The U.S. Department of Justice announced an indictment in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California against a North Korea-sponsored international cybercriminal organization that infiltrated public and private computer networks, fundamentally compromised these systems, and sought to obtain over a billion dollars from this illicit access.

Read the full article on our Subject to Inquiry blog for details about this enforcement action, which spotlights the cybercriminals’ methods to steal intellectual property and corporate secrets, while also conducting cyber-extortions, ransomware attacks, and cyber-enabled heists of bank-held funds, ATMs and cryptocurrency.

This week, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Department of the Treasury released a joint advisory report on HIDDEN COBRA — the cyber threat North Korea poses to cryptocurrency — and provided mitigation recommendations for addressing this ongoing threat.

Read our full article on our Subject to Inquiry blog for highlights from the report and a list of steps organizations can take to minimize their vulnerability and respond effectively in the event of a cyberattack.

On Feb. 15, Rep. Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota) filed HB 969, following a press conference in which Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls made clear their intent to crack down on “big tech.” A Senate companion bill is expected to be filed shortly, and the issue has support from Senate President Wilton Simpson. McGuireWoods Consulting expects a version of this bill will pass by the time Florida’s legislative session ends on April 30.

Continue Reading Florida House Moving on Major Consumer Data Privacy Legislation

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and specifically the Privacy Rule under HIPAA’s implementing regulations, patients have a right to access their health information held by health care providers. In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance stressing the importance of this right. The OCR also implemented a HIPAA Right of Access Initiative as an enforcement priority in 2019, and the OCR has since actively pursued violations under the right of access standard.

Continue Reading OCR Continues to Crack Down on Right of Access Violations

As we discussed in Part I, the United States does not have a single, comprehensive federal law governing biometric data.  However, we have recently seen an increasing number of states focusing on this issue.  Part I summarized legislative activity on this issue in 2020.  In this Part II, we discuss noteworthy legislation to monitor in 2021.

What to Expect in 2021

At least two states—New York and Maryland—have already introduced biometrics legislation in this first month of 2021.

New York – AB 27

On January 6, 2021, the New York Assembly introduced the Biometric Privacy Act (BPA), a New York state biometric law aimed at regulating businesses handling biometric data.  BPA will prohibit businesses from collecting biometric identifiers or information without first receiving informed consent from the individual, prohibit profiting from the data, and will require a publicly available written retention and destruction policy.  As proposed, the statute contains a private right of action; and if passed, it will permit consumers to sue businesses for improperly collecting and using their biometric data.  The statute follows Illinois’s BIPA, allowing recovery of $1,000 per negligent violation and $5,000 per intentional violation, or actual damages, whichever is greater, along with attorney’s fees and costs, and injunctive relief.

Continue Reading U.S. Biometrics Laws Part II: What to Expect in 2021

On January 21, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published proposed modifications to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH).

The proposed rule is part of HHS’ Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, which seeks to promote value-based healthcare by examining federal regulations that impede efforts among healthcare providers and health plans to better coordinate care for patients. Specifically, HHS aims to amend the regulations implemented pursuant to HIPAA and HITECH where the rules present barriers to coordinated care and case management or where they otherwise impose burdens on covered entities that do not increase individuals’ privacy protections.

Continue Reading Department of Health and Human Services Announces Proposed Changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule

Data privacy laws have made significant breakthroughs in recent years, making it a top priority for businesses.  From the adoption of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016 to the enactment of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2018 and the latest ballot approval of the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) in 2020, we continue to see data privacy laws develop and garner interest from consumers, businesses, and legislators alike.

Specific biometric privacy laws, in particular however, are often overshadowed by more general data privacy laws.  As we discussed in our prior article, biometrics are physical and behavioral human characteristics (i.e., face, eye, fingerprint, and voice features) that can be used to digitally identify a person.  As the collection and use of biometric data become more common in daily life and its applications in different industries continue to expand, new privacy considerations will emerge in this field.  Biometrics laws, in their own right, require separate recognition because of the nuanced application of these specific laws.

The United States does not have a single, comprehensive federal law governing biometric data.  Recently, we have seen an increasing number of individual states focus on this issue, and the recent introduction of legislation in a number of states specifically aimed at protecting the collection, retention, and use of biometric data.  In Part I, we summarize some of the legislative activity on biometric laws from 2020.  We will describe other noteworthy legislation to monitor for 2021 in Part II.

Continue Reading U.S. Biometrics Laws Part I: An Overview of 2020

On November 4, 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) published an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) that delays compliance dates necessary to meet certain requirements related to information blocking initially finalized in the ONC Cures Act Final Rule (Final Rule) in March of 2020. The Final Rule implemented health IT provisions enacted under the 21st Century Cures Act (the Cures Act) to achieve ubiquitous interoperability among health IT systems and to improve patient’s ability to access their electronic health information (EHI). Among these provisions is a prohibition of information blocking. This article will define information blocking, provide and explain exceptions to such practice, detail the IFC’s deadline extensions, and highlight key compliance concerns and solutions regarding these reforms.

Information Blocking

The term “Information Blocking” is broadly defined by the Cures Act as any practice that is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of EHI when the entity knows (or should know) that it is likely to do so. The Cures Act specifies four types of “actors” that must comply with the information blocking rule:

  1. Healthcare Providers
  2. Health information technology companies that have a certified health IT system
  3. Health information networks (HINs)
  4. Health information exchanges (HIEs)

Continue Reading Information Blocking Compliance: What Providers Need To Know As Deadlines Approach

Data privacy is a top concern for many in-house legal professionals – and for good reason – data privacy and cybersecurity legal requirements are complex and continually evolving. Data Privacy Day is a great day to start addressing your organization’s data privacy and cybersecurity needs.

On Data Privacy Day 2021, here is what is top of mind for some of our Data Privacy & Security Team members:

  • Andrew Konia – A Federal Privacy Law: “Calls (pleas?) for federal privacy legislation are nothing new, and last year we came close, with both parties presenting draft bills for consideration (surprise, neither passed!).  But now, with the White House and both chambers of Congress under Democratic control, there appears to be renewed (and more serious) interest in a federal privacy law. We have seen (admittedly narrow) hints of the federal government taking a stronger stance on cybersecurity standards with the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020, which applies to federal agency purchases. But you take the recent and intense backlash on “Big Tech’s” use/sharing of data and perceived lack of data transparency, and mix in the Biden Administration’s prioritization of consumer protection generally, and you have the recipe – and a strong political appetite – for a comprehensive federal privacy law.”
  • Bethany Lukitsch – California: “CPRA will be here before we know it, and most companies are going to have a lot to do to get ready. Updating privacy policies and adding ‘do-not-share’ links are one thing, but as with CCPA, it’s the behind-the-scenes work that is really going to take some time.  It’s certainly not too early to get started.”

Continue Reading Data Privacy Day 2021: Privacy and Cybersecurity Are On Our Minds, Too

Healthcare providers and other covered entities are not required by HIPAA regulations to have “bulletproof” protections for safeguarding patient information stored in electronic form, according to a January 14, 2021 decision of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In University of Texas M.D. Anderson v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 5th Circuit vacated a $4.3 million civil monetary penalty imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The case arises from three separate incidents where M.D. Anderson employees lost laptops and USB thumb drives that contained unencrypted protected health information (PHI) for more than 34,000 patients. M.D. Anderson reported the breach incidents to HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the office tasked with enforcing HIPAA. As a result of the reported breaches, OCR ordered M.D. Anderson to pay $4.3 million in civil monetary penalties (CMPs). M.D. Anderson appealed the decision to an HHS administrative law judge and to the HHS Departmental Appeals Board (DAB), both of which upheld OCR’s penalties. M.D. Anderson argued that the HIPAA regulations do not require encryption, that it complied with the regulations and employed other effective measures to safeguard electronic protected health information (ePHI), that the three incidents were the fault of staff who violated M.D. Anderson’s policies, and that the proposed CMPs were excessive.

Continue Reading 5th Circuit Weakens HHS’ Ability to Enforce HIPAA Safeguards