The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, signed into law on Dec. 18, has four titles that address longstanding concerns about cybersecurity in the United States, such as cybersecurity workforce shortages, infrastructure security, and gaps in business knowledge related to cybersecurity. This post distills the risks and highlights the benefits for private entities that may seek to take advantage of Title I of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 – the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (“CISA”).

It’s been clear for many years that greater information-sharing between companies and with the government would help fight cyber threats. The barriers to such sharing have been (1) liability exposure for companies that collect and share such information, which can include personally identifiable information, and (2) institutional and educational impediments to analyzing and sharing information effectively.

CISA is designed to remove both of these information-sharing barriers. First, CISA provides immunity to companies that share “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures” with the federal government in a CISA-authorized manner. Second, CISA authorizes, for a “cybersecurity purpose,” both use and sharing of defensive measures and monitoring of information systems. CISA also mandates that federal agencies establish privacy protections for shared information and publish procedures and guidelines to help companies identify and share cyber threat information. Notably, companies are not required to share information in order to receive information on “threat indicators and defensive measures,” nor are entities required to act upon information received – but this won’t shield companies from ordinary ‘failure to act’ negligence claims.
Continue Reading What’s new with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act?

Yesterday the FTC announced it has settled its claims against Wyndham for inadequate data security, with Wyndham signing on to essentially the same consent order used by the FTC in most of its more than 50 concluded data security enforcement matters. The settlement marks the end of a three-year legal battle in which Wyndham attempted, unsuccessfully, to restrict the FTC’s authority to pursue companies for inadequate data security as an ”unfair” business practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Continue Reading Wyndham checks out of FTC dispute

At DEF CON you’ll often hear that “every company is receiving penetration testing, but some companies pay for the pleasure.” My take is that every company pays for penetration testing – some companies pay in planned expenditures, but others pay in response costs, reputation loss, business interruption, legal liability, and increased insurance premiums. Or as Claus Moser observed, “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.”

Last week’s DEF CON post shared insights from DEF CON 23 presenters on the fast-moving threat environment. Below are post-DEF CON observations on strengthening an organization’s cyber risk management strategy.
Continue Reading DEF CON 23—Part II: cyber risk management strategy

Faces lit by computers, the hackers’ objectives were clear — attack and defend. At this year’s DEF CON, the largest hacker convention in the United States, pre-qualified teams of hackers from around the globe faced-off in a network-security simulation that combined network sniffing, cryptanalysis, programming, reverse-engineering, and other tactics that would make Lisbeth Salander blush. Back in 1993, the first DEF CON had roughly 100 participants. This year, badges dangled from the necks of nearly 20,000 attendees, including hackers, lawyers, academics, journalists, and government officials.

DEF CON has an edgy narrative — it’s notorious for criminal exploits, wild parties, and Mohawk-fitted outcasts. But that story line is much too simple. And “too simple” is what security researchers—or hackers, depending on your sensibilities—proclaim after they expose the vulnerabilities in products and infrastructure we rely on daily.

Below are highlights and insights from presentations at DEF CON 23 that illustrate the evolving cyber risks and policy dilemmas facing governments, individuals, and the private sector.
Continue Reading DEF CON 23—Part I: Hackers highlight evolving cyber threats

Months. Actually, years. That’s how long the notion has been brewing that the Federal Trade Commission has no authority to enforce reasonable data security under the unfairness prong of FTC Act Section 5. The stakes are high – the FTC can pursue essentially any commercial company under the FTC Act for unfair or deceptive trade practices in interstate commerce. And if the FTC indeed has the authority to take any such company to court for “unfair” data security practices under Section 5, without any FTC regulations under Section 5 setting standards for exactly what constitutes adequate data security… well, one can appreciate why many in the general business community are uneasy.

When the FTC sued Wyndham in federal court for inadequate data security, Wyndham raised every argument its lawyers could think of to dismiss the FTC’s unfairness claims.  After failing to convince the trial court, Wyndham next took an interlocutory appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the first appellate court to ever consider this issue, and asked that the FTC be stopped. But instead of a red light (a ruling of no FTC authority) or a yellow light (a ruling on other grounds), the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision, handed down this week, gives the FTC a clear green light to pursue its claims against Wyndham for alleged unreasonable data security as an unfair business practice.
Continue Reading Third Circuit gives FTC green light for data security enforcement

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit in federal court against hotelier Wyndham and its various subsidiaries (“Wyndham”), claiming that Wyndham’s allegedly unreasonable data security practices allowed hackers to steal personal information and payment data of Wyndham’s customers. The FTC’s claims were not unusual – by 2012 the FTC had spent a decade pursuing companies for unreasonable data security in administrative actions under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which forbids unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.  In each of these prior enforcement actions the company settled with the FTC, agreeing to comprehensive data security controls, program monitoring, and reporting, usually extending for 20 years.

But Wyndham’s response was highly unusual – it pushed back, and continues to do so, challenging the FTC’s authority to enforce “reasonable” data security under the FTC Act.

In its motion to dismiss, Wyndham argued that the unfairness prong of FTC Act Section 5 does not empower the FTC to regulate cybersecurity, and also that the FTC has not provided constitutionally adequate notice of what cybersecurity practices are required to satisfy a “reasonableness” standard.

The federal district court denied Wyndham’s motion to dismiss, but later allowed an interlocutory appeal on Wyndham’s arguments. The stage is now set for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, to decide whether the FTC has authority under the unfairness prong of FTC Act Section 5 to enforce reasonable data security. Will the Third Circuit resolve this issue, or will it dodge the question?
Continue Reading FTC v. Wyndham: the battleground for reasonable data security