How The Next-Generation Security Platform Contributes to GDPR Compliance

14 min. read


Cybersecurity is an essential investment to protect personal data and comply with the GDPR.

The vast majority of GDPR requirements center around data management, namely data collecting and processing. There are obligations to provide notice when collecting personal data, prohibitions on unauthorized data processing, requirements to keep records of data processing, a duty to appoint a data protection officer in certain instances, and rules regarding transfer of personal data to third parties and third countries, amongst others.


But this should not overshadow the fact that data security  is also a pillar of GDPR. GDPR has specific security-related language,  as described in detail below. Further, a key component of protecting personal data is keeping  it secure – both  from exfiltration by cyber adversaries and from internal leakage. Thus, as they pre- pare for the GDPR, it is imperative that organisations’ investments in compliance activities  and information management processes and technologies be complemented with appropriate investments in cybersecurity.


Summary of relevant provisions from the GDPR (see this link to the GDPR for full text) :



Summary of provisions

Security of data processing


Organisations must implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security  appropriate to the risk. Those measures must account for the state of the art. [Article 32]

Personal data should be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security and confidentiality of the data, including for preventing unauthorized access  to or use of personal data and the equipment used for the processing. [Recital, paragraph 39]

In assessing data security  risk, consideration should be given to risks presented
by personal data processing. Risks that should be considered include accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, and unauthorised disclosure of, or access  to, personal data. [Recital, paragraph 83]


Data breach notification


Supervisory authorities must be notified  if personal data is lost, stolen  or other- wise compromised, unless the breach is unlikely to result in a relevant risk to the individual. Notification must happen without undue  delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours  after having become aware  of the breach.  In certain  cases, indi- viduals must be notified.  Notifications must describe a range  of information about the breach,  such as its nature, categories and number of personal data records concerned, likely consequences, measures taken  to address the breach and mitigate its effects,  and other items. [Articles 33 and 34]

Administrative fines


Supervisory authorities are to impose  administrative fines for GDPR infringements, on a case-by-case basis. When  deciding whether to impose  a fine and the amount, the authorities are directed to consider many factors,  including the degree of responsibility in implementing technical and organisational measures, taking into account the state of the art as per Article 32. [Article 83]



Palo Alto Networks® can help with organisations’ security and data protection efforts  related to GDPR compliance by assisting  in:

 1. Securing personal data. The GDPR requires security of data processing, accounting for the state of the art. Our Next-Generation Security Platform provides just that: security at the application, network and endpoint level, as well as in the

 2. Data breach prevention. Prevention of data breaches, whether a result of hacking or accidental leakage, is crucial for compliance with the GDPR. Proper cybersecurity is essential to ensure your organisation’s personal and busi- ness-critical data and applications remain protected. Our Next-Generation Security Platform is built for prevent

3. Data breach notification. In the unfortunate instance of a data breach,  it must be reported. Our Next-Generation Security Platform  can help determine what personal data was compromised, and contribute key facts about measures taken  to address the breach.


Many parts  of our product portfolio  have capabilities and features that meet these needs. These are described herein.

 Securing Personal Data

The GDPR requires security of data processing, accounting for the state of the art. Palo Alto Networks platform secures data at the application, network and endpoint level, as well as in the cloud.

 Truly reducing  cyber risk and protecting data, including personal data, requires integrated, automated and effective controls in place to detect and prevent known and unknown threats at every stage  of the attack lifecycle. Built from the ground  up for prevention, the

Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform allows organisations to confidently pursue a digital-first strategy as they implement key technology initiatives within the cloud and, increasingly, mobile networks to protect their most valued data assets from exfiltration by cybercriminals and accidental data leakage.

 The Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform  combines network and endpoint security with threat intelligence to provide  automated protection and prevent cyberattacks – not just detect them.  Our platform  natively brings together all key security  functions – including firewall, URL filtering, IDS/IPS, and advanced endpoint and threat protection. Because these functions are purposefully built into the plat- form with cyberthreat prevention in mind, and natively share  essential information across  the respective disciplines, our platform  ensures better security  than legacy firewalls and antivirus, UTMs, or point threat detection products. In short,  better security  supports better data protection.

 State-of-the-Art Technology

 The GDPR calls for technical and organisational security measures that account for the state of the art. Legacy security systems, made up of cobbled-together point products, have proven inadequate to pre- vent the rising volume, automation and sophistication of cyberattacks. CISOs should review these legacy products carefully to determine if they meet the state of the art.

The threat landscape is constantly evolving, and as such, state of the art technology must evolve to prevent new threats. The Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Security Platform combines network and endpoint security with threat intelligence to provide automated protection and prevent cyberattacks, not just detect them. Contrary to legacy point products, our platform leverages the network effects of thousands of cus- tomers, technology partners and researchers sharing threat information. We build technology that prevents attacks at the key tactical and strategic places where cyberattackers need  to take action to be successful, and we update our global customer base with the latest protections in as few as five minutes. As a matter of scope, we generate more than one million new preventive measures each week as we identify new, or ‘zero-day’, cyberthreats. With our platform, organisations can safely enable  the use of all applications crit- ical to running their business, confidently pursue new technology initiatives, and protect the organisation from both basic and complicated, multifaceted cyberattacks. For CISOs who want to say they have account- ed for the state of the art, Palo Alto Networks should be among the security elements considered.


GDPR Compliance

Data Breach Prevention

Prevention of data breaches, whether a result of hacking or accidental leakage, is crucial for compliance with the GDPR. Proper cybersecurity is essential to ensure your organisation’s personal and business-critical data and applications remain protected.

 Our platform enables four key prevention techniques relevant to data security, simultaneously contributing to GDPR compliance.

  • Complete visibility. Our platform offers visibility into all traffic – across the network, endpoint and the cloud – classified by application, user and content. You can’t stop or protect against what you can’t see. Complete visibility provides  the context to enforce dynamic security  policy.
  • Reduce the attack surface. The attack surface is expanding rapidly as companies’ use of applications and devices (e.g., SaaS, cloud and IoT) proliferates. The more avenues available to infiltrate an organisation, the more opportunities for a cyber adversary to exfiltrate personal data. We enforce a positive  security model, reducing  the attack  surface by enabling only the allowed applications for the right users  and deny- ing everything else.
  • Prevent known threats. Many data breaches result from known threats, such as commodity information-stealing Trojans, malware  and application exploits. On the perimeter, our platform  controls the threat vectors themselves through the granular management of all types  of applications. This immediately reduces the attack  surface of the network, after which all allowed traffic is analysed for exploits, malware, malicious URLs, and dangerous or restricted files or content. On the endpoint, Palo Alto Networks combines threat intelligence from our global community of customers with our unique  multi-method prevention approach to block known malware  and exploits  before they can compromise endpoints.
  • Prevent unknown threats. Our platform goes beyond stopping known threats to proactively identify and block unknown malware  and exploits, which are often  used in sophisticated and targeted attacks.  When  a novel malware  or exploit is seen, the WildFire® cloud-based threat analysis service  automatically creates and shares a new control  to your prevention devices,  like next-generation firewalls and Traps™ advanced endpoint protection, in as few as five minutes,  without human  intervention. In addition,  Traps deploys  a unique, multi-method approach to block the core techniques used by zero-day exploits  and identify and block unknown malware  from compromising endpoints.

 To further alleviate data transfer and privacy concerns, WildFire EU, a localised cloud deployment, is available to analyse data without ever transferring it from regional boundaries.

These prevention techniques are powered by WildFire, the industry’s most advanced analysis and prevention engine for highly evasive zero-day malware and exploits. The cloud-based service employs a multi-technique approach that combines dynamic and static analysis, innovative machine learning techniques and a groundbreaking bare metal analysis environment to detect and prevent even the most evasive threats. WildFire goes beyond legacy approaches used to detect unknown threats, bringing together the benefits of four independent techniques for high-fidelity and evasion-resistant discovery:


  • Dynamic analysis: Observes files as they detonate in a custom-built, evasion-resistant virtual environment, enabling detection of zero-day malware and exploits using hundreds of behavioral characteristics.
  • Static analysis: Effectively detects malware and exploits that attempt to evade dynamic analysis, as well as instantly identifying  variants of existing malware. 
  • Machine learning: Extracts thousands of unique features from each file, training a predictive machine learning classifier to identify new malware and exploits in a way not possible  with static or dynamic analysis alone.


  • Bare metal analysis: Automatically sends evasive threats to a real hardware environment for detonation, entirely removing  an adversary’s ability to deploy anti-VM analysis techniques. 

Together, these techniques allow WildFire to discover  and prevent unknown malware  and exploits with high efficacy and near-zero false positives.


Managing Security Processes Centrally

The GDPR applies to any organisation that processes personal data on EU residents, regardless of where the organisation is physically located. For many large or multinational organisations, personal data processing might take place in multiple locations, all of which must be compliant. Panorama™ network security man- agement empowers organisations with easy-to-implement, consolidated policy creation and management of our next-generation firewalls. With Panorama, you can implement both centralised and regional policy, and easily delegate to regional admins as needed or preferred. The key is the flexibility to implement policies according to business needs and specific regional laws. For example, a Panorama admin can enforce security policies for firewalls located in a branch  in Singapore or Brazil, even though the regional admins in those locations may be unaware of a compliance need  to protect data subject to the GDPR.


Preventing Data Exfiltration or Leakage

Data breaches can result from data exfiltration or leakage, and our platform can contribute to preventing both.

With our Next-Generation Security Platform, each critical stage  within the attack  lifecycle is met with a defence model to prevent data exfiltration – from the attacker’s  initial attempt to breach the perimeter, to delivering malware  or exploiting  the endpoint, to moving laterally through the network until the attacker reaches the primary target and attempts to exfiltrate personal and sensitive data.

 To maintain  compliance with GDPR, it’s critically important to prevent accidental data leakage/sharing by your internal and partner communities of users across the entire infrastructure. End users are amongst the most common risks, particularly when  using SaaS applications. Often untrained and unaware of the risks they bring, their actions can result in accidental personal data leakage. Our security  platform  prevents data exfiltration and leakage in several ways:

  • Security at the network. To protect data within your organisation, built-in data filtering profiles on the next-generation firewall help prevent accidental data leakage – at the network layer. System administrators can apply policies to inspect and control content traversing the network to help limit unauthorised transfer of sensitive data, such as credit card numbers.
  • Security at the SaaS level. Organisations need to control access  to SaaS applications, enforce policy controls on information sharing and stop data leakage.

    • Organisations operating within Europe can select the regional EU-based Prisma™ SaaS  data center to meet their data location preference.

◦   These capabilities are delivered through our platform using the next-generation firewall (e.g. User-ID™, App-ID™ anContent-ID™ technologies) and Prisma™ SaaS security service. The next-generation firewall analyses all traffic from your network to SaaS applications and back. However, certain cloud- based  activity can be invisible to in-line security services, such as data sharing permissions or accessing cloud-based data from outside the network (without VPN). In this case, Prisma SaaS complements the next-generation firewall, using SaaS APIs to connect directly to the SaaS applications themselves. This makes it possible to see everything users have uploaded or shared. With Prisma SaaS, users can view and monitor file uploads across all assets in enterprise SaaS applications, such as Box, Microsoft® Office, Dropbox®, Salesforce®, Secure Data Space and more. Policies can then be applied to monitor and enforce responsible use of assets (including personal data) and protect against accidental data leaks caused by human errors, such as promiscuous or inadvertent sharing, and sharing content using links that may be exposed to the internet. If a policy violation is detected, an alert is generated. If configured, Prisma SaaS takes automatic action to remediate the risk.

  • Security at the endpoint. Traps advanced endpoint protection employs a multi-method approach to preemptively block known and unknown threats, including zero-day exploits and unknown malware, from compromising endpoints.
  • Stopping credential theft. Stolen credentials are a common threat vector for data breaches, given it is relatively simple to steal a password and gain the level of access desired.


◦   Our platform  provides  the capabilities to break up credential-based attacks across  the attack  lifecycle.

Often,  attackers will use credential phishing attempts, sent via email or social media, to trick users into submitting corporate credentials in a fraudulent form. Our platform  stops  credential leakage  by preventing users  from submitting credentials to unknown and unauthorised sites. Because stolen credentials are typically used  to access  critical systems inside the organisation, we also establish protections against  lateral movement by enforcing multi-factor authentication (MFA) policies that govern  access  to these critical applications where sensitive data  is contained.

In addition,  AutoFocus™, our contextual threat intelligence service, can ingest third-party threat intelligence sources and turn them  into prevention across  our security  platform  through our MineMeld™ application. Once indicators of compromise are collected, MineMeld  can filter, de-duplicate and consolidate metadata across  all sources, allowing security  teams to analyse  a more actionable set of data, enriched from multiple sources, for easier enforcement.

Data Breach Notification

In the unfortunate instance of a data breach, it must be reported.

In the unfortunate event of a personal data breach,  the GDPR requires notification to supervisory authorities, unless the event is unlikely to result in risk to individuals’ rights or freedom. Notification must include a range of information, including what data was impacted and what measures were  taken. 

Our platform  can help maintain  compliance with this GDPR requirement in the event of a breach.  For example, AutoFocus provides  the analytics  details needed for remediation, helping to understand who the user was, what the threat was, the impact and the level of risk. All of this can help with notification requirements.

In addition,  the next-generation firewall can be used to educate users via custom notification pages. System administrators can add their desired education message to the notification pages  so that whenever an accidental data leak is prevented, the end user is served that message. For example, the message can include

a link to the corporate data policies and best  practices. This helps with overall prevention, as well as education efforts  that support notification.


  1.  GDPR Article 4 (1): “‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified,  directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier  such as a name, an identification number,  location  data, an online identifier  or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.”