolution it is, the more insight algorithms can yield. Thus, the more companies prioritize privacy and actively delete everything they can and minimize the resolution on what they do have to collect, the less capability their analytics have to offer.

This represents a philosophical tradeoff. On the one hand, computer science students are taught to collect every datapoint they can at the highest resolution they can and to hoard it indefinitely. This extends all the way to things like diagnostic logging that often becomes an everything-or-nothing concept that has led even major companies to have serious security breaches. On the other hand, disciplines like library and information science emphasize privacy over capability, getting rid of data the moment it is safe to do so.

What do you think? Would emphasizing privacy in CS programs change current data privacy practices (or lack thereof) in technology companies?

#FollowMonday - @privacyala

Keeping up with all the latest developments in the privacy field is a challenge. There is so much happening that it can be a full-time job to keep up with all the developments. ALA's Choose Privacy Every Day Twitter account can help you sift through all the content in a nicely packaged weekly post of the major developments and updates in the privacy world, be it in libraries or out there in the world. You can find out about new legislation, tools to help protect your patrons' privacy, and yes, there is a section to keep up with the latest data breaches.
Have a question or topic that you want us to write about? Email us at newsletter@ldhconsultingservices.com!