With the focus rightly on the challenges presented by COVID-19, it is also important to keep an eye on what is happening in the world of data privacy and security regulation. One such development involves a little known application of a financial services privacy law to the world of higher education.

On Feb. 28, 2020, the Federal Student Aid office (“FSA”) of the Department of Education (the “DoE”) posted an Electronic Announcement, advising all entities with an active Program Participation Agreement with the DoE (“Institutions”) that the DoE will begin strictly enforcing the requirement that each Institution must comply with the data privacy and cybersecurity requirements set forth in 16 C.F.R. Part 314 and administered by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).

Although all Institutions have been subject to these compliance requirements for some time (technical application dates back to 2003, and auditing requirements date back to 2016), enforcement actions by the DoE and FTC in the wake of non-compliant audits have been lacking. No longer. According to FSA, that’s about the change.


Continue Reading Higher Education Institutions Must Be Prepared: “Enhanced” Cybersecurity Audits are Coming

With at least 70% of American schools shutting down, and others, if not all, to follow, school and millions of parents are faced with unprecedented challenges managing the children’s education from children’s homes through online schooling. Online schooling or “distance learning” presents not only operational and technical challenges of its own, but also presents concerns and challenges to properly protecting the privacy and security of student information. Even in view of a pandemic and emergency conditions, schools and online education providers are still required to meet legal obligations under various laws and implement best practices to not only meet the laws’ requirements but also to foster a secure environment for students to learn. The following provides a summary of the applicable federal and state laws impacting online learning, followed by general best practices.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Online Schooling Data Privacy Concerns and Best Practices During the Pandemic

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economy Security Act (the “CARES Act”), which provides economic relief for individuals, businesses and industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, some provisions specifically relate to nascent privacy and data security concerns to be addressed both during and after the pandemic:

  • Financial Assistance for Training: Qualifying small businesses and minority owned businesses may apply for financial assistance in the form of grants to cover training and advising for employees on risks of and mitigation of cybersecurity threats in remote customer service or telework practices. The economic landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic will highlight businesses’ increased reliance upon technology, and the nascent need for increased attention to data security education. The financial assistance available to small and minority-owned businesses provides a great opportunity for companies to get ahead of the curve with respect to myriad information security threats.
  • Credit Reporting: The Fair Credit Reporting Act is revised so that furnishers of consumer and payment information, who make an accommodation with respect to one or more payments on a consumer’s account or credit obligation, must report the account or obligation as “current,” unless it was delinquent prior to the accommodation.
  • Public Health Service Act Amended to Conform with HIPAA: The Public Health Service Act is amended to include breach notification and consent requirements consistent with HIPAA. In addition, within one year after the date of enactment, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall update 45 C.F.R 164.520 so that covered entities and entities creating or maintaining records relating to substance abuse education, training, treatment, and research shall provide easily understandable notices of privacy practices. As a result, some entities not currently regulated by HIPAA will need to adapt to some of the HIPAA requirements related to breach notification and notice of privacy practices.
  • Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency: $9 million is allocated for supply chain and information analysis, as well as impacted critical infrastructure coordination.
  • Funding for Public Health Surveillance: $500 million is allocated for public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: CARES Act Provides Attention to Privacy & Data Security Precautions

In a letter sent earlier this month, a group representing more than 30 companies, trade associations and various industries asked the California Attorney General if enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act could be postponed. Concerned with the business impacts and reprioritization related to COVID-19, the association asked the Attorney General to delay enforcement from July 2020 until January 2021. The association stated that companies scrambling to respond to COVID-19 would need more time to comply with the various
Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: California Attorney General: CCPA Enforcement Will Not Be Delayed Due to COVID-19

In our previous COVID-19 bulletin, we discussed the importance of companies maintaining information system and data security while allowing employees to work remotely. Over the last week, as people scramble to identify trustworthy information about the spread of COVID-19, how they can protect themselves, and how they can get tested, spammers and scammers have taken advantage of vulnerable telecommuters. For example, in just the past week, media outlets have reported on the following scams:

  • Email Phishing. According to a Kaspersky study and the FTC, email phishing schemes include the use of organizations’ names that would normally seem legitimate. Such emails appear to be coming from representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). The emails have the CDC or WHO logos and headings or have email addresses that, in a quick glance, look to be official (such as cdc-gov.org). The links in these emails may infect the user’s device with malware or even ask them to enter in an email and password for their Microsoft Outlook account.
  • Domains and Apps. There are website domains that appear to keep track of COVID-19 updates and health information. Instead, these domains prompt users to download apps to access this information. In particular, there is an Android App that, once downloaded, infects the device with ransomware and demands payment or else the data on the device will be erased. Additionally, there is an interactive infections and deaths map circulating that is being used to spread password-stealing malware.
  • Goods Delivery. While goods and supplies, such as cleaning and household supplies, are running out at local stores, there are online sellers purporting to have these items in stock. Instead, they are scams that take your payment and never deliver your ordered items. Employers, or employees in charge of supplies, should be cautious of online retailers and conduct additional research into the seller to verify legitimacy.
  • Fake Charities. As with any major event or crisis, there are scammers trying to take advantage of people’s good intentions. This can take form in fake charities or fake donation pages. The fake charity can be a completely made up organization or one that closely resembles names of established charities.


Continue Reading Don’t Let COVID-19 Lure You In: Phishing and Malware Attacks Skyrocket During Coronavirus Crisis

In the past week, businesses in every industry faced the growing concerns that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to our communities. As the situation around the globe continues to develop and multi-faceted issues arise, companies should be considering their employees’ and customers’ privacy and be prepared to adequately and appropriately respond to privacy concerns, requests for information, and understand the basic expectations of how and when personal information can be used without consent.

While the current environment demands flexibility and responsiveness, and not all-personal information or your industry may be subject to such regulations, the following information provides some guidelines on how the law expects businesses to balance privacy and public health concerns. We conclude with some best practices that apply to the use of personal information in all conditions.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Balancing Privacy and Public Health Needs

As many employers are considering sending employees home to protect them and other employees from the threat of the COVID-19 virus, it is extremely important to not increase your data security risk while you attempt to reduce the risk to employee and customer health. The following are some best practices for any employees working remotely, whether temporarily or permanently from locations outside your office and (hopefully secure) network.

  • Establish clear guidance and expectations to your employees.
    • All remote computer and


Continue Reading COVID-19 Bulletin: Sending Employees Home? Don’t compromise information security in the process.