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The Legal Landscape of Information Security: Navigating the Complex Terrain

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Overview of Legal Issues in Information Security at WGU

WGU Legal Issues in Information Security

Western Governors University (WGU) is a private, nonprofit, online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The university has been providing online courses since 1997, and its programs are designed to meet the needs of working adults who want to earn a degree on their own time. WGU offers a variety of degree programs, including programs in information technology and cybersecurity.

As with all organizations, information security is a critical issue at WGU. The university is responsible for protecting the personal data of its students, faculty, and staff, as well as confidential information related to its operations. WGU has implemented a number of measures to safeguard its information, including firewalls, encryption, and regular security awareness training for its personnel.

Despite the university’s best efforts, however, there are still legal issues that could arise in the context of information security. For example, if an individual’s personal data is compromised due to a security breach, that individual may have legal recourse against WGU. Additionally, there are numerous federal and state laws and regulations that apply to information security, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).

Another potential legal concern relates to intellectual property rights. WGU encourages students to create new content, but it is important to ensure that this content does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. WGU has policies in place to address this issue and to educate students on the importance of respecting intellectual property rights.

Finally, WGU must also be aware of potential liability for cyberbullying or other forms of harmful online behavior. As an online institution, WGU has a responsibility to protect its students from harassment or harm that may occur online. The university has established policies and procedures to address these issues and to help students who are affected by harmful online behavior.

In summary, information security is an ongoing concern for WGU, and the university takes a variety of measures to protect the personal data and intellectual property of its students, faculty, and staff. However, there are still legal issues that could arise in this context, and the university must remain vigilant in order to comply with applicable laws and regulations and to protect its stakeholders from potential harm.

Importance of Compliance with Data Protection Laws and Regulations

Data Protection Laws and Regulations

The use of technology to store, process, and transmit information has transformed the way that businesses operate. However, this increase in digital data also increases the risk of sensitive information becoming compromised. As such, organizations are required by law to comply with data protection laws and regulations.

Data protection laws refer to regulations that are aimed at safeguarding the privacy and integrity of sensitive information. This includes personal data, trade secrets, and confidential business information. The primary goal of data protection laws is to ensure that businesses protect their customer’s personal information.

Businesses that fail to comply with data protection laws and regulations may face several consequences such as lawsuits, hefty fines, and reputational damage. Non-compliance can occur when organizations fail to keep up with the fast evolving compliance laws and regulations, or they simply do not comply with them, thinking that the risks are low.

One example of non-compliance is the Marriott data breach that occurred in 2018. Marriott suffered a data breach, and it was discovered that they failed to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Marriott faced investigations and lawsuits, ultimately costing the company billions of dollars in fines and reputational damage.

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Another example of data protection non-compliance is when Facebook faced accusations that its Cambridge Analytica data scandal led to a violation of EU’s GDPR. The data scandal led to Facebook being fined 500,000 euros by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office.

It is imperative for businesses to comply with data protection laws and regulations to protect their customers’ data, avoid lawsuits, hefty fines and reputational damage that can negatively impact the company’s bottom line. Compliance efforts can be simplified by appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to oversee, manage, and ensure compliance activities are carried out under the law.

Another significant aspect of data protection is to have a data protection framework in place to give the organization more control over data protection matters. This can include a combination of policies, procedures, and standards that can safeguard information while being stored, processed, or transmitted within or outside the organization.

Compliance with data protection laws and regulations is not just a legal requirement but, it helps to create trust between businesses and their customers. Businesses that prioritize customer privacy and data protection can instill more confidence in their customers, leading to repeat business and increased growth.

Understanding the Impact of Cybersecurity Breaches on WGU

cybersecurity breaches on WGU

Western Governors University (WGU) has become an established online university, with more than 117,000 students and 200,000 graduates, making it a potential target for cybercriminals. In recent years, their network has come under attack, causing some serious legal issues in information security to arise. This article will outline some of the most significant cybersecurity breaches and their impact on WGU.

1. The 2016 Data Breach

data breach

In 2016, WGU became aware of a major data breach, which might have exposed the personal information of approximately 77,000 current and former students, faculty, and staff, including their names, birth dates, and social security numbers. The breach was caused by an unauthorized third-party gaining access to an unsecured server. The breach exposed WGU to various legal issues in information security, such as potential lawsuits, investigation costs, and compliance with security regulations.

2. 2019 Phishing Attack

phishing attack

In 2019, WGU experienced a phishing attack which allowed unauthorized third parties to access the credentials of some faculty members. This attack led to a great concern for the security of student information and intellectual property. The hackers could have accessed student records, research papers, and other sensitive information. The phishing attack left WGU vulnerable to legal implications under FERPA, HIPAA, and GDPR regulations.

3. 2020 Blackbaud Breach

blackbaud breach

The WGU Foundation, the entity responsible for fundraising, experienced a breach in 2020, when the third-party service provider Blackbaud was hacked. The breach resulted in the unauthorized access to student records, including names, addresses, and donation history. WGU had to notify approximately 31,000 students that were affected by the breach. The breach led to a possible loss of trust from donors, which will have severe implications for WGU. Furthermore, WGU may have to face several legal challenges as a violation of its privacy policy and breach of donor confidence.

4. The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Breach

uas breach

In 2019, the National Science Foundation awarded WGU a grant to conduct research and experimentation on their Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program, which aimed to develop drones for public safety. However, in 2020, the program came under scrutiny, when a data breach was detected in the UAS program. The hack exposed the personal information of students and faculty engaged in the research project. The UAS breach could expose WGU to legal actions under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or similar regulations, if they had violated data security and privacy policies.

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The above incidents demonstrate that WGU is potentially vulnerable to legal issues in information security, if they fail to protect student and faculty data from cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for any vulnerabilities in networks, and once identified, they try to exploit them for their selfish gains. Thus, it is essential that WGU must take all necessary measures to safeguard their network and to invest in cybersecurity training programs to educate their faculty and staff.

Mitigating Legal Risks of Cloud Computing and Saas

Cloud Computing and Saas

In recent times, there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that are adopting cloud computing and software as a service (Saas) solutions. These services provide a more cost-effective and efficient way to store and process data and can help companies scale up their IT infrastructure. However, there are also potential legal risks associated with these solutions that companies need to be aware of. In this article, we will discuss ways to mitigate legal risks of cloud computing and Saas.

1. Understand the Legal Framework

Before moving your data to the cloud, it’s essential to understand the legal framework that governs cloud computing and Saas. Some of the significant laws and regulations that you need to be aware of include the GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS. These laws govern how companies access, process, and store sensitive data, and failure to comply with them could result in severe legal and financial consequences.

2. Ensure the Service Provider’s Compliance

When choosing a cloud computing or Saas provider, it’s vital to ensure that they comply with the relevant laws and regulations. You can ask the provider to provide proof of compliance or hire a third-party auditor to verify their compliance. If the service provider is not compliant, it could result in legal liability for your company.

3. Review Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Service level agreements (SLAs) should be reviewed thoroughly before signing up with any cloud computing or Saas vendor. The SLA should contain clear terms regarding data ownership, security, uptime guarantees, data privacy, regulatory compliance, and data breach/response procedures. SLAs that do not provide adequate coverage leave the company with undue risk and exposure.

4. Have a Data Breach Response Plan

One of the critical legal risks associated with cloud computing and Saas is the possibility of a data breach. Before migrating data to the cloud, companies must have a data breach response plan in place. The data breach response plan should outline what actions are to be taken in case of a security breach and include the following components: incident response procedures, notification procedures to clients, evidence protection, post-incident review, and remedial actions.

When developing the data breach response plan, it’s essential to consider the applicable laws and regulations. In some jurisdictions, companies are required to notify clients within a certain period after a data breach.

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Having a data breach response plan not only helps companies contain the damage but also demonstrates a proactive approach to data protection and could be a factor in determining damage awards in litigation.


Mitigating legal risks of cloud computing and Saas requires a thorough understanding of the legal framework, compliance of the service provider, reviewing SLAs, and having a data breach response plan in place. By following these steps, companies can minimize legal risks associated with cloud computing and Saas and secure their data.

Intellectual Property Protection in WGU’s Information Security Framework

Intellectual Property Protection

When it comes to information security in any organization, protecting intellectual property should be one of the key priorities. Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creative works and ideas that are unique to an individual or organization and cannot be used by anyone else without permission. In the education sector, universities, colleges, and other institutions have a responsibility to protect their IP, and WGU is no exception.

WGU’s Information Security Framework has several policies and procedures in place to ensure that intellectual property is protected. One of these policies is the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which outlines the acceptable use of WGU’s information technology resources by faculty, staff, students, contractors, and other workforce members. The AUP specifies that unauthorized use of WGU’s computer systems, networks, or data is strictly prohibited, including the unauthorized use of WGU’s copyrighted material, trademarks, or any other intellectual property.

Another policy related to intellectual property protection is the Data Classification Policy, which classifies all data stored on WGU’s computer systems and networks into three categories: public, confidential, and restricted. Intellectual property is considered confidential or restricted data, which means that it is subject to strict access controls, monitoring, and encryption to ensure that only authorized personnel can access it.

WGU also has an Intellectual Property Policy that outlines the ownership of intellectual property created by WGU employees and students. The policy specifies that any intellectual property developed by WGU employees as part of their job responsibilities is owned by WGU, whereas any IP developed by students in the course of their study is owned by the student. The policy also outlines the procedure for reporting and resolving disputes related to intellectual property ownership.

WGU’s information security team is responsible for enforcing these policies and implementing measures to protect intellectual property. Some of the measures implemented by the team include:

  • Access controls: Ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to intellectual property by implementing multi-factor authentication, user roles, and permissions.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring the use of WGU’s computer systems and networks to detect any unauthorized access or use of intellectual property.
  • Encryption: Ensuring that intellectual property is encrypted during storage and transfer to prevent interception by unauthorized users.
  • Training: Providing regular training to faculty, staff, students, and contractors on the policies related to intellectual property protection and the proper use of WGU’s information technology resources.

Overall, intellectual property protection is a critical aspect of information security in any organization, and it is essential that WGU has policies and procedures in place to protect its IP. By implementing strict access controls, monitoring, encryption, and providing regular training to its workforce, WGU ensures that its intellectual property remains secure and protected.