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Penetration Testing – Legitimate Interests Assessment

In developing our Data Protection Impact Assessment for the Janet Security Operations Centre we noted that our Penetration Testing service could involve high risks, but didn’t really fit the DPIA framework. Penetration tests are much smaller scale than the SOC; they are commissioned by individual Jisc customers, usually on only parts of their operations; and it’s the customer that has the ability to address any security issues found, and thereby ensure that the net effect on data protection is positive.

Unlike the SOC activity, penetration testing does involve actively searching for weaknesses in the technical and human security of systems likely to contain personal and special category data. So we thought it was important to assure ourselves and customers of the service that we were managing the privacy risks appropriately. The Information Commissioner has recently introduced a lightweight process for Legitimate Interests Analysis (LIA), which seemed a good way to meet that need.

As described in the report, the LIA process involves identifying:

  • The interest(s) served by the processing – in this case, improving the security of customers’ key data processing systems;
  • What personal data are processed, and that this is necessary to achieve that purpose;
  • Whether the benefits of the processing justify the risks; and
  • What safeguards can be applied.

Jisc can – and, we believe, does – ensure that we only process personal data to the extent necessary for the testing we have been asked to perform, and that that processing is subject to appropriate safeguards. However the security benefits that justify those risks depend on the customer acting on the report we provide. The main conclusion of the LIA activity is therefore to emphasise the importance of customers addressing the problems that our tests identify.

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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