Yesterday’s post by Sean Tassi on Husch Blackwell’s Higher Education Legal Insights provides colleges and universities with low-tech strategies to guard their data against criminal activity. The information in his post serves as a good reminder to remove unnecessary personal information (“PI”) on forms and documents.

If you have further questions, members of our Data Privacy, Security & Breach Response team can address them.

Internet search giant Yahoo!Inc. (“Yahoo”) revealed last year that it was the victim of two massive data breaches back in 2013 and 2014 that potentially affected more than 1.5 billion users. Investigations into the incidents continue to reveal potentially damning information regarding what the company knew and when, how the company responded to the breaches, and the status of Yahoo’s information security at the time of the breaches. The details that have emerged paint the picture of a company that failed to adhere to basic data security requirements. Unfortunately, the technology company will likely become a case-study in what happens when an organization fails to follow security best practices.

Continue Reading Yahoo Data Breaches: A Lesson in What Not to Do

keyhole_000000145416_LargeStates are updating their data security statutes in response to the increasing number of data breaches that are exposing residents’ personal information to unauthorized users. Two states in particular – Illinois and Tennessee – recently made sweeping changes to their respective data security statutes in an attempt to make organizations more responsive in light of this growing data security concern. Continue Reading Recent changes to states’ data security laws

sherrifiStock_000005376033_LargeFor the first time in its enforcement history, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) took action against a company for deceiving consumers about the company’s data security practices. The CFPB found that Dwolla, Inc. (“Dwolla”), an online payment system, made numerous false promises about the strength and extent of its data security practices. The CFPB’s action is also notable because the agency acted preemptively — Dwolla had never detected a data breach and no consumer data had been reported stolen.

The CFPB found that Dwolla claimed on its website and in direct communications with consumers that its data security practices “exceed” or “surpass” industry security standards; but, in reality, Dwolla failed to employ reasonable security measures to protect consumer data. In addition, Dwolla claimed that “all information is securely encrypted and stored” and that its mobile applications were safe and secure. However, the CFPB found that Dwolla did not encrypt certain sensitive consumer information and released applications to the public before testing that they were secure. The agency found several other examples of statements Dwolla made that could not be established as true. Continue Reading There’s a new privacy boss in town

city-namesiStock_000049719310_LargeYour business is an international company selling products to U.S. consumers. In the last few years, you may have heard a lot about high-profile information privacy and security cases brought by the U.S. government. Should you be concerned? Most definitely.

On Feb. 23, 2016, the FTC announced that Taiwan-based computer hardware maker ASUSTeK Computers, Inc. (“ASUS”) agreed to a 20-year consent order, resolving claims that it engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in connection with routers it sold to U.S. consumers. According to the FTC’s complaint, ASUS failed to take reasonable steps to secure the software for its routers, which it offered to consumers specifically for protecting their local networks and accessing their sensitive personal information. The FTC alleged that ASUS’s router firmware and admin console were susceptible to a number of “well-known and reasonably foreseeable vulnerabilities”; that its cloud applications included multiple vulnerabilities that would allow cyber attackers to gain easy, unauthorized access to consumers’ files and router login credentials; and that the application encouraged consumers to choose weak login credentials. By failing to take reasonable actions to remedy these issues, ASUS subjected its customers to a significant risk that their sensitive personal information and local networks would be subject to unauthorized access. Continue Reading FTC v. ASUS – In the Internet age, being a foreign-based company is no defense

Winter Road Construction SignsYou may have a top-notch security incident response plan and a crack team for data breach response…but have you checked to be sure that your company’s HR policies are on the same team with you? Personnel Management is one of the most important—yet often overlooked—of the 10 activity channels for effective data breach response. In the crunch of handling an actual data security incident, your company’s HR policies will either pave or block the road to a nimble, successful response.

Of course, various policies are important for prevention of data security breaches, including policies for such matters as authorized computer systems, e-communications, and Internet use; authorized data and system access; strong passwords; use of encryption and encryption keys; mobile device safeguards; precluding or limiting storage of company data on home or other personal devices; and the like. But other policy provisions are essential for effective security breach response: Continue Reading Your HR policies should help, not hinder, data breach response

Sharing informationThe 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?

Image copyright Catherine Lane 2015

My New Year’s resolutions will likely be broken early and often in 2016. My consequences are mostly non-monetary: a few more pounds, a little less savings, and not winning the triathlon in my age group. Your consequences, as a HIPAA-covered entity or business associate, for not complying with the Privacy and Security Rules could be much greater, and could put you into serious debt to the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Therefore, we propose that you resolve now to become fully HIPAA compliant in 2016.

OCR delivered an early holiday gift, wrapped in the Director’s Sept. 23, 2015, report to the Office of Inspector General. In that report, she disclosed that OCR will launch Phase 2 of its HIPAA audit program in early 2016, focusing on noncompliance issues for both covered entities and business associates.

So, grab that cup of hot cocoa and peruse this review of 2014-2015 HIPAA enforcement actions, which should help identify noncompliance issues on which OCR will focus in 2016.  Continue Reading HIPAA compliance: another year older, but hopefully not deeper in debt

santaiStock_000017337503_LargeFor those who observe it, the Christmas season (secular version 2.0) is definitely here. As a child, I cherished the thought of a man with a red suit accessing our house through the chimney. For those of us concerned about computer system security, we worry about a person with a black hat accessing our data through phishing, hacking, and malware. I hate to mention, well, you know who, but someone out there loves the thought of taking your Whoville roast beast.

Enjoy the next few days with your family and friends, but remember, it’s also time to consider your data security for 2016. Knowing you, once you’ve opened all the presents, eaten dinner, and just settled down for a moment of quiet sanity, your thoughts will inevitably turn to the new year. So, here are six holiday-themed recommendations for your consideration. If you don’t recognize the quotes below, that means you didn’t spend your childhood binge-watching classic holiday programs. Not a worry – simply unwrap the answer key at the bottom. Continue Reading I’m making a list, securing it twice…