The convergence of the General Data Protection Regulation and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has created a perfect privacy storm. Social media platforms’ complacency on this front, and the resulting public backlash, have further amplified the pressure on legislatures to react.  Although state legislatures have been quick to do so (most notably California, which passed a sweeping new privacy law in June), Congress has not.

Recently, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) issued a draft white paper proposing 20 policy approaches to combat these issues.  The proposals seek to enhance user privacy, increase transparency, and dam the deluge of misinformation that, to date, has run through social media platforms largely unchecked.

Continue Reading Warner White Paper Floats Far-Ranging Privacy Proposals

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, Insurance Recovery Blog.

For the second time in ten days, a federal appeals court ruled a crime insurance policy provides coverage for losses arising from a business email compromise. In American Tooling Center, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, No. 17-2014, 2018 WL 3404708 (Sixth Circuit July 13, 2018), the Sixth Circuit held that Travelers was obligated to provide coverage for a loss the insured suffered when it wired $834,000 to a thief’s bank account, believing that it was transmitting a payment to one of its Chinese subcontractors.

Losses arising from business email compromise exceeded $12.5 billion between October 2013 and May 2018. Business email compromise is a form of social-engineering fraud that targets both businesses and individuals who make payments by wire transfer. Thieves accomplish business email compromise by accessing e-mail accounts of vendors or customers of the insured or by invading the computer system of the insured. The thief then provides fraudulent instructions to the insured to wire funds to the thief’s bank account, usually for the stated purpose of paying legitimate invoices.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Finds Coverage Under Crime Policy for Business Email Compromise

Personal information has become the prey of relentless poachers. In light of the influx of data breaches, state legislatures are taking action.  Not surprisingly, now every state has enacted data breach notification laws, which are triggered when personal information is breached.  Read below for a summary of relevant state legislation recently adopted or laws recently amended that pertaining to data breach notification.

Arizona

Arizona amended its data breach notification law, effective July 21, 2018. This amendment requires companies to notify affected consumers within a 45-day window upon discovery of a data breach. If the data breach impacts more than 1,000 consumers, companies must also notify the state attorney general as well as the three largest consumer credit reporting agencies. The state attorney general can also impose up to $500,000 in penalties for a company’s non-compliance.

Continue Reading Updates to State Data Breach Laws

On August 1, 2018, NIST will withdraw eleven SP 800 publications that are considered out of date.  These publications will not be revised.  According to NIST the following publications will be withdrawn:

  • SP 800-13 (October 1995), Telecommunications Security Guidelines for Telecommunications Management Network
  • SP 800-17 (February 1998), Modes of Operation Validation System (MOVS): Requirements and Procedures
  • SP 800-19 (October 1999), Mobile Agent Security
  • SP 800-23 (August 2000), Guidelines to Federal Organizations on Security Assurance and Acquisition/Use of Tested/Evaluated Products
  • SP 800-24 (April 2001), PBX Vulnerability Analysis: Finding Holes in Your PBX Before Someone Else Does
  • SP 800-33 (December 2001), Underlying Technical Models for Information Technology Security
  • SP 800-36 (October 2003), Guide to Selecting Information Technology Security Products
  • SP 800-43 (November 2002), Systems Administration Guidance for Securing Windows 2000 Professional System
  • SP 800-65 (January 2005), Integrating IT Security into the Capital Planning and Investment Control Process
  • SP 800-68 Rev. 1 (October 2008), Guide to Securing Microsoft Windows XP Systems for IT Professionals: A NIST Security Configuration Checklist
  • SP 800-69 (September 2006), Guidance for Securing Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition: A NIST Security Configuration Checklist

More information about these publications and the reason for withdrawal can be found here.

As previously discussed, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) created heightened consent standards for companies processing and sharing personal data of EU data subjects.  When processing personal data under the GDPR, consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.  Further, the GDPR requires affirmative action by the user, forcing them to manually “check/click” opt-in boxes.  This removes the potential for “implied consent” under past acceptable practice, where the consent box was already “checked/clicked” for users; under that practice the user gave “implied consent” unless the box was manually “unchecked”  (withdrawing their consent).

While the GDPR governs the processing and sharing of personal data, a second set of regulations has already been regulating electronic direct marketing (EDM).  The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sets rules that organizations must follow when sending EDM.  As a result, when organizations process personal data for use in EDM campaigns, there must be compliance with both the GDPR and PECR.

Continue Reading How Direct Marketing is Impacted by GDPR and PECR

Yesterday Gov. Jerry Brown signed California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which grants California residents unprecedented control over the collection, use, and sale of personal information. Many have already speculated that other state legislatures will follow suit and adopt a similar law in their own states, as has occurred in the wake of past California laws on data privacy and security. A copy of the law can be found here.

Continue Reading New California Privacy Law Could Have Nationwide Implications

South Carolina has become the first state to enact cybersecurity legislation for the insurance industry.

On May 3, Governor McMaster signed a bill requiring South Carolina insurers to “develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive information security program” for their customers’ data. 2017 SC H.B. 4655 (NS). Based on the insurance industry model rules, the South Carolina Insurance Data Security Act has three primary aims: it requires “licensees” to prevent, detect and remediate insurance customer data breaches.

Continue Reading South Carolina Requires Cybersecurity Program for Insurance Licensees

The 2018 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly recently concluded after considering approximately 3700 bills and resolutions during the 60-day session. Several privacy-related bills were on the legislative agenda, but few were enacted into law.

Tax Return Data

As highlighted in January, the General Assembly this year continued its efforts to address the growing problem of criminals filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities of unsuspecting taxpayers. Last year, Virginia adopted legislation that requires employers and payroll service providers to provide breach notification to the Attorney General of Virginia when those entities experience an unauthorized access or acquisition of unredacted and unencrypted data containing a taxpayer’s identification number and certain payroll information. Virginia Code Ann. § 18.2-186.6(M).

This year, Virginia enacted legislation aimed at imposing certain obligations on state tax return preparers. Tax return preparers are not required to comply with Virginia’s data breach notification statute. However, effective July 1, 2018, Virginia tax return preparers are required to notify the Virginia Department of Taxation:

“without unreasonable delay after the discovery or notification of unauthorized access and acquisition of unencrypted and unredacted return information that compromises the confidentiality of such information maintained by such signing income tax return preparer and that creates a reasonable belief that an [unprotected] version of such information was accessed and acquired by an unauthorized person and that causes, or such preparer reasonably believes has caused or will cause, identity theft or other fraud.” Acts of Assembly, Chapter 283

Additionally, if a breach occurs, the state tax return preparer is required to provide the Department information concerning the taxpayers whose information was accessed or obtained by unauthorized persons and certain information about the preparer.  It is estimated that the enactment of this legislation will save Virginia approximately $300,000 by avoiding the issuance of unrecoverable fraudulent refunds.

Other Privacy-Related Legislation

Additional bills related to privacy include (partial listing):

  • PASSED: Clarifying that certain student directory information held by institutions of higher education may only be released in limited circumstances in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. HB1
  • PASSED: Reduction in the amount a credit reporting agency may charge a consumer to place a security freeze on his credit report from $10 to $5. 1027 SB16
  • DEFEATED: Eliminating the ability of a credit reporting agency to charge a consumer a fee to place a security freeze on the consumer’s credit report. HB6; HB86; HB1232; SB18; SB22; (partial listing)
  • DEFEATED: Prohibiting companies providing broadband internet access services in the Commonwealth from blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization and interfering or unreasonably disadvantaging a users’ ability to access broadband internet access. The bill also would have limited a broadband service providers’ disclosure of personally identifiable information about consumers to circumstances involving certain court orders, subpoenas or for authorized law-enforcement activities. SB948
  • DEFEATED: Limiting state contracts for internet access services only to those services providers that agree to protect certain personally identifiable information and adhere to certain internet neutrality provisions. Proposed to prohibit internet access service providers that provide such service to a public body from blocking, throttling or providing preference to entities that pay for the optimization of data transfer rates. Additionally, the bill proposed to prohibit such service providers from knowingly disclosing personally identifiable information about users unless such disclosure is pursuant to certain court orders, subpoenas or for authorized law-enforcement activities. SB949
  • DEFEATED: Requiring consumer reporting agencies to disclose within 15 days a breach of the security of a computerized data system, when such disclosure is required by Virginia’s data breach notification statute, § 18.2-186.6. The bill provides that failure to report is a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. HB1588
  • DEFEATED: Prohibiting state agency employment applications, under certain circumstances, from inquiring whether a prospective employee has been arrested or charged with, or convicted, of any crime (a.k.a. “ban-the-box”). SB252; HB1357
  • DEFEATED: Prohibiting a prospective employer (i) from requiring a prospective employee to disclose his wage or salary history or (ii) attempting to obtain such information from the person’s current or previous employers. HB240
  • DEFEATED: Allowing the use of drones by law-enforcement without obtaining a warrant under certain circumstances. HB1290
  • DEFEATED: Prohibiting a provider of electronic communication or remote computing service from disclosing location data to an investigative or law-enforcement officer except pursuant to a search warrant. HB604
  • DEFEATED: Directing a legislative commission to study how local governments report data breaches, identify ways to promote efficient and timely reporting of such breaches by local governments and to develop best practices to assist localities with cyber security. HJ39

Virginia’s approach on privacy issues this past session reflects its approach on most issues – a measured response in response to actual problems. This approach is in contrast to some states enacting policies in anticipation of future issues or without a solid indication of potential harm to consumers. In the case of the security freeze legislation, the enacted bill was in response to a significant data breach last year involving one of the big three credit reporting agencies. With regard to protecting certain student directory information, the General Assembly acted in response to the perceived misuse of such information by political campaigns. Finally, the legislature continued its efforts to address the continuing problem of tax fraud by attempting to cut off avenues for would be identity thieves to file false state income tax returns.

U.S. Senate leaders may be close to reaching an agreement on a legislative proposal that would establish a national data breach notification and security standard (the Data Acquisition and Technology Accountability and Security Act) which would streamline nationwide reporting requirements for businesses.  However, there are a plethora of reasons it may not make much progress through Congress this year. The current 49-state, soon to be 50-state, patchwork of breach notification laws that are all different in various meaningful ways makes compliance with a nationwide breach (which is what typically occurs in companies) quite tedious.  This proposed federal legislation would set a national standard for securing customer data and reporting data breaches.

Similar legislation has stalled in Congress for nearly a decade, but recent events, including numerous high profile data breaches and other events where data was misused, the EU Parliament’s approval of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with an enforcement date of May 25, 2018, and California’s proposed ballot initiative on privacy (improving consumers’ rights regarding collection and usage of their data), have catalyzed Congress once more.  Last week, senators introduced legislation called Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge-provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT Act).  The bill requires explicit opt-in consent from users to share, use, or sell any personal information, notification any time data is collected, shared, or used, and new security and breach reporting requirements. The CONSENT Act relies on the Federal Trade Commission to enforce any violations of those new rules.

There are many obstacles to enacting federal data privacy and security legislation, including disputes over preemption of state law, reasonable security standards, penalties, and exemptions.  After Republicans took control of the White House and both chambers of Congress last year, federal regulatory activity diminished, and cities and states have stepped in to fill the void.  The attorneys general of 31 states are pressing lawmakers to scrap the Data Acquisition and Technology Accountability and Security Act, arguing that it waters down more stringent state laws requiring prompt notification of breaches to consumers.  Since South Dakota passed a new law in March, every state but Alabama has data breach laws in effect which require companies to notify consumers when their personal information hacked.  And last week Alabama’s governor signed the final state data breach law which goes into effect on May 1, 2018.  The attorneys general argue that these state laws have catalyzed greater transparency about data breaches and improved steps companies can take to prevent breaches from occurring again.

In addition to state laws, some cities have taken affirmative steps regarding data security.  NYC Mayor de Blasio announced the launch of a cybersecurity initiative, NYC Secure, which is supposed to defend New Yorkers from malicious cyber activity on mobile devices, public Wi-Fi networks, and beyond.  The first program is a smartphone protection app which issues warnings to users when suspicious activity is detected on their mobile devices.

Stay tuned to see who wins the state versus federal power struggle over data privacy and security—exciting times are ahead!

Health Information Highlight

Welcome back to our three-part series examining ways to efficiently identify, address and mitigate gaps in HIPAA compliance in transaction diligence. In Part I, we discussed four key diligence questions upon which buyers should focus their efforts in a transaction. In Part II, we reviewed considerations related to storage of and access to diligence materials, particularly in the context of using a data room or other cloud-based server. Here, we address potential risk mitigation strategies when HIPAA issues are identified in the course of diligence.

It is not unusual to identify gaps or deficiencies in HIPAA compliance during the diligence process. These deficiencies can range from a lack of robust policies, procedures and employee training to inappropriate use of texting and cloud storage or failure to conduct a required security risk assessment. Several years ago when HIPAA enforcement risk was more of a secondary concern, many buyers did not take a proactive approach to remediation and assumed these areas could be addressed in the ordinary course. Given the uptick in enforcement against both covered entities and business associates and ever-increasing fines, it is important to take a proactive approach to quickly address compliance gaps. When a buyer encounters compliance gaps, there are various ways to mitigate this risk, several of which are discussed below:

  1. Require Compliance Actions as a Pre- or Post-Close Condition. Depending on the level of risk and exposure, buyers should consider whether addressing compliance gaps should begin prior to closing. In other instances, it may be reasonable to address compliance post-close; however, it is important to ensure that any post-close compliance is completed within a specified time, such as 30, 60, 90 or 120 days post-close.
  2. Indemnification, Escrows & Representation and Warrantee Insurance. Buyers should consider whether it is appropriate to obtain specific indemnification or escrow of funds to cover potential HIPAA non-compliance. When negotiating indemnification provisions, a buyer should consider applicable dollar caps, floors and the survival period to ensure appropriate coverage for potential future liability.
  3. Ongoing Settlements. If the seller is involved in any government or third party investigation or settlement negotiation related to HIPAA compliance, buyers should consider obtaining a waiver of liabilities and rights from the government or third party prior to close. Buyers should also ensure that the indemnification provisions from the seller are modified so as to adequately protect the buyer from undue risk or exposure.

With the continued risk of HIPAA enforcement, privacy and security diligence should not be a “check the box” activity. Buyers should fully understand the scope of potential risk in the early stages of transaction diligence, take steps to adequately mitigate that risk and understand the cost of protecting the target’s greatest assets.