Are Invoicing Companies Leaving Small Businesses Vulnerable?

For the last 2 years, my main focus as a cyber security consultant was/is getting companies, mostly big companies, ready for GDPR.

Maybe GDPR is a buzzword for some, but the logic behind it is great for both privacy and proper data security.

The privacy part is somewhat challenging because the definition of PII (personally identifiable information) and SPI (sensitive personal information) is well defined in GDPR and it is very wide by definition.

It COVERS EVERYONE.

From big companies to small companies, and even micro companies. You are obliged to do your maximum to protect PII and SPI.

Many companies have started the shift of changing their work methods and the way that B2C communication is done. For example, basic “client notifications” are now usually protected.

GDPR is first and foremost a methodology change, not a technological one. You change the way you work first and then which technological tools you use.

This change has already “hit” some industries but other industries are preferring to ignore it, for example I am a client of one the biggest online invoicing companies, along with many other small & medium business owners.

Invoices have PII and SPI in them – they have a lot of the info of my clients (their name & postcode), sometimes even the full address, proper identifiable information.

When I send an invoice to my clients I am sending PII and SPI.

Since the GDPR date, my colleagues and I have started to send invoices in a secure way. Is it more “work”? Yes. We are sending a PDF within an encrypted email, not a link, so that we can make sure that only the recipient gets it and not someone else.

As a client of one of the biggest online invoicing companies, I have contacted them and asked very clearly,

“What are you going to do about GDPR? Which encryption method are you going to use and how are you going to guarantee that the PII and SPI that are being sent via your system is secure?”

And …

Nothing really.

I got some generic responses, some links to the privacy/GDPR policy, but no real answer.

Then after some more Q&A, I got a strange response,

“We are sending PII BY FUNCTION... so, nothing is really going to change” So I responded with,

So? GDPR has no “BY FUNCTION” Exclusion” and, of course, since then, it’s been silence.

It seems, at least for that specific company that they are ignoring or excusing not being GDPR compliant by saying that their CORE FUNCTION, and I quote “BY FUNCTION” is … NOT GDPR compliant, I know its sounds crazy but that’s the reality.

So, let’s break it down a bit:

  1. I am using their online invoicing platform – they are my Data Processor
  2. I am storing sensitive client information on their system and I expect them to be GDPR compliant. Which I trust their feedback that it is (regarding the way the store and access information)
  3. But… when I send the invoice to my clients via their system – I am extracting PII and SPI from their system and sending it into the world with no security mechanism at all?!
  4. This specific online invoicing company is sending a link (like many others) – not even a password protected PDF is an option?

Bottom line, you as a user of the system have the option not to send a link, but download the PDF, secure it, and then send it yourself… but why isn’t the invoicing company doing it for you? Why are they putting YOU at risk?

Why? – I don’t know, I presume it’s because it’s easier to ignore the reality than to face it. It’s easier to put everything on your clients than to solve the core issue.

My professional recommendation to you is: Until the online invoicing company will actually be GDPR compliant, protect yourself! Don’t send PII and SPI in a non-secure way.

 

Eli Migdal.