Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, an affiliate of the Russia-linked criminal syndicate known as REvil succeeded in executing the single largest global ransomware attack on record with over one million firms affected worldwide. As a result of the intrusion, thousands of companies have reduced or entirely ceased operation. For example:


Continue Reading It May Take a Village: What the REvil Holiday Attack Teaches Us About the Evolving Threat

I am often asked by clients and my partners alike, “What is the #1 thing companies should be doing to secure their data and systems?” Usually when I get requests to boil down everything involved in my practice area to one topic, I balk. And for good reason. However, this one is easy.

Multi-Factor Authentication or “MFA.” 


Continue Reading Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Please. Do it. Now.

The White House issued this memorandum to corporate executives and business leaders this week in which it stresses the need for urgent vigilance in implementing many of the best information security best practices we commonly discuss on our Privacy and Data Security Insights blog.  The memo contains good information that any business of any size should consider and implement as quickly as possible to bolster its defenses to what has been an onslaught of ransomware attacks in the past year.  

Continue Reading White House Memo Stresses Need For Vigilance in Defending Against Ransomware Attacks

As we have been writing over the past year, COVID-19 has presented a huge opportunity for hackers to wreak havoc on businesses and consumers.  While confidentiality of data is usually the focus with such data breaches, system and data access is also at risk of attack by these same threat actors.  We have seen this play out on a national scale the past couple of weeks with the pipeline shutdown due to ransomware.

According to the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”), insurance claims resulting from ransomware increased by 180% between 2018 and 2019, and almost doubled that amount in 2020. (Indeed, the pipeline company paid a ransom of $4.4 million.)  As a result, the U.S. cyber insurance market was $3.15 billion in 2019 and is expected to exceed $20 billion in the next five years. And just recently, a carrier announced it would no longer pay out for ransomware claims in France.   Earlier this year,  in response to the increase in ransomware attacks, the NYDFS issued seven best practices (“Framework”) that insurers should adopt, including a recommendation that insurers should stop paying ransom payments. Insurers should be aware of what the Framework entails and what this means for them when implementing cybersecurity programs and trying to obtain insurance coverage in the future.


Continue Reading NYDFS Answers Age Old “To Pay the Ransom or Not Pay the Ransom” Question with Definitive DON’T

Guess what?  Last Thursday, the first Thursday in May, was World Password Day. Right? You didn’t even know it.  We in the Privacy and Data Security Practice Group thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of the most basic, but still effective way to safeguard your accounts and data. In the early days of the internet, a simple password was all you might need to adequately protect the one or two accounts you might have had. Your desktop login, your email, and maybe some early version of social media. Password security was taken so lightly; it wasn’t unusual for passwords to be stored in a plain text file on a desktop or on a sticky note at your desk. Those days are over. Well, they should be.

Continue Reading Celebrating World Password Day. Responsibly.

Over the years on Taft’s Privacy and Data Security Insights, we have written on the risk of data breaches and the specific impact on privacy, or the compromise of confidentiality of personally identifiable information. However, many clients forget to also consider the value in other information they possess, specifically proprietary information, information subject to trade secret, and intellectual property. Today we will discuss how failing to account for intellectual property in your data security program can be costly, especially in the event of a data breach.

Intellectual property and specifically patent protection is a critical component for the success of many U.S. businesses, both large and small. As the desire to obtain patent protection grows, so too does the occurrence of data theft and other data breaches.  Therefore, companies need to know whether an invention is still patentable if the propriety information underlying the invention is the subject of a data breach or other cyber security failure. The question applies whether a data breach is accidental or malicious and whether it is perpetrated by an outside source or by an employee of the company.  The answer is the same: the patent rights are likely forfeited.


Continue Reading Data Breaches Ain’t Just About Privacy: Risking the Loss of Patent Rights by Data Breach with Subsequent Disclosure

Businesses in all industries and of all sizes are collecting data about their customers, potential clients, and workforce. This collection can be as simple as processing credit cards for purchases or gathering data about consumer behavior on websites or social media platforms, or can include a robust collection of sensitive financial, location, or health information. In the event that an incident occurs, a business is obligated to respond quickly to address the pitfall and potentially inform consumers that their information may have been subject to an unauthorized access according to applicable national or state laws. Navigating these unchartered waters usually involves bringing in counsel to assess whether a “breach” has occurred, how much, whose and what information was accessed, and to potentially prepare for litigation from those consumers whose data was subjected to the breach.

As part of this response, counsel often calls on cybersecurity experts to provide incident response services and breach analysis to understand the severity of the breach and the company’s data security posture. These forensic assessments can be used in a variety of ways, including helping determine the immediate steps that need to be taken to comply with data breach laws, ensure that the compromise is resolved, or troubleshoot potential weak points in the company’s cybersecurity safeguards to develop a stronger infrastructure to avoid future incidents.


Continue Reading The Aftermath of a Breach: Evidentiary Protections Related to Forensic Investigations in Limbo

Losing a job and struggling with finances have added significant stress to those trying to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no secret that for weeks, state departments administering unemployment compensation have been under fire due to massive backlogs of unprocessed claims. Adding to claimants’ frustrations are a number of security incidents affecting several states’ agencies. We previously reported that the Small Business Administration experienced a breach compromising personal data for thousands of applications for financial assistance. Now we are seeing state level entities experiencing security compromises.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is unemployment compensation available to self-employed and “gig” workers. In the past several weeks, thousands of workers in several states who applied for PUA received notice that their personal information was possibly exposed to other users. The personal information exposed included social security numbers, addresses, names, and the amount workers were receiving in benefits. Fortunately, at least at this time, there is no evidence personal information was misused and the alerts from the states were preventative.
Continue Reading Adding Insult to Injury: Government Agency Security Incidents Expose Unemployed Personal Data

As businesses continue to apply for relief through Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, SBA’s Carol R. Wilkerson announced that nearly 8,000 business owners’ information may have been exposed to unauthorized users on March 29, 2020. This incident only affected the Disaster Loan Program and not the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA has notified the business owners that may have been affected and offered them a year of free credit monitoring.

At this time, the SBA has stated that the
Continue Reading SBA Data Breach: Disaster Loan Applicants’ Information Possibly Exposed

Last summer, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security (SHIELD) Act. The SHIELD Act’s data breach notification requirements are already effective and the law’s data security requirements go into effect on March 21. Any company that does business in New York or has customers in New York needs to understand what the law requires.

New York, like many other states, has a data breach notification law that requires businesses to notify consumers when a breach occurs. The SHIELD Act goes further than New York’s previous law, both in its definition of what type of information is covered and in reaching companies that may not have any connection to New York except for having information about New York residents in their database. The SHIELD Act:


Continue Reading The SHIELD Act: What You Need to Know About New York’s New Data Breach Notification Law