Archive for the ‘Intellectual Property’ Category
If your password looks something like “123456,” you might want to change it.
By Alice Cheng
Late Wednesday evening, hackers successfully breached Yahoo! security published a list of unencrypted emails and passwords. The list exposed the login information of more than 450,000 Yahoo! users. The hackers, who call themselves the D33D Company, explained that they obtained the passwords by using an SQL injection vulnerability—a technique that is often used to make online databases cough up information. The familiar method has been employed in other high-profile hacks, including of Sony and, more recently, LinkedIn.
However, unlike other malicious attacks, the D33D hackers claim that they only had good intentions: “We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat.”
The attempted wake-up call is apparently much needed, though often ignored. An analysis of the exposed Yahoo! passwords revealed that a large number were incredibly weak— popular passwords in the set ranged from sequential numbers to being merely “password.”
In a statement, Yahoo! apologized and stated that notifications will be sent out to all affected users. The company also urged users to change their passwords regularly.
If you are a Yahoo! user, you may want to change your account password, as well as any accounts with similar login credentials. It will also be well worth your time to heed to the wake-up call and incorporate better password practices. Use a different password for each site, and create long passwords that include a mix of upper- and lower- case letters, numbers, and symbols. To help keep things simple, password management software (such as LastPass and KeePass) is also available to help keep track of the complex passwords you create.
Data Breach Prevention and Remediation: How to Protect Your Company from Hackers and Internal Threats and Ensure Your Customer’s PrivacyThursday, July 12th, 2012
All companies, big and small, are at risk for data breaches. Most companies have legal obligations with respect to the integrity and confidentiality of certain information in its possession. Information privacy and security is essential to protect your business, safeguard your customers’ privacy, and secure your company’s vital information.
Recently, hackers gained access to Yahoo’s databases, exposing over 450,000 usernames and passwords to Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon, BellSouth and Live.com accounts. This breach comes on the heels of a breach of over 6.5 million LinkedIn user passwords. With these embarrassing breaches, and the widespread revelation of their inadequate information security practices, Yahoo and LinkedIn were added to the rapidly growing list of large companies who have suffered massive data breaches in recent years.
While breaches at large companies like Yahoo and LinkedIn make the headlines, small businesses are equally at risk, and must take appropriate measures to keep their information safe. Aaron Messing, an information privacy attorney with OlenderFeldman LLP, notes that most businesses networks are accessible from any computer in the world and, therefore, potentially vulnerable to threats from individuals who do not require physical access to it.A recent report by Verizon found that nearly three-quarters of breaches in the last year involved small businesses. In fact, small business owners may be the most vulnerable to data breaches, as they are able to devote the least amount of resources to information security and privacy measures. Studies have found that the average cost of small business breaches is $194 per record breached, a figure that includes various expenses such as detecting and reporting the breach, notifying and assisting affected customers, and reimbursing customers for actual losses. Notably, these expenses did not include the cost of potential lawsuits, public embarrassment, and loss of customer goodwill, which are common consequences of weak information security and poorly managed data breaches. For a large business, a data breach might be painful. For a small business, it can be a death sentence.
Proactive security and privacy planning is always better than reactive measures. “While there is no sure-fire way to completely avoid the risk of data breaches,” says Aaron Messing, an information privacy lawyer with OlenderFeldman LLP, “steps can be taken, both before and after a breach, to minimize risk and expense.” To preserve confidential communications and to obtain advice on possible legal issues related to your company, consulting with privacy attorneys about your specific requirements is recommended. OlenderFeldman recommends the following general principles as a first step towards securing your business.
Second, although external breaches from hackers gain the most publicity, the vast majority of data breaches are internal. Accordingly, physical security is one of the most important concerns for small businesses. Informal or non-existent business attitudes and practices with regards to security often create temptations and a relatively safe environment for an opportunist within to gain improper or unauthorized access to your company’s sensitive information. Mitigating this risk requires limiting access to company resources on a need to know/access basis and restricting access to those who do not need the access. Theft or damage of the system hardware or paper files presents a great risk of business interruption and loss of confidential or personal information. Similarly, unauthorized access, use, or disclosure, whether intentional or unintentional, puts individuals at risk for identity theft, which may cause monetary liability and reputational damage to your company.
Third, be vigilant about protecting your information. Even if your company develops a secure network, failure to properly monitor logs and processes or weak auditing allows new vulnerabilities and unauthorized use to evolve and proliferate. As a result, your company may not realize that a serious loss had occurred or was ongoing. Develop a mobile device policy to minimize the security and privacy risks to your company. Ensure that your technology resources (such as photocopy machines, scanners, printers, laptops and smartphones) are securely erased before it is otherwise recycled or disposed. Most business owners are not aware that technology resources generally store and retain copies of documents that have been printed, scanned, faxed, and emailed on their internal hard drives. For example, when a document is photocopied, the copier’s hard drive often keeps an image of that document. Thus, anyone with possession of that photocopier (i.e., when it is sold or returned) can obtain copies of all documents that were copied or scanned on the machine. This compilation of documents and potentially sensitive information poses serious threats of identity theft.
Finally, in the event of a breach, consult a privacy lawyer to determine your obligations. After a breach has been discovered, there should be a forensic investigation to determine what information was accessed and whether that information is still accessible to unauthorized users. Your business may be legally obligated to notify customers or the authorities of the breach. Currently, there are no federal laws regulating notification, but 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted data breach notification laws, which mandate various breach reporting times, and to various authorities.
Employee Who Read and Printed Coworker’s Emails Found Not Guilty of Violating the Stored Communications ActThursday, July 5th, 2012
A New Jersey court recently held that a teacher who accessed and printed a co-worker’s personal email after the coworker left the computer without signing out of her account was not guilty of a crime.
By Alice Cheng
In Marcus v. Rogers, 2012 WL 2428046 (N.J.Super.A.D. June 28, 2012), a New Jersey court held that a defendant was not in violation of any laws when he snooped through the emails of a coworker who had forgotten to sign out of a shared computer.
The defendant, a teacher who was involved in a salary dispute with the school district he worked for, sat down to use a computer in the school’s computer room when he accidentally bumped the mouse of the computer next to him. The screen of the adjacent computer came alive to show the Yahoo! email inbox of a member of the education association he was in dispute with, which included two emails that clearly mentioned him. He then clicked on the emails, printed them out, and used them at a meeting with the education association as evidence that they had not bargained in good faith.
The individuals who were copied on the email conversations filed suit, claiming that the defendant had violated New Jersey’s version of the Stored Communications Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-27), which reads in pertinent part:
A person is guilty . . . if he (1) knowingly accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided or exceeds an authorization to access that facility, and (2) thereby obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or [an] electronic communication while that communication is in electronic storage.
The court found that the defendant did not “knowingly access [the facility] without authorization” as it was the previous user who had logged into the account. The judge then let the jury decide whether or not he “exceed[ed] an authorization to access that facility” when she failed to close her inbox and log out of her account. The jury found that did not, as he had “tacit authorization” to access the account. On appeal, the court affirmed.
While there is no clear answer to the question of whether snooping emails is illegal (as always, it depends), always remember to log out of public computers. Similarly, all mobile devices, such as smartphones or laptops, should be password protected. As for the email snoopers, be forewarned that snooping may nevertheless carry major consequences, if hacking or unauthorized access is found.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking for public comment on the privacy and security of personal information on mobile devices.
By Alice Cheng
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a request for public comment on the privacy and security of personal information on mobile devices. The Commission, which regulates interstate and international radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications, had solicited public input on this subject five years ago, but acknowledges the vast changes in technologies and business practices since then.
Section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934 addresses customer privacy, and establishes that all telecommunications carriers have the duty, with limited exceptions, to protect the confidentiality of proprietary information of and relating to customers. All carriers must also protect “customer proprietary network information” (CPNI), such as time, date, and duration of a call, which the carrier receives and obtains. They may use, disclose, and allow access of such information only in limited circumstances.
The FCC enforces these obligations, and is seeking comments to better understand the practices of mobile wireless service providers, and the types of customer information that is stored on mobile devices.
This request for public comment appears to come in light of the Carrier IQ controversy of late 2011. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought legal action against analytics company Carrier IQ after it was discovered that the software, installed on over 140 million mobile devices, was capable of detailed logging of user keystrokes, recording of calls, storing text messages, tracking location, and more. The detailed tracking was intended to provide phone usage information that would be helpful to improve device performance. However, the widespread collection and difficulty in opting out attracted nationwide attention and a slew of lawsuits.
In addition to the request for public comments, the FCC has also recently released a report on location-based services (LBS), focusing on “mobile services that combine information about a user’s physical location with online connectivity.” While the report acknowledges the benefits of these services (ease of transacting business, for social networking purposes, etc.), they also address concerns of creating highly accurate and personal user profiles through LBS data—specifically, “how, when and by whom this information can and should be used.”
Congress has displayed a growing interest in privacy as well—several privacy and information security-related bills have been introduced and hearings on the issues have been held.
Five years after their initial inquiry into the matter, the FCC hopes to obtain an updated understanding of these mobile information security and privacy issues. Comments are due by July 13, and reply comments are due by July 30.
NJ Assembly Bill A-1238 requires the destruction of records stored on digital copy machines under certain circumstances in order to prevent identity theft
By Alice Cheng
Last week, the New Jersey Assembly passed Bill-A1238 in an attempt to prevent identity theft. This bill requires that information stored on photocopy machines and scanners to be destroyed before devices change hands (e.g., when resold or returned at the end of a lease agreement).
Under the bill, owners of such devices are responsible for the destruction, or arranging for the destruction, of all records stored on the machines. Most consumers are not aware that digital photocopy machines and scanners store and retain copies of documents that have been printed, scanned, faxed, and emailed on their hard drives. That is, when a document is photocopied, the copier’s hard drive often keeps an image of that document. Thus, anyone with possession of the photocopier (i.e., when it is sold or returned) can obtain copies of all documents that were copied or scanned on the machine. This compilation of documents and potentially sensitive information poses serious threats of identity theft.
Any willful or knowing violation of the bill’s provisions may result in a fine of up to $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. Identity theft victims may also bring legal action against offenders.
In order for businesses to avoid facing these consequences, they should be mindful of the type of information stored, and to ensure that any data is erased before reselling or returning such devices. Of course, business owners should be especially mindful, as digital copy machines may also contain trade secrets and other sensitive business information as well.
Who Owns Your Data and What Can They Do With It? Understanding Data Privacy and Information Security in the CloudTuesday, May 29th, 2012
“Cloud” Technology Offers Flexibility, Reduced Costs, Ease of Access to Information, But Presents Security, Privacy and Regulatory Concerns
With the recent introduction of Google Drive, cloud computing services are garnering increased attention from entities looking to more efficiently store data. Specifically, using the “cloud” is attractive due to its reduced cost, ease of use, mobility and flexibility, each of which can offer tremendous competitive benefits to businesses. Cloud computing refers to the practice of storing data on remote servers, as opposed to on local computers, and is used for everything from personal webmail to hosted solutions where all of a company’s files and other resources are stored remotely. As convenient as cloud computing is, it is important to remember that these benefits may come with significant legal risk, given the privacy and data protection issues inherent in the use of cloud computing. Accordingly, it is important to check your cloud computing contracts carefully to ensure that your legal exposure is minimized in the event of a data breach or other security incident.
Cloud computing allows companies convenient, remote access to their networks, servers and other technology resources, regardless of location, thereby creating “virtual offices” which allow employees remote access to their files and data which is identical in scope the access which they have in the office. The cloud offers companies flexibility and scalability, enabling them to pool and allocate information technology resources as needed, by using the minimum amount of physical IT resources necessary to service demand. These hosted solutions enable users to easily add or remove additional storage or processing capacity as needed to accommodate fluctuating business needs. By utilizing only the resources necessary at any given point, cloud computing can provide significant cost savings, which makes the model especially attractive to small and medium-sized businesses. However, the rush to use cloud computing services due to its various efficiencies often comes at the expense of data privacy and security concerns.
The laws that govern cloud computing are (perhaps somewhat counterintuitively) geographically based on the physical location of the cloud provider’s servers, rather than the location of the company whose information is being stored. American state and federal laws concerning data privacy and security tend to vary while servers in Europe are subject to more comprehensive (and often more stringent) privacy laws. However, this may change, as theFederal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating the privacy and security implications of cloud computing as well.
In addition to location-based considerations, companies expose themselves to potentially significant liability depending on the types of information stored in the cloud. Federal, state and international laws all govern the storage, use and protection of certain types of personally identifiable information and protected health information. For example, the Massachusetts Data Security Regulations require all entities that own or license personal information of Massachusetts residents to ensure appropriate physical, administrative and technical safeguards for their personal information (regardless of where the companies are physically located), with fines of up to $5,000 per incident of non-compliance. That means that the companies are directly responsible for the actions of their cloud computing service provider. Aaron Messing, an information privacy and technology attorney at OlenderFeldman LLP, notes that some information is inappropriate for storage in the cloud without proper precautions. “We strongly recommend against storing any type of personally identifiable information, such as birth dates or social security numbers in the cloud. Similarly, sensitive information such as financial records, medical records and confidential legal files should not be stored in the cloud where possible,” he says, “unless it is encrypted or otherwise protected.” In fact, even a data breach related to non-sensitive information can have serious adverse effects on a company’s bottom line and, perhaps more distressing, its public perception.
Additionally, the information your company stores in the cloud will also be affected by the rules set forth in the privacy policies and terms of service of your cloud provider. Although these terms may seem like legal boilerplate, they may very well form a binding contract which you are presumed to have read and consented to. Accordingly, it is extremely important to have a grasp of what is permitted and required by your cloud provider’s privacy policies and terms of service. For example, the privacy policies and terms of service will dictate whether your cloud service provider is a data processing agent, which will only process data on your behalf or a data controller, which has the right to use the data for its own purposes as well. Notwithstanding the terms of your agreement, if the service is being provided for free, you can safely presume that the cloud provider is a data controller who will analyze and process the data for its own benefit, such as to serve you ads.
Regardless, when sharing data with cloud service providers (or any other third party service providers)), it is important to obligate third parties to process data in accordance with applicable law, as well as your company’s specific instructions — especially when the information is personally identifiable or sensitive in nature. This is particularly important because in addition to the loss of goodwill, most data privacy and security laws hold companies, rather than service providers, responsible for compliance with those laws. That means that your company needs to ensure the data’s security, regardless of whether it’s in a third party’s (the cloud providers) control. It is important for a company to agree with the cloud provider as to the appropriate level of security for the data being hosted. Christian Jensen, a litigation attorney at OlenderFeldman LLP, recommends contractually binding third parties to comply with applicable data protection laws, especially where the law places the ultimate liability on you. “Determine what security measures your vendor employs to protect data,” suggests Jensen. “Ensure that access to data is properly restricted to the appropriate users.” Jensen notes that since data protection laws generally do not specify the levels of commercial liability, it is important to ensure that your contract with your service providers allocates risk via indemnification clauses, limitation of liabilities and warranties. Businesses should reserve the right to audit the cloud service provider’s data security and information privacy compliance measures as well in order to verify that the third party providers are adhering to its stated privacy policies and terms of service. Such audits can be carried out by an independent third party auditor, where necessary.
OlenderFeldman LLP’s Aaron Messing was interviewed by Jennifer Banzaca of the Hedge Fund Law Report for a three part series entitled, “What Concerns Do Mobile Devices Present for Hedge Fund Managers, and How Should Those Concerns Be Addressed?” (Subscription required; Free two week subscription available.) Some excerpts of the topics Jennifer and Aaron discussed follow. You can read the first entry here.
[A]s observed by Aaron Messing, a Corporate & Information Privacy Lawyer at OlenderFeldman LLP, “Phones have cameras and video cameras, and therefore, the phone can be used as a bugging device.”
[M]any mobile devices or apps can broadcast the location of the user. Messing explained that these can be some of the most problematic apps for hedge fund managers because they can communicate information about a firm’s activities through tracking of a firm employee. For instance, a person tracking a mobile device user may be able to glean information about a firm’s contemplated investments if the mobile device user visits the target portfolio company. Messing explained, “It is really amazing the amount of information you can glean just from someone’s location. It can present some actionable intelligence. General e-mails can have a lot more meaning if you know someone’s location. Some people think this concern is overblown, but whenever you can collect disparate pieces of information, aggregating all those seemingly innocuous pieces of information can put together a very compelling picture of what is going on.”
Additionally, as Messing explained, “Some hedge fund managers are concerned with location-based social networks and apps, like Foursquare, which advertises that users are at certain places. You should worry whether that tips someone off as to whom you were meeting with or companies you are potentially investing in. These things are seemingly harmless in someone’s personal life, but this information could wind up in the wrong hands. People can potentially piece together all of these data points and perhaps figure out what an employee is up to or what the employee is working on. For a hedge fund manager, this tracking can have serious consequences. It is hard to rely on technology to block all of those apps and functions because the minute you address something like Foursquare, a dozen new things just like it pop up. To some degree you have to rely on education, training and responsible use by your employees.”
Books and Records Retention
Messing explained that while e-mails are generally simple to save and archive, text messages and other messaging types present new challenges for hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, as Marsh cautioned, “Regardless of the type of messaging system that is used, all types of business-related electronic communications must be captured and archived. There is no exception to those rules. There is no exception for people using cell phones. If I send a text message or if I post something to my Twitter account or Facebook account and it is related to business, it has to be captured.”
Advertising and Communications Concerns
OlenderFeldman’s Messing further explained on this topic, “Social media tends to blur these lines between personal and professional communications because many social media sites do not delineate between personal use and business use. While there is not any clear guidance on whether using social networking and ‘liking’ various pages constitutes advertising, it is still a concern for hedge fund managers. You can have your employees include disclaimers that their views are not reflective of the views of the company or that comments, likes or re-Tweets do not constitute an endorsement. However, you still should have proper policies and procedures in place to address the use of social media, and you have to educate your employees about acceptable usage.”
We often get questions from both clients and journalists (e.g., here, and here) regarding liability for posting content on the internet, most of it centering around the same basic premise: “Why can Company X post this content on their website? How is that legal? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?”
In most cases, the answer can be found in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 230 (“CDA”). The act provides immunity for Internet Service Providers (read: websites, blogs, listservs, forums, etc.) who publish information provided by others, so long as they comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (“DMCA”) and take down content that infringes the intellectual property rights of others. In order to understand the CDA and DMCA, it is helpful to understand how each came about.
The United States has historically favored free speech, with certain limitations. Under the law, a writer or publisher of harmful information is treated differently than a distributor of that information. The theory behind this distinction is that the speaker and publisher have the knowledge of and editorial control over the content, whereas a distributor might not be aware of the content, much less whether it is harmful. Thus, if a writer publishes defamatory content in a book, both the writer and the publisher can be held liable, whereas a library or bookstore that distributed the book cannot.
Initially, courts found a distinction in liability based on whether the website was moderated. An unmoderated/unmonitored website was considered a distributor of information, rather than a publisher, because it did not review the contents of its message boards. Conversely, courts found a moderated/monitored website to be a publisher, concluding that the exercise of editorial control over content made it more like a publisher than a distributor – and thus the website was liable for anything that appeared on the site. Unsurprisingly, this created strong disincentives to monitoring or moderating websites, as doing so increased potential liability.
Given the sheer amount of information communicated online, the potential for liability based on third-party content (i.e. user comments on a blog, website or web bulletin board) threatened the viability of service providers and free speech over the internet.
Congress specifically wanted to remove these disincentives to self-moderation by websites and responded by passing the CDA. The CDA immunizes, with limited exceptions, providers and users of “interactive computer services” from publisher’s liability, so long as the information is provided by a third party (interactive computer service is defined broadly, and covers blogs). This immunity does not cover intellectual property claims or criminal liability, and of course the original creator of the content is not immune. That means a blogger or commentator is responsible for his/her own comments, though not for the submitted content of others (even if it violates a third-party’s privacy, or is defamatory, etc). Generally, the CDA will cover a website that hosts third-party content, and exercises editorial functions, such as deciding whether to publish, remove or edit material does not affect that immunity unless those actions materially alter the content (e.g.. changing “Aaron is not a scumbag” to “Aaron is a scumbag” would be a material alteration, whereas cropping a photo or fixing typos would not).
Accordingly, websites that post only user submitted content (even if the website encourages or pays third parties to create or submit content) are protected under the CDA, and immune from liability, with two major exceptions. The CDA does not immunize against the posting of criminally illegal content (such as underage pornography), and it does not immunize against the posting of another’s intellectual property without permission. Tasked with balancing the need to protect intellectual property rights online, as well as the various challenges faced by websites that lead to the CDA, Congress implemented the DMCA. The DMCA creates a safe harbor against copyright liability for websites, so long as block access to allegedly infringing material upon receipt of a notification from a copyright holder claiming infringement.
Ultimately, protecting yourself from liability under the CDA and DMCA or protecting your intellectual property rights online can be tricky. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
On January 9, 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act (NJTSA). The NJTSA codifies many court decisions that provide certain rights and remedies in the event that a trade secret – such as a formula, design, prototype or invention – is misappropriated. The NJTSA provides New Jersey businesses with a statutory vehicle to use in the event of either actual or threatened misappropriation of trade secrets.
The NJTSA is modeled after the Uniform Trade Secret Act (USTA), making New Jersey the 47th state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact a version of the USTA and leaving just Massachusetts, New York and Texas as the only non-UTSA states. Notably, the definitions of “trade secret” and “misappropriation” under the NJTSA are broader than under the UTSA, thus providing more protection to businesses. Further, while the UTSA provides that, as a general rule, it “displaces other law which provides civil remedies for misappropriation of a trade secret,” the NJTSA specifically states that “the rights, remedies and prohibitions provided under this act are in addition to and cumulative of any other right, remedy or prohibition provided under the common law or statutory law of this State.”
An action for misappropriation must be brought under the NJTSA within three (3) years after the misappropriation is discovered, or, with reasonable diligence, should have been discovered. It is not a defense to the NJTSA to argue that proper means to acquire the trade secret existed at the time of the misappropriation.
The remedies available under the NJTSA to the holder of a trade secret include:
- Damages for both the actual loss suffered by the plaintiff and for any unjust enrichment of the defendant caused by the misappropriation. Damages may also include the imposition of a reasonable royalty for unauthorized disclosure or use.
- Injunctive relief for actual or threatened misappropriation of a trade secret. Under certain exceptional circumstances, an injunction may condition future use upon payment of a reasonable royalty.
- In cases involving the willful and malicious misappropriation of a trade secret, punitive damages may be awarded in an amount not exceeding twice that awarded for actual damages and unjust enrichment.
- An award of attorney’s fees and/or “reasonable” expert fees if: (i) willful and malicious misappropriation exists; (ii) a claim of misappropriation is made in bad faith; or (iii) a motion to terminate an injunction is made or resisted in bad faith.
It remains to be seen how the passage of the NJTSA will affect business competition in New Jersey, but the enhanced protections offered by the Act and the availability of attorney’s fees, expert fees and punitive damages will hopefully deter frivolous litigation and the theft of trade secrets.