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Congress Proposes Bill Protecting Student Data

While the protection of private data contained within student records is not a new concern, advances in technology and the accompanying headlines of data breach have caused Congress to reconsider the issue.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) currently protects against the unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) contained within student records. PII includes direct identifying information, such as a student’s name, as well as indirect identifying information, such as date or place of birth.

The role computers and networks play in the operation of schools is profound. Like many industries, the issue of data storage for schools is a significant aspect of the information technology infrastructure. Increasingly, schools (mostly public enterprises) migrate and store data in the Cloud, thus placing PII in the hands of third party (mostly private) business associates. Schools also rely on on-line text books, on-line web applications, and software as a service. Much of this did not exist when President Ford signed FERPA into law in 1974. One survey showed only 25 percent of districts notify parents that its students’ data interfaces with the Cloud.

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Cyber at Lloyds: Catching the cyber horse in motion

The following article was written by my good friend Tony Ellwood. Tony is senior executive, underwriting, at Lloyd’s Market Association and a thought leader. We are grateful to Tony for allowing us to republish his article, which first appeared in the July 16th edition of Insurance Day.

Rick

LondonThe question of whether a running horse has all four hooves in the air simultaneously was one that perplexed generations. No matter just how closely a horse was observed, the motion of its legs was simply too rapid for the human eye to register accurately. It was not until the advent of photography and an experiment by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 that the question was answered. He developed a camera that was triggered by wires attached to a horse’s legs allowing him to shoot 24 photographs as the horse ran past, which proved beyond a shadow of doubt that a horse does indeed lose contact completely with the ground in mid-gait.

There are many parallels between Muybridge’s study of the running horse and a new survey the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) has launched to understand the full extent of cyber risk being underwritten in the Lloyd’s market. The similarity is the sheer pace with which cyber liability has grown from its beginnings in the mid-1990s to current global premiums in the order of £1.5bn, and still rising sharply. The speed of that growth, combined with the rate at which cyber has evolved as a product, make it a particularly tricky line to pin down. What’s more, the question that has been formulating in the LMA’s collective mind is how much cyber liability is being written at Lloyd’s within other classes of business such as marine or aviation. This survey is the first attempt to comprehensively map that business.

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CA Court of Appeal: CMIA Is Not All-Inclusive

customLogo.gifIn its recent decision in Eisenhower Medical Center v. Superior Court, 226 Cal. App. 4th 430 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2014), the Court of Appeal of California, Fourth District, had occasion to consider whether a medical facility’s disclosure of information concerning a patient that does not contain the medical treatment or history of the patient violates California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (“CMIA”) (Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.82), which requires notification to consumers when security systems are breached.

On March 11, 2011, a computer was stolen from Eisenhower Medical Center (“EMC”) that contained an index of over 500,000 persons to whom EMC had assigned a clerical record number.  The records dated back to the 1980’s.  The information on the index was limited to each person’s name, medical record number, age, date of birth, and the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number.  EMC subsequently advised the patients of the theft, and a number of those individuals filed suit.  The suit was styled as a putative class action and sought nominal damages of $1,000 for EMC’s alleged violations of the CMIA.  The plaintiffs also included a cause of action for violation of the Consumer Records Act (“CRA”).

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Court Certifies Interlocutory Appeal for the FTC v. Wyndham Matter

TRAUB LIEBERMAN STRAUS & SHREWSBERRY LLP’s Cyber Law Blog previously discussed various aspects of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) action filed against Wyndham Worldwide Corp. (“Wyndham”) under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair and deceptive acts or practices.” Recent developments in the FTC action carry implications for cyber liability and how companies handle cyber security and data breaches.

On April 7, 2014, US District Judge Esther Salas denied Wyndham’s motion to dismiss directly challenging the FTC’s authority to regulate cyber security practices. Wyndham’s motion asserted that Congress had not delegated such authority to the FTC under its Section 5 powers, and even if it did, the FTC failed to publish rules or regulations providing companies fair notice of the protections expected and “legal standards” to be enforced by the FTC.

At the time, Judge Salas unequivocally ruled in favor of the FTC’s authority. However, on June 23, 2014, the Court granted Wyndham’s application and certified the matter for an immediate interlocutory appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeal involves two questions of law: (1) whether the FTC can bring an unfairness claim involving data security under Section 5 of the FTC Act and (2) whether the FTC must formally promulgate regulations before bringing its unfairness claim under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Interlocutory appeals are rarely granted, are in the complete discretion of the trial court, and must meet certain requirements under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), including whether there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion on the matter. While Judge Salas’s denial of Wyndham’s motion to dismiss was certain as to the FTC’s Section 5 authority and the issue of fair notice, the Order certifying the matter for interlocutory appeal on the other hand, acknowledged Wyndham’s “statutory authority and fair-notice challenges confront this Court with novel, complex statutory interpretation issues that give rise to a substantial ground for difference of opinion.”

The Court further acknowledged that it was dealing with an issue of first impression with “nationwide significance… which indisputably affects consumers and businesses in a climate where we collectively struggle to maintain privacy while enjoying the benefits of the digital age.”
As a result, the Third Circuit will be the first major appellate court to weigh in on the issue of whether the FTC has authority to regulate cyber security practices, and if so whether those regulations require specific legal standards and fair notice to those within the scope of FTC’s enforcement.

- See more at: http://www.traublieberman.com/cyber-law/2014/0710/4801/#sthash.hgIolyzW.dpuf

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Best Practices: Protecting Your Firm From The HIPAA Omnibus Rule

The following article was written by my friend Charlie E. Bernier, Esquire of ECBM, L.P. in Conshohocken, PA. Charlie serves as the Principal Consultant in ECBM’s Lawyers Professional Liability Division. Thanks Charlie.

Rick

hipaa2On September 23, 2013 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began enforcing HIPAA Privacy, Security, Beach Notification, and Enforcement rules under the authority of the Omnibus Final Rule. Though the legislation had been in existence since 1996, it was officially expanded to include law firms and firm subcontractors that handle Protected Health Information (PHI) on behalf of their clients who are regulated by HIPAA. The Omnibus Final Rule now requires that these firms and any subcontractor they do business with comply with the Security Rule, Significant Provisions of the Privacy Rule, and the Breach Notification rule.

HHS is now authorized to (1) audit law firms (2) subject law firms to compliance reviews (3) impose civil monetary penalties for violations and (4) make referrals to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

As a practicing attorney and risk management specialist, I know how inconvenient and costly complying with bureaucratic privacy laws can be. Neglecting to address these laws, however, could potentially cost your firm millions of dollars. The omnibus final rule imposes penalties and fines up to $1.5 million per violation, not including defense and indemnity costs. A security breach that exposes multiple patient records could be financially devastating, which is why thoroughly knowing the law and how to protect your firm is paramount to hedging against potential catastrophic losses.

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Cyber Liability Insurance: The Value of an Educated Broker in the Age of E-Commerce

I first published this article in 2010. Surprisingly, its as relevant today – perhaps even more relevant – than it was four years ago.

Rick

Introduction: Insurance Products for Cyber Risks

Media reports of cyber intrusions, data thefts and computer system malfunctions involving large, high-profile companies such as Sony PlayStation, Citigroup and Lockheed’s Security Vendor, RSA, have led a rapidly growing number of companies to consider the necessity of insurance coverage for technology and cyber privacy risks. As these businesses become more reliant on electronic communication and data storage, they are also developing a heightened awareness that an unauthorized intrusion could endanger their tangible and intangible assets (including their intellectual property) and, in many cases, their reputations and abilities to conduct business. Consequently, prospective policyholders are becoming more cognizant of the necessity for insurance covering these exposures.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Navigating The Cloud: A Business Guide For Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the storage of data on remote computer servers and the sharing and transmittal of such information by way of the internet. Use of the cloud enables both businesses and casual users to maintain as much or as little electronic data as they wish on a third party’s mainframes without the need for or the expense of having to buy and maintain their own hardware systems.

The cloud’s economic benefits are clear. Still, clouds can be a legal minefield for companies and their counsel. Data breaches, hosting of illegal content and inaccessibility of critical business information are just a few examples of turbulent situations cloud users can face.

Given the risks and potential rewards of the cloud, consider the following guide before entering into a cloud provider contract:

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New York Court to Sony: No Personal Injury Coverage for You!

As many of us have been saying since the advent of cyber insurance coverage, cyber policies potentially cover privacy risks and exposures, not Commercial General Liability policies, be it under a property damage or a personal/advertising injury insuring agreement.  In other words, policyholders and their brokers would be mistaken if they deluded themselves into thinking that a standard base CGL policy’s personal injury/advertising injury coverage applies to a typical cyber breach where personally identifiable information is extracted.  Sadly, my good friend Scott Godes falls into this category.

On February 21, 2014, , Judge Jeffrey K. Oing, of the New York Supreme Court, Manhattan Commercial Division ratified this maxim by denying personal injury coverage to Sony for the 2011 breach and theft of personal information from its PS3 gaming platform, among other databases.  Zurich American Insurance Company v. Sony Corporation of America, Index No. 651982/2011 (N.Y. Supreme, filed 7/20/2011). See Complaint here.

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Cyber class-action litigation: Insurers’ next significant spend?

The following article was first published by my friends at Advisen for their new Cyber Risk Network. For those who haven’t already done so, check it out.

Rick

Virtually every reader is well aware of the decision from the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit finding that claims by class-action plaintiffs for “mitigation damages” arising from a cyber breach were viable. Anderson v. Hannaford Brothers Co., 659 F.3d 151 (1st Cir. 2011).

There, the court held under Maine law that, in the abstract, certain claimants whose financial information was stolen could recover certain costs incurred in a reasonable effort to mitigate.

Hannaford Brothers is an extreme outlier in the world of cyber class-action litigation. And—as it should have in my view—the case effectively ended when the District Court, on remand, declined to certify the putative class in light of the claimants’ failure to establish that common issues of law and fact “predominate” over individual issues, a predicate to class certification.

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Risk Based Security’s 2013 Data Breach QuickView Report

The following was provided by my friend Jake Kouns of Risk Based Security, a leading-edge security and threat intelligence company. that provides comprehensive vulnerability and data breach intelligence services.   Thanks Jake.

Rick

Risk Based SecurityWe  are pleased to release our Data Breach Quick view report that shows 2013 broke the previous all-time record for the number of exposed records caused by reported data breach incidents.  The 2,164 incidents reported during 2013 exposed over 822 million records, nearly doubling the previous highest year on record (2011).

Although overshadowed by the number of exposed records, 2013 is also ranked #2 in total reported  data breach incidents, just behind 2012. “When you analyze the data breach activity in 2013 it’s hard to  find any bright-side, said Barry Kouns, CEO of Risk Based Security. “Four of the “Top 10” data breaches all time, were reported in 2013, including the top spot. “

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The Target Breach: Show Me The Insurance

The following article was first published by the Advisen Cyber Risk Network. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Its extremely informative. And I’ll be a regular contributor.

Cheers.

Rick

By now, almost everyone has read or heard about – or even been directly impacted by – the theft of financial data relating to over 40 million credit and debit cards used at Target stores in November and December last year.

However, the insurance coverage aspects of the breach have generally flown under the radar.

To a company like Target (or whoever is affected by the next breach), the availability of insurance coverage is an important component of crisis management and remediation, litigation and regulatory investigation strategies, and reputational/brand/lost income protection.

So assuming Target has purchased potentially applicable insurance products, what coverages might apply?  And how might they respond?

At a minimum, it can be expected that Target will investigate the availability of coverage under four separate lines of insurance: Cyber, privacy and technology (CPT); general liability; crime/fidelity and; directors and officers liability policies.

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Cyber, Privacy and Technology Best Practices and Reputational Harm: Why Legal Professionals Need a Lawyer’s Advice, Counsel and Privileges

BabyB_LPlate_improvedIntroduction

Lawyers, like other professionals, often have access to their clients’ personal and financial details. At the same time, they may possess comparable information about their clients’ clients (such as when a lawyer represents a healthcare company). As a result, lawyers are at risk for being sued if and when something happens to that information – such as when a laptop or cell phone is misplaced or stolen or a hacker breaches a law firm or client’s systems and accesses the client’s personally identifiable, health care, and/or confidential information.
The most prudent way to avoid such lawsuits and minimize their impact is to create and implement cyber, privacy and technology (“CPT”) best practices before something goes wrong. In most cases, this would include best practices training and education as well as the purchase of dedicated CPT-specific insurance. This article discusses why lawyers are at risk, how to create and implement best practices, and the advantages of CBT insurance coverage rather than (mistakenly) relying on professional errors and omissions and/or general liability coverage in the event of a CPT incident.

Executive Summary

An attorney’s reputation is his and her lifeblood. Indeed, reputation translates to the bottom line. For better or worse.
And, of course, reputation is, in large part, predicated on the quality, timeliness and cost-effectiveness of the services being provided. So too, it is incumbent that an attorney avoid negative commentary (or embarrassing revelations) through the pervasive and ubiquitous medium of social media. As a corollary, attorneys, like others, must be sensitive to the loss of customer goodwill, whether measured by turnover, client retention or other intangible assets.

Regardless of whether your clients are the Fortune 500, middle-market companies or small entrepreneurs, an attorneys’ clients – and by extension, the attorney himself and herself (to the extent the attorney holds personal, health or commercial information) – are at risk of losing personally identifiable information (“PII”), personal health information (“PHI”) and/or confidential commercial information (“CCI”). It doesn’t matter whether the harm is attributable to malicious activity or simple employee or third-party negligence. It’s the effect that is the focus, not necessarily the cause (although that too factors into the analysis).

In many cases, the effect of a cyber incident could be devastating, if not fatal, to an attorney’s reputation. And, by extension, his or her practice’s economic viability.
It is almost axiomatic to say that “best practices” are among the most important strategies employed by attorneys and other professionals. Just as we counsel clients to use best practices with respect to their operations, so too, we, as professionals, should be well-trained on the scope and extent of best practices in the subject matter presented, including, in particular, CPT risks and exposures, which, to no surprise, are palpable and potentially devastating.

In the CPT context, among others, best practices counseling should be provided by an attorney. Unlike non-lawyers, attorneys bring with them the attorney-client privilege and work product protection. Although vendors and IT specialists can promote themselves as having the appropriate knowledge and training to teach and implement best practices, they do possess the critical protections afforded by the attorney-client relationship. In a relatively new space like CPT, where the law is uncertain and developing, the privileges become even more important, as many attorneys are just at the start of the learning curve.

To continue reading, please contact me at rbortnick@cpmy.com. A complete copy will be emailed upon request. Cheers. Rick

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Canada Update: The Tort of “Intrusion upon Seclusion”

The following was written by my friend Patrick Cruikshank, Underwriting Manager, Specialty Risk – Professional Liability at Northbridge Insurance in Toronto. Thanks to Patrick for his contribution. Relevant articles are always welcome for publication.

Rick

canada-flag-stereotypesIn the 2012 case of Jones v. Tsige, the Ontario Court of Appeal established the new tort of invasion of privacy.  For some, this privacy tort has opened a Pandora’s Box.  For others, it’s considered legal progress in the modern technological world.

Sandra Jones and Winnie Tsige were employees of the Bank of Montreal (BMO).  They worked at different branches and did not know each other.  Tsige was in an intimate relationship with Jones’ ex-husband.

Over a period of 4 years, Tsige used her workplace computer to gain access to Jones’ personally identifiable information and personal financial information 174 times.  Tsige did not disseminate this information.

When Jones discovered this unauthorized access, she made a formal complaint to her employer, who upon investigation determined that Tsige had accessed Jones’ information and had no legitimate reason to do so.  Jones subsequently sued Tsige for invasion of privacy and breach of fiduciary duty.  She sought $70,000 in general damages plus $20,000 in punitive damages.

Jones’ claim was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court because there was no law in Ontario that recognized an invasion of privacy tort.

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision and granted summary judgment in favor of Jones.

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Asia-Pacific Cyber Law Risks and Developments

We first published the following White Paper extract in October 2011. While the White Paper might be somewhat dated (and therefore will be refreshed shortly), it remains relevant for our friends interested in learning the basics of Asia Pacific cyber/privacy law. Please let me know if you’d like to see the entire paper. Rick

I. Introduction

The Internet facilitates the widespread and instantaneous flow of information across international borders. While the advent of this method of transnational communication has truly created a “global economy,” at the same time, it has engendered problems for companies and their insurers which seek to assess risk and implement information safeguards, particularly in the face of divergent data privacy laws which vary from region to region or may not even exist in certain jurisdictions. The Asia-Pacific region typifies such a lack of uniformity.

At the same time, the emerging economies in this rapidly growing part of the world have generated promising targets for computer hackers. 75% of Asia-Pacific enterprises have experienced cyber attacks in the past 12 months. Perhaps not surprisingly, a 2010 study by Symantec reported that almost half of all Asia-Pacific-based businesses (and 67% in Singapore) ranked cyber risk and information security as their top concern—more so than natural disasters, terrorism, and traditional crime combined. Cyber attacks and data breaches are on the radar of CEOs and risk managers for good reason: the average cost for a large company to remediate a data breach in Australia increased to nearly $2 million in 2010, which is slightly up from 2009. See Ponemon Institute/Symantec 2010 Annual Study: Australian Cost of a Data Breach (May 2011).

Notwithstanding the prevalence of such attacks, it is far more likely that a cyber security program is managed as a part of a company’s traditional business risks, with traditional coverages being contorted to cover various components of cyber risk (i.e. property loss, liability to third-parties, business interruption, etc.), rather than by way of a dedicated cyber-specific insurance program. Still, in light of recent developments, it is virtually certain that companies soon will begin looking to transfer such risk via more efficient and targeted technology insurance forms and policies

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Canadians More Exposed Than One Would Think

canada-flag-stereotypesOkay. Let’s start with the obvious. No, this has nothing to do with Canadian citizens and immigrants behaving badly, although that may be a topic for a future post.

What we’re talking about is the prevalence of cyber-related incidents and the resulting fallout among Canadian-based companies. And the numbers may surprise you.

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The Insurance Industry: In Regulators’ Sights

If you’re an insurance company, it may be time to open your cyber-related checkbooks if you haven’t done so already. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Financial Services (“NYSDF”) soon may be watching you. They’re already asking questions as if certain insurers were “persons of interest,” just as it did earlier this year with certain of the larger banks.

On May 28, the NYSDF sent what are referred to as “308 letters” to 31 regulated health, life and general liability insurance companies (seemingly those with the highest premium revenue). The NYSDF’s letters request information on (1) the insurers’ existing IT-related management policies and procedures with respect to the prevention of cyber attacks, (2) actual cyber attacks occurring within the past three years, (3) the quantum of funds and resources dedicated to cybersecurity, and (4) how they safeguard customers’ and business entities’ health and personally identifiable information (the letters specifically identify financial information as a subject category).

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Identity Theft: A Christmas Poem Revisited

Regular Cyberinquirer readers may recall the following holiday poem by Amanda Lorenz. Like the Yule Log, we here at Cyberinquirer Central have decided to republish Amanda’s poem on an annual basis at holiday time, barring extenuating circumstances. Hope you agree that it remains fresh and timely. In any event, enjoy! And happy holiday season from your friends at Cyberinquirer.

Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house,
All the children were networking with the click of a mouse.
Cyber thieves were nestled all snug in their chairs,
Waiting for shoppers to unknowingly share.
As I shopped for him and he shopped for me,
The thieves stole our money and our financial history.
We did not even realize that this information was taken,
And we thought the denial of our credit card was mistaken.
Using Phishing or SMiShing and hacking the links,
Our private information was retrieved in a blink.
Perhaps we should have shopped on a network that was secure,
Or at least checked our credit reports monthly to be sure,
That thieves were not using our names and our faces
To purchase plane tickets to tropical places.
So to all of the shoppers who like to avoid the crowd,
Protect your info this season and make CyberInquirer proud!

Wish You a Merry Christmas cartoons image illustration picture

Happy Holidays from CyberInquirer!

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Who Owns Patient Data in Electronic Health Records?

Following is a guest post by Doug Pollack, CIPP/US, chief strategy officer at ID Experts, a leading provider of healthcare privacy and data breach solutions. The article explores the thorny issue of “ownership” as it applies to patient data stored in and shared by electronic health record systems.

Cheers.

Rick

I recently began exploring the question of who, or what entity, owns the data that is incorporated in our patient electronic health records (EHRs). I originally began thinking about this because I was imagining that the “owner” would be responsible under circumstances where there was an unauthorized disclosure of such protected health information (PHI), in other words a data breach. It seemed like such a simple question, I had assumed I would find the answer to be just as straightforward. As it turns out, many have pondered this question and suggest that the question of “ownership” of medical data may be a misplaced one, an unanswerable question, and that the more relevant question is what control the patient, and other members of the health ecosystem, have relative to accessing, modifying, appending and transmission of this data. In other words, how is patient privacy provided for within the new EHR universe?

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The Queen v. Cole: Privacy Protection for Employer-Issued Equipment in Canada

The recent decision The Queen v. Cole by the Supreme Court of Canada touches upon interesting issues regarding information privacy in the digital age.

The facts are simple. An information technologist working at the same high school as Mr. Cole, a teacher, remotely accessed Cole’s history of internet access and one of his drives and found a hidden file which contained nude photographs of a student. The photographs and internet file were copied onto a disc and given to the police, which determined that a search warrant was unnecessary. Cole was subsequently charged with possession of child pornography and fraudulently obtaining data from another computer hard drive. The trial judge excluded the computer material under Sections 8 and 24(2) of the Charter. In overturning the decision, the summary conviction appeal court found no breach of Section 8. This decision was set aside by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which concluded that the evidence of the disc containing the temporary internet files and the laptop computer and its mirror image was excluded. A 6-1 majority ruling by the Supreme Court concluded that the police infringed upon Cole’s rights but upheld the Court of Appeals’ finding that the evidence should not have been excluded from trial.

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Planet Mars, Curiosity, and Data Security

For those captivated by recent events in astronomy, parallels can be drawn between the recent landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity on planet Mars and the public discourse on data security in Canada. With the distinction that one is effectively equipped with the right budget and tools to achieve its actual objective, both have come a very long way, both have managed to blaze through layers of clouds, both seek to secure ingredients essential to life, and both are now aimlessly wandering about unchartered territories.

A decisive factor in Barrack Obama’s 2008 political campaign was the extensive use of individual, thin sliced consumer data to send highly tailored messages to gain political support. Within 13 years, Google has become the most valuable brand in the world through the aggregation of vast amounts of data including search data, or data held in Gmail accounts. This information is then used to create an advertising cruise missile, which is much more efficient than the old method of pattern bombing.

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State Privacy Laws Evolve While Congress Campaigns

New legislation governing data breaches and privacy issues is popping up in states across the country. Most recently, Connecticut, Vermont, and Illinois have enacted new laws in these areas.

Connecticut

At long last, the proposed legislation requiring a data breach to be reported has become law in Connecticut. Section 369-701b was unable to move its way through the 2012 General Session of the Connecticut Legislature, but it was recently passed as part of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Special Session as an attachment of the Budget Bill.

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Data Privacy and Unauthorized Non-Hackers: the Rise and Risk of Accountability and Breach Notifications in Canada

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.

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First Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Bank’s Online Security Measures “Commercially Unreasonable” in Landmark Decision

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.

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Cyberstalkers Beware: You’re Not Anonymous

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.

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Past the Point of No Return: Jones v. Tsige and the “New” Tort of Invasion of Privacy in Canada

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

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Cyber-security in a Hyperconnected World

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.

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Insurers: Assert Your Subrogation Rights

The following column was first published in the second issue of Advisen’s Cyber Liability Journal (here). I will republish my future columns in coming months. In the meantime, you can subscribe to the Journal at http://corner.advisen.com/journals.html (here).

Rick

It is axiomatic to say that insurance products evolve. Indeed, like virtually every organic structure, its development, growth and nimbleness are necessary to meet the progress of maturing, service-based economies. Hence, the advent of cyber/tech/privacy liability (CTP) insurance.

At present, there are over 25 markets selling some type of CTP coverage. Many insurers sell standalone products. Others bolt on new coverage parts to their existing products. Still others add endorsements that attempt to extend coverage to address an existing client’s business model.

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Will SEC Guidance Awaken Private Companies To Cyber Insurance Needs?

The following article was first published in Advisen’s inaugural Cyber Liability Journal (here) as my first regular column. The second Journal was published today and is available from Advisen at http://corner.advisen.com/journals.html (here). I will republish my second column in the coming days.

Rick

Many who underwrite or broker insurance, or practice law in the cyber/technology/privacy (“CTP”) realm migrated to this emerging area from the directors and officers liability regime. At the same time, it did not take a crystal ball to recognize that it was only a matter of time before CTP and D&O found a commonality. And that time is now.

Virtually every public and private company is reliant on computer networks and electronic data. It’s a way of life in the 21st Century. And there’s no going back. Yet with reliance comes risk. It seems we read about significant CTP breaches involving large, multinational companies almost on a weekly basis. CTP breaches have become a well-recognized risk of doing business. Estimates project that over 10 percent of us already have been hacked or had their identities stolen. I am among them.

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The Implications of a Cyberattack on Your Securities Portfolio: You May Want to Read Your Holdings’ 10-Ks

falling moneySo, you think that a corporate cyberattack has nothing to do with you? If so, think again. Indeed, to the extent you own stock or securities, the value of your holdings could be at risk in the event of a cyberattack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cybersecurity is an economic issue. See here.

Take, for example, Intel (INTC). In the “Risks” section of its 2009 10-K, the company disclosed in a tersely worded statement that its networks had been the victims of “sophisticated” attacks. Kudos to Intel for making this disclosure, which predated the October 2011 publication of the SEC Guidance addressing public companies’ cyber risks and exposures (discussed here and elsewhere, including in the March 2012 edition of the Advisen Cyber Journal. Please feel free to contact me for details on how to obtain this must-read issue and subscribe. Advisen has done a masterful job, as it does with all of its publications). As will be discussed in my next post, a significant number of public companies still have not complied with their cyber risk and cyber exposure reporting “obligations” under the SEC Guidance.

As to Intel, the subject 10-K listed several noteworthy risks. The most intriguing stated that “We may be subject to intellectual property theft or misuse, which could result in third-party claims and harm our business and results of operations.” Intel’s disclosure continued that “[w]e regularly face attempts by others to gain unauthorized access through the Internet to our information technology systems by, for example, masquerading as authorized users or surreptitious introduction of software….These attempts, which might be the result of industrial or other espionage, or actions by hackers seeking to harm the company, its products, or end users, are sometimes successful.”

The adverse economic impact of a cyber-related disclosure is not theoretical, either. Indeed, in the immediate wake of the News Corp./News of the World cell phone hacking scandal in mid-2011, News Corp’s market cap reportedly fell by over 15%, valued at approximately $7 billion, in less than a week. Not surprisingly, News Corp was sued shortly thereafter in a series of securities fraud class actions, which remain pending.

While cyber risks and exposures may or may not have an impact on a stock’s trading price, their potential impact can not be ignored. Google (GOOG) is another example. As previously discussed here, Google has been the subject of cyberattacks which it claims were precipitated by the Chinese government. The import of this development can not be understated, as it created tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments and even made it into Intel’s SEC filing. For private citizens, however, perhaps the greatest implication of the Google cyberintrusions is the arguable effect that they had on Google’s price per share. On January 12, 2010, when the intrusion was publicly disclosed, Google shares fell 1.7% to $590.48. By April 25, 2010 Google’s shares were trading at $544.99, another roughly 8% price drop. Can these losses be directly linked to the breach of Google’s security systems? Put differently, can a possible link be dismissed? That’s for shareholders and others to decide.

So, what does this all mean? At a minimum, it suggests that the economic implications of a cyber event can be wide ranging, from the simple cost of fixing a security gap to a major hit to a brands’ reputation (remember News of the World? After 168 years of tremendous success globally, it ceased publishing on July 10, 2011 as a direct result of the hacking scandal), all the way to claims arising from the theft of consumer’s personal and financial information. Such an intrusion into the systems of retailer T.J. Maxx (TJX) lead TJX to settle with regulators, states, consumers and others and set a settlement/remediation reserve of over $100 million.

In the end, it is clear that just as consumers need to be vigilant about monitoring their personal and financial information to protect themselves from identity theft and the like, investors too must regularly track their holdings to protect their portfolios and assets. As to the companies whose information and systems are at risk, the need for both D&O and cyber insurance is patently obvious, and is as important as the protection of their intellectual property, consumer information and other non-public data. Risk management, information protection and insurance go hand in hand. And we’re here to make sure everyone recognizes the correlation.

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WARNING: HHS Now Combating HIPAA Violations With HITECH Weaponry

On March 13, 2012 – almost 30 months after becoming one of the first entities to self-report a breach under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act – BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) agreed to pay the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a record setting $1.5 million civil monetary penalty (CMP) for failing to safeguard protected health information (PHI).


The HITECH Act and HIPAA Enforcement

HHS adopted the interim final rule for HITECH’s breach notification requirement only a few weeks before the BCBST breach. The final rule requires covered entities to notify HHS following a breach of unsecured PHI. If a breach affects 500 or more individuals, the covered entity must report the breach electronically “without reasonable delay and in no case later than 60 days from discovery of the breach.”

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The Coverage Question

We are grateful to the rapidly-growing number of Cyberinquirer readers who continue to submit substantive content for publication. This truly is an industry blog, and we strive to present alternative points of view from all quarters.

The following article was authored by Gregg A. Rapoport, Esq., and David Lam, CISSP, CPP. Attorney Rapoport has represented policyholders in coverage litigation for over 20 years as part of a broad business litigation practice based in Pasadena, California. Mr. Lam is vice president of the Los Angeles Information Systems Security Association and has over 20 years of experience as an IT and information security professional and author. This article was first published by RIMS, and we appreciate Messrs. Rapoport and Lam offering it for republication here.

Rick Bortnick

As they confront the sobering question of whether their networks and the data they carry are fully secure, today’s “C-level” executives are becoming fluent in once-esoteric information security terms. Many have reached the conclusion that no matter the size of their IT and security budgets, there is no foolproof system for securing the confidentiality, integrity and availability of their data. Company networks remain vulnerable to attacks even if they adhere to industry best practices and run best-of-breed firewalls.

To address these security challenges, companies are relying on their risk managers to evaluate the applicability of existing insurance coverage to data breach incidents, and to assess the value of transferring some of the uncovered financial risk to one of the carriers now offering cyber-risk insurance policies. As the market for these products matures, premiums have come down significantly and policy limits have increased.

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An Insurer’s View: Examining the Rising Costs of Breaches

The following article, written by reknowned London Market underwriter Rick Welsh, was first published in the November 2011 Data Guidance newsletter. A shout out to Rick for passing it on to us for republication.

Rick Bortnick

Today, no company – even with comprehensive privacy policies and practices – can be safe from data breaches. Can companies effectively transfer the risk (and cost) of data breaches by way of insurance? What costs should the companies consider? Almost every reference to the cost of data breaches or ‘cyber crime’ identifies the actual cost of the breach notification as its common currency. In Part One of this analysis, Rick Welsh, Cyber Underwriting Director at ANV, explores this metric’s limitations and the true exposure and cost of data breaches.

The well-regarded Ponemon Institute is constantly measuring the cost of a data breach and is commonly referenced by many to express the rising cost of data breaches. The second annual ‘Cost of Cyber Crime Study’ issued by the Ponemon Institute in August 2011, found that the median annualised cost of cyber crime for the 50 companies in the study was $5.9 million, with a range being between $1.5 million to $36.5 million. The annualised average was up 56% from the previous year’s study.

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New Cybersecurity Disclosure Guidance for Public Companies: Focusing Attention, Raising Questions

As regular Cyberinquirer readers know, on October 12, 2011, the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance published “suggested” Guidance on public companies’ disclosures of their cyber risks and exposures. I published a personal perspective on the implications of the Guidance in an October 29, 2011 post (here). Since then, our friend John Doernberg of William Gallagher Associates in Boston has written an excellent, thoughtful article which adopts a more technical approach. As many of you may know, John is a Vice President at William Gallagher and focuses on privacy, information security and risk management issues. Before becoming an insurance broker in 1995, John practiced law at leading firms in New York and Boston. The following article first appeared at John’s own site, http://blog.wgains.com/?s=Doernberg, and is being republished here with his permission. Thanks John!

Rick Bortnick

Increased corporate reliance on computer networks and electronic data has brought a corresponding increase in risks associated with breaches of their security. Such breaches have become more frequent and severe. With these Guidelines, the Division has indicated that public companies and their advisors should focus greater attention on how disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws may be affected by the potential financial and operational impact of cybersecurity breaches.

The Guidelines note that cybersecurity breaches (generically referred to as cyber incidents) can be malicious (cyber-attacks) or unintentional. The Guidelines provide something of a rogue’s gallery of cyber malice: the gaining of unauthorized access to steal or corrupt sensitive data or to disrupt operations, denial of service attacks, sophisticated electronic circumvention of network security, and social engineering techniques such as phishing to extract passwords or other information that will enable the gaining of access.

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Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Facebook Posts Closer

“Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” That is the Facebook mantra, as displayed on its homepage, and the opening line of a recent – and extremely thorough! – Pennsylvania trial court decision regarding the discoverability of a plaintiff’s relevant Facebook information. The court’s conclusion: a plaintiff’s Facebook information is discoverable, provided the defendant has a good faith basis for seeking the material, because there is no confidential social networking privilege under Pennsylvania law and because the Stored Communications Act only applies to internet service providers. The take-away for Facebook users: be careful what you post – it’s not as “private” as you think!

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The Hospitality Industry Revisited: Does Your Company Have Proper Coverage?


101387303-a0006-000338.530x298In a prior post (here), we discussed the frequency of cyber thefts in the hospitality industry in 2009. We have a decent idea of how many of you read that article. For those of you who haven’t, here’s my topic sentence: “38% of the credit card hacking events in 2009 involved the hospitality industry.” Yep. 38%.

And guess what? The hospitality industry remained a high-level target in 2010. Alright, if you’re connected to the hospitality industry, you probably knew that already. But what you might not realize is that you’re not out of the clear. And, things may be getting worse as the frequency of cyber criminality grows, and as the perpetrators become more sophisticated and cyber attacks propagate (more on that below).

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Securities Law and Cyber Disclosures… Perfect Together…Especially for Cyber and Tech Underwriters and Brokers. And Me

Its not often that worlds collide or that interests converge into one amorphous epiphany. But that’s exactly what happened to me recently, when the Division of Corporate Finance (DCF) of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a Disclosure Guidance identifying the types of information public companies should consider disclosing about cyber risks and events that could impact their financial statements. Now, the DCF has cautioned that the Disclosure Guidance only represents its own views and “is not a rule, regulation, or statement of the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The DCF also emphasizes right up front that “the Commission has neither approved nor disapproved its content.” Yeah, right. YOU be an officer or director or officer of a company that does not “comply” with the DCF’s “recommendations.”

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And Now, the Maine Event: Mitigation Costs Constitute Damages in Data-Breach Case

Businesses that necessarily require their customers to disclose credit card and personal information, beware. Just five days ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that claims by class action plaintiffs for “mitigation damages” arising from alleged negligence and breach of contract were viable. Anderson v. Hannaford Brothers Co., Nos. 10–2384, 10–2450, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 21239 (1st Cir. Oct. 20, 2011).

In Anderson, the electronic payment processing system of a national grocery chain, Hannaford Brothers Co., was breached by hackers in 2007. This resulted in the dissemination of as many as 4.2 million credit card and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes. Hannaford Brothers was not notified of the breach until February 27, 2008 and subsequently contained the breach on March 10, 2008. A week later, Hannaford released a statement regarding the breach and announced that over 1,800 cases of fraud resulting from the theft already had been reported.

Following Hannaford’s announcement, several financial institutions immediately cancelled customers’ debit and credit cards. Some financial institutions, which refrained from immediately canceling the credit card, monitored the accounts for unusual activity, cancelling the cards, in many cases, without notifying the customer. Customers who asked that their cards be cancelled incurred fees from issuing banks for the replacement cards.

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INTRODUCTION TO CANADA’S PIPEDA PRIVACY LEGISLATION

I. Overview

Canada’s privacy regime can be described as a web of legislation at both the federal and provincial/territorial level. Some commentators express concern that this web has become tangled, lacks uniformity and actually undermines the predictability and consistency that, in their view, would exist under a single (federal) privacy regime. Canada has two primary privacy statutes: the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”). The Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-21 (Can.), took effect on July 1, 1983, and imposed certain privacy rights obligations on approximately 250 federal government departments and agencies by limiting the use and disclosure of personal information. The Privacy Act also gives individuals the right to access and, if necessary, correct personal information held by governmental organizations subject to the Act.

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Underwriters and Their Policyholders Agree: Less Is More When It Comes to Crisis Management Expenses

Doug Pollack of IDExperts recently published a blog post on cyber insurance that caught my eye. Insofar as IDExperts is a respected provider of cyber breach response services, I assumed the article would address technical issues. Upon reading the piece, however, I was disappointed to find that the article addressed insurance-related matters, including criteria for the selection of insurance products and programs, a topic typically the province of risk managers, brokers, underwriters and lawyers. Hmmm…

At the outset, the article addresses technical issues, as the author correctly suggests that “privacy, compliance and legal officers should work closely with their risk manager to ensure that the organization is getting a policy that meets its needs.” Having hooked me with that truism, I was looking forward to reading on. But that is where the technical commentary (and our common perspective) ends. From there, the author moves on to express his views (and, in my counter-view, misconceptions) on cyber insurance products and how they should operate.

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For Some Universities, Cyber Insurance Doesn’t Make The Grade

Data security breaches pose a serious threat to a corporation’s financial stability as well as to its credibility in the marketplace. Most notably, the 2007 TJX data security breach, where 45 million credit card and debit card numbers were stolen, cost the company over $4 billion. For many corporations, the solution is to purchase a cyber liability insurance policy, which provides insurance coverage in the event of such a breach.

The risk of data security breaches has also affected students of universities throughout the nation. In June of last year, Cornell University officials informed 45,000 members of the school’s community that their personal information, including their names and social security numbers, was stolen after a University-owned laptop was stolen. Due to such breaches, college officials nationwide have begun purchasing cyber liability insurance policies to offset the financial burdens of a data security breach.

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What is Corporate and Business Identity Theft and What Are the Risks and Damages Associated with It?

The yellow fever outbreak of summer 1798 was the worst in Philadelphia’s history. Over 5,000 residents were infected, and nearly 1,300 died, causing even President Washington to flee. On the night of September 1st, 1798, the vault at Carpenter Hall was breached and the then-massive amount of $162,821 went missing. This first bank robbery in the United States, attributed as an “inside job”, ushered in an era of robberies that turned criminals into celebrities. Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger have become legends. At present, the risk of yellow fever has been mitigated due to vaccines. The risk of bank vaults being physically robbed similarly has been reduced.

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Cyber Liability Insurance for Universities: Incentivizing Best Practices as a Condition to Coverage (a.k.a “Reverse Underwriting”)

Computer hacking is a constantly evolving and growing threat. While recent high-profile network security breaches at companies such as Epsilon and Sony (with crisis management and other costs estimated to range from $1 billion to multiples thereof in the case of Sony) have helped raise awareness about the need to adequately protect personal identifiable information, the problem has existed for decades.

Yet the situation has only recently begun to receive proper attention from the media, government officials, businesses, and certain segments of the insurance industry. Of course, the cost of a security breach may have something to do with that. According to a study from Marsh and the Ponemon Institute, the typical data breach in FY 2010 resulted in companies and their insurers have to pay an average of $7.2 million to deal with and remedy the situation.

One particularly alluring target for hackers has been educational institutions. While schools and universities may not immediately appear to be obvious targets, the statistics confirm that attacks against educational institutions are on the rise.

In 2007, educational institutions accounted for 25% of all reported data breaches. This number jumped to 33% in 2008. See Sarah Stephens & Shannan Fort, Cyber Liability & Higher Education, Aon Professional Risk Solutions White Paper (December 2008) Read the rest of this entry »

“Anonymous” Hacks PlayStation Network and Sony Feels the Pain

Security is, I would say, our top priority because for all the exciting things you will be able to do with computers – organizing your lives, staying in touch with people, being creative – if we don’t solve these security problems, then people will hold back.
If anyone still harbors the notion that video games are simple distractions from the age of Pong, they haven’t seen the latest statistics. One of the most popular games released last year, “Call of Duty: Black Ops”, generated $650 million in the first five days of sales and exceeded $1 billion in record time. The achievement put the game in the company of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and James Cameron’s movie “Titanic.” As a whole, the video game industry has been valued at over $100 billion. That massive size and scope makes the impact of a cyber attack all the more devastating.

Your “Status Update” May be Revealing More Than Your Status

There have been a recent flurry of blog posts and media stories warning internet users about the potential dangers of posting their whereabouts on social networking sites, as such personal information is being used by opportunists to facilitate crimes. For example, just in the last month, three men in Nashua, New Hampshire allegedly used information they obtained from users’ Facebook status updates to learn when the users would not be home and thereupon broke into their vacant and vulnerable residences. Although Facebook has denied any link between its site and the crimes, the Nashua police believe that detailed information about the posters’ travel plans provided the thieves with sufficient information to know when the homes would be unoccupied.

Of course, the incidence of such crimes has not been widely disseminated through traditional media sources, such as newspapers, radio and television. As such, most Americans are unaware of this increasing phenomena. At the same time, internet users are more widely and more frequently publishing their personal information, including their travel and vacation plans, on social networking and other public sites. Moreover, beyond the routine “tweets” and run-of-the-mill social networking status updates, new applications for cellular phones and PDAs are being created to facilitate geographical updates. These applications such as “Foursquare,” “Gowalla” and “Facebook Places,” enable users to instantly identify their current physical location on the profiles they have created on social networking sites. Needless to say, allowing geographical information to freely be disclosed to the public can provide opportunists with even more accurate information about the whereabouts of their victims and their distance from an unoccupied and vulnerable residence.

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Invasions of Privacy In The Cyber Sphere: Who’s Watching And What They Know About You

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare—millions of Americans, including myself, depend on these cyber sites as their gateway to information and communication in the outside world. What we may not realize, or choose to ignore for convenience’s sake, is that this gateway lies on a two-way street. The information that we seek using websites such as Google and what we communicate on Facebook and Twitter provide companies with vital data to better market their products to us. This use of information is referred to as “data mining. “

An example of data mining can be seen in the advertisements that pop up on the side of your Facebook home page. Such ads are often relevant to the information posted on your “Profile” page, such as advertisements promoting products from your college alma mater.

At the outset, data mining seems like a win-win situation for both the consumer and the seller—the consumer is marketed with a product in which they are seemingly interested and the company has utilized its advertising budget in an informed, cost-effective manner. At the same time, however, the threat of an invasion of privacy is real and has the attention of members of Congress and federal officials to create legislation regulating the way in which, and the extent to which, our personal information is shared with third parties.

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Concurrent CGL and E&O Coverage for “Spyware?” Yes, Says the Eighth Circuit

On July 23, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an important decision in Eyeblaster, Inc. v. Federal Ins. Co., 2010, U.S. App. LEXIS 15152, No. Civ. A. 08-3640, finding concurrent coverage under both a General Liability (“CGL”) insurance policy and a separate Information and Network Technology Errors and Omissions Liability (“E&O”) policy in circumstances where an online marketing company installed software on a consumer’s computer system, allegedly corrupting the computer’s software operating system.

Eyeblaster Inc. (“Eyeblaster”), the policyholder, is a company that creates, delivers and manages online interactive advertising. For the period December 5, 2006, to December 5, 2007, it was insured under two concurrent policies issued by Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”): (1) a CGL policy covering occurrences which cause damage to tangible property, and (2) an E&O policy which covered claims for financial loss caused by a wrongful act in connection with a product’s failure to perform its intended function or serve its intended purpose, resulting in damage to intangible property. As to the latter policy, intangible property included software, data and other electronic information. Both policies were “duty to defend” forms.

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Identity Theft: Our Children At Risk

Interviewing for your first job as a teenager is as exciting as it is intimidating. Thoughts of what to do with your first paycheck consume your mind as you rehearse your best “do-you-want-fries-with-that” smile. The interview proceeds flawlessly and you start to count the dollar signs as you await the job offer. But imagine your surprise when you are informed that you did not get the job because your background check revealed that you are over $75,000 in debt and five years behind in your child support payments for your eleven year old child…a terrifying thought considering you are only 16 years old.

Adults aren’t the only victims of identity theft. Child identity theft is an increasing and understated crime. A child’s Social Security Number (“SSN”) is the perfect target, as the theft typically goes undetected until years after the crime has taken place. Indeed, the crime might not be discovered until the rightful owner/victim uses his or her SSN for the first time years later. This revelation often occurs when the victim applies for his or her first job or financial aid before college.

The scheme works as follows: businesses are using various techniques to search the Internet for dormant SSNs. These numbers often belong to long-term inmates, dead people or children. Obtaining them is not as difficult as one may think, as SSNs are distributed systematically depending on age, geographical location and when the number is issued. Once it has been determined that no one is actively using the number to obtain credit, the numbers are offered for sale.

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The White House’s “Progress” Report on Cybersecurity: There’s A Long Road Ahead

Lest one question the severity of the evolving challenges in our rapidly growing cyber world, President Obama has crystallized it succinctly: (1) “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation;” and (2) “America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.” In other words, President Obama has declared cybersecurity to be a national security priority.

While that’s obviously good news, the follow-up question is “how are we doing in meeting the associated demands?” Regrettably, not so well, it seems.

Speaking before cybersecurity and privacy experts from government, law enforcement, the private sector, academia and privacy and civil liberties groups, President Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Cyber Coordinator Howard Schmidt and other Administration officials uniformly acknowledged that far more work needs to be done to protect digital communications and information infrastructure and make it more difficult and costly for cybercrimimals.

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Credit Card Hackers’ Favorite Target…Hotels.

We’ve all heard the story of the clerk at the local gas station who was double-swiping credit cards in order to make fraudulent copies. Online banking, restaurants, clothing retailers…every industry is potentially a target. Yet the industry that was the subject of more credit card thefts than any other sector in 2009? Hotels.

To the point, SpiderLabs (an affiliate of Trustwave, a data-security consulting firm) has published a study which reports that 38% of the credit card hacking events in 2009 involved the hospitality industry. Over one-third of all thefts of credit card numbers occurred at hotels. Much to my surprise, given the wealth of reporting on the subject, the financial services industry lagged well behind at a comparatively minor 19%. Retail followed at 14.2% while restaurants and bars were fourth at 13%.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, as my own credit card number was stolen several years back while i was staying at a business travelers’ hotel in New York City. I had gone to the City for a Cinco de Mayo event sponsored by a major international insurer. Several days later, I received a call from my credit card company asking if I had bought gasoline on Long Island or a $5000 television at a big box retailer. While I do buy gasoline, I hadn’t been on Long Island. And while I certainly would have loved a $5000 television (or, for economy’s sake, something less pricey), I hadn’t bought that either. The conclusion was simple: my credit card number had been stolen when I used it at the New York hotel.

So, why hotels? According to security analysts, they’re generally easy targets. The large chain hotels may employ sophisticated security technology or other protections. Or they may not. In either case, how about smaller or private owned, non-chain hotels? The next time you check into a hotel, ask what security methods they use to protect credit card information. You probably won’t like the answer. The credit card number that you provide at check-in may sit in a folder or a file maintained right at the front desk. Who would prevent someone from simply lifting the file? Especially in the middle of the night. The single desk clerk on overnight duty?

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Wake Up and Smell the Threats: Two Recent Examples of Why Municipalities Need Cyber Insurance

Odd as it may seem to those of us who live and breathe cyber, tech and privacy insurance, I have heard anecdotally of municipal authorities who profess that their cities and towns do not need to incur the expense of buying these products. “Why do we need them? We don’t operate on the internet,” they reportedly have said.

Well, my response is “why don’t you think you need them?” Do you maintain a bank account? Do you store personally identifiable information about private citizens, whether in your property records, police files, tax databases or otherwise? Are your employees able to access your municipality’s computer systems remotely? Is it really possible that every single piece of information you maintain is recorded on paper and nothing is stored on a mainframe, whether located on- or off-site? Come on. Its 2010. That’s virtually impossible, isn’t it? Haven’t you read my December 23, 2009 post No One is Immune. Even Government Entities Need Cyber/Tech Insurance?

Since that posting, additional municipalities have suffered cyber attacks and been the subject of cyber lawsuits.

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