Recent unauthorized access to British Columbia Institute of Technology’s computer network, which contained personal medical information of approximately 12,680 individuals, is yet another reminder of risks of exposure to data breaches. That none of the data on BCIT’s computer network was compromised or misused is reflective of a low-profile non-hacker intrusion, and of the ease with which computer networks can be infiltrated. Indeed, a sophisticated hacker would know better than to leave massive amounts of data, rightly labeled by some as the “oil” of the 21st century, uncompromised. More curious than uncompromised data, however, is BCIT’s notification in the absence of an actual data breach, and mandatory breach notification provisions under B.C. privacy law.
In a landmark decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held in Patco Construction Company, Inc. v. People’s United Bank, No. 11-2031 (1st Cir. July 3, 2012) that People’s United Bank (d/b/a Ocean Bank) was required to reimburse its customer, PATCO Construction Co., for approximately $580,000 which had been stolen from PATCO’S bank account. In so doing, the Court reversed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Maine which had granted summary judgment in the bank’s favor.
The dispute arose when Ocean Bank authorized six fraudulent withdrawals over seven days from an online account held by PATCO. While the bank’s security system flagged each one of the transactions as “high risk” because they were inconsistent with the timing, value, and geographic location of PATCO’s regular payment orders, the bank’s security system did not notify PATCO of this information and allowed the payments to go through. In light of this omission, PATCO sued, alleging that Ocean Bank should bear responsibility for the loss because its security system was not “commercially reasonable” under the Uniform Commercial Code, as codified under Maine Law.
A quick google search will reveal thousands of hundreds of thousands of hits for the term cyberstalking. Indeed, as of today, there are over 900,000 posts where the word is used. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the listings involve teen cyberbullying and child protection issues. There are also large numbers of celebrities who are cyberstalked or otherwise harassed. Beyond juveniles and celebrities, the most frequently stalked demographic are 18-32 year old females, a cohort to which some of our own bloggers (and co-publishers) belong. Curiously, reports indicate that more and more women are also the cyberstalkers, not just the victims. Anecdotal stories suggest many of these women are married but unhappy with their lives.
Jeremy Bentham used to refer to the common law as the “dog law”. As he explains it, “whenever your dog does anything you want to break him of, you wait till he does it, and then beat him for it. This is the way you make laws for your dog: and this is the way the judges make law for you and me.” .
Insofar as the tort of invasion of privacy in Canada is concerned, Jeremy Bentham was arguably right. Aside from the province of Quebec, which is governed by a civil law system, and a few other provinces in Canada which have benefited from a statutorily enacted tort of invasion of privacy, lower Courts have been divided over the existence of a free-standing tort of invasion of privacy at common law. The recent decision Jones v. Tsige (2012) by the Ontario Court of Appeal is the first to confirm that what used to be an embryonic tort of invasion of privacy is now alive and well in Canada
The US and Australia have a longstanding agreement to back each other up in case of physical enemy attack, but now have moved that agreement to the arena of cyber-attack as well. With Australia’s history of cyber-attacks well known, such as an attack two years ago that brought down Australia’s Parliament’s website, the country cannot afford to ignore cyber security any longer.
The cyber-attacks recently launched by six individuals from the group Anonymous, an international hacktivist collective, against 13 Quebec government and police websites are but a fleeting glimpse of a much broader problem associated with the cyber world, most of which remains largely unseen. Succinctly stated, the cyber-attacks were a response to the Quebec Liberal party’s constitutionally questionable Bill 78 that was recently passed as a response to the student crisis sparked three months ago over the government’s planned 75% tuition increase. That six individual were arrested by law enforcement agencies and charged with mischief, conspiracy, and unlawful use of a computer should hardly be reassuring.