LOS ANGELES—Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce that Michael A. Gold, co-chair of JMBM’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Group, has been recognized by the Daily Journal as one of California’s Top Cyber Lawyers.

As reported by the Daily Journal, his clients include companies that operate within large and complex data environments, particularly those with international operations and regulatory challenges.

In the Daily Journal’s profile, Gold said:

“Threats and exploits and hacks are existential problems for companies when they lead to lawsuits and regulatory investigations. Nobody takes this lightly, and part of my job is to help clients see a path forward.”

Read the full profile here.

Gold has been recognized as one of the “Most Influential Lawyers: Digital Media and E-Commerce Law” by the Los Angeles Business Journal, has been designated a “Top Rated Lawyer in Technology Law” by Martindale Hubbell, and was listed in the Daily Journal’s Top 20 Cyber – Artificial Intelligence Lawyers” in 2018. He is the co-publisher of the blog, Cybersecurity Lawyer Forum, a resource for lawyers, executives, boards of directors and IT professionals.

“Michael remains on the forefront of the dynamic cyber and technology issues that continue to impact businesses worldwide,” said Bruce Jeffer, JMBM’s managing partner. “He is a tremendous asset to our clients and to our firm.”

Many races and initiatives that California voters considered on November 3 are still undecided, but Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 (the “CPRA”) isn’t one of them. The California electorate approved Proposition 24 by a comfortable margin – 56% of Californians voted in favor.

Like its predecessor the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “CCPA”), the impact of the CPRA won’t be felt immediately. It goes into effect on January 1, 2023, and many of its provisions are unclear and will require study. But all businesses that have a presence in California will need to consider its requirements, and given the scope of the law, addressing its requirements early will be essential.

New Sheriff in Town

Perhaps the most significant development in the CPRA is the establishment of a new agency, the California Privacy Protection Agency, dedicated to handling enforcement and compliance with privacy regulations. This makes California the first state with an agency focused solely on enforcing privacy laws. This new agency will replace the California Attorney General in interpreting and enforcing the CCPA. The ultimate impact of the agency will develop as its members are selected and interpret its mandate, but it is clear from the CPRA that it has broad authority to bring civil and criminal actions.

Select Key Provisions

The CPRA is not an entirely new law – it is an extension and modification of the CCPA. It adds a number of new definitions and provisions that, in some cases, extend the scope of the CCPA and, in other cases, clarify the requirements of the CCPA. The result is that companies that already comply with the CCPA will need to revisit their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the CPRA. Key provisions include:

  • Sensitive Data. The CPRA adds a definition of “sensitive data,” which includes government-issued identifiers, account log-in credentials, financial account information, precise geolocation, contents of certain types of messages, genetic data, racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs, biometrics, health data, and data concerning sex life or sexual orientation, and allows consumers the ability to limit the use and disclosure of sensitive data.
  • Data Breach Liability. The liability for data breaches under the CCPA has been expanded to include a private right of action for unauthorized access or disclosure of an email address and password or security question that would permit access to an account if the business failed to maintain reasonable security. These kinds of breaches are common and raise the stakes for companies doing business in California. The CPRA also eliminates the 30-day cure period for bringing private actions – something that was more confusing than effective.
  • Annual Audits and Risk Assessments. Under regulations to be adopted by the new Agency, businesses that undertake high-risk processing will be required to have annual audits and regular risk assessments. In particular, such regulations would require businesses whose processing presents significant risks to consumer privacy or security to perform a thorough and independent cybersecurity audit annually.
  • Automated Processing Limitations. A new concept of “profiling” has been added to the CCPA, consisting of “any form of automated processing of personal information, . . . to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, and in particular to analyze or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behavior, location or movements.” The Privacy Agency is required to develop regulations addressing access and opt-out rights for this kind of technology, similar to the requirements of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
  • Right to Correct Inaccurate Data. The CPRA adds the right to correct consumer data to the existing rights of notice and deletion.
  • Limits on Sharing Personal Information. In addition to restrictions on the sale of personal information, the CPRA extends many of those limits to the “sharing” of personal information. This change will expand the obligations of companies to comply with opt-out and similar requests.
  • Data Minimization. Similar to the GDPR, the CPRA adds concepts of data minimization, requiring companies to limit the personal information they collect to the type of information that is necessary for their operations, and to inform consumers of the length of time the business intends to retain each category of personal information and sensitive personal information, or the criteria used to determine that period.
  • Service Providers, Contractors and Third Parties. The CPRA places new contractual and direct obligations on service providers, contractors and third parties. In particular, the CPRA adds and revises existing definitions in the CCPA, and adds a new definition for contractors, which focuses on the business providing data pursuant to a written contract, prohibiting the contractor from sharing or selling the personal data, processing it for any purposes other than those specified in the contract or combining it with data received or collected through other means, with some limited exceptions. Moreover, the CPRA contractually extends the data protection obligations of the act to service providers, contractors and third parties, and requires service providers and contractors to cooperate with and assist businesses in providing requested personal information in response to consumer requests, and complying with correction or deletion requests. As we learned from the CCPA, an effective date in two years is a short time when it comes to compliance with complex privacy laws. Companies that have taken steps to comply with the CCPA will need to take concrete steps to comply with the CPRA, including:

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Are your cybersecurity management practices reasonable? Do you know your risk tolerance? Are you covering all the cybersecurity bases that make up reasonable cybersecurity?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and other emerging laws require organizations to have “reasonable cybersecurity practices.” The challenge is that there is no accepted definition of exactly what “reasonable” means.

Addressing this challenge, Robert Braun, co-chair of JMBM’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Group, will participate as a panelist for the online interactive program Cybersecure LA2020: A Reasonable Approach to Reasonable Security sponsored by SecureTheVillage.

There is no one size fits all: Whatever “reasonable” is to mean, it must – at the very least – take into account the particular circumstances of the organization and the information it possesses. It would clearly be unreasonable, for example, to hold a small manufacturing company or nonprofit to the same standard as a large bank.

Join SecureTheVillage at CybersecureLA 2020 and learn how to think through your organization’s particular cybersecurity and privacy circumstances … the information you must protect … the laws and regulations governing protection … your own corporate risk-tolerance … and integrate these together into an information security management program that’s reasonable for your organization.

Register Now

Date:   Wednesday, October 28th

Time:   2:30 – 5:00 pm Pacific Time

Who should attend:  Board members. C-Level Executives. CFOs, Chief Risk Officers, Chief Information Security Officers. Anyone in the organization with management responsibility for information security. Trusted advisors.

Learn by doing: CybersecureLA 2020 is organized as an interactive workshop, taking advantage of online event capabilities including small group discussion, polls, surveys, and interactive Q&A.

You will learn to:

  1. Identify your cyber-risk exposure
  2. Explore your cyber-risk tolerance
  3. Know the key elements of reasonable cybersecurity
  4. Leave with a well-defined process to follow in identifying what reasonable security is for your organization.

Register Now For This Informative Program

Robert E. Braun is the co-chair of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Law Group at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. Bob helps clients to develop and implement privacy and information security policies, negotiate agreements for technologies and data management services, and comply with legal and regulatory requirements. He helps clients to develop and implement data breach response plans, and he and his team respond quickly to clients’ needs when a data breach occurs. Contact Bob at RBraun@jmbm.com or +1 310.785.5331.

About JMBM’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Group counsels clients in a wide variety of industries, including accounting firms, law firms, business management firms and family offices, in matters ranging from development of cybersecurity strategies, creation of data security and privacy policies, responding to data breaches and regulatory inquiries and investigations, and crisis management. The Cybersecurity and Privacy Group uses a focused intake methodology that permits clients to get a reliable sense of their cybersecurity readiness and to determine optimal, client-specific approaches to cybersecurity.

On September 29, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an amendment (AB 1281) that extends the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) partial employee and business-to-business exemptions through December 31, 2021. The extended exemptions may provide some relief to businesses struggling to comply with changing local, state and federal COVID-19 requirements.

Partial Employee and B2B Exemptions

The amendment extended the exception for businesses from complying with certain CCPA requirements with respect to the personal information of California employees, applicants and business contacts.

The partial employee exemption specifically exempts personal information that is collected by a business about a person in the course of the person acting as a “job applicant to, an employee of, owner of, director of, officer of, medical staff member of, or contractor of” the business to the extent that the personal information is collected and used solely within the employment context. The exemption also applies to personal information used for emergency contact purposes, as well information that is necessary to administer employment benefits.

Under the exemption, employers are still required to inform employees and applicants, at or before the time of collection, of the categories of personal information to be collected and the purposes for which the information will be used (i.e., a “notice at collection”). Further, employers are not exempt from the “duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices.” And employees and applicants retain the private right of action in the event that certain of their personal information is subject to a data breach.

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The Blackbaud Breach

In July of this year, Blackbaud, a U.S. based cloud computing provider and one of the world’s largest providers of administration, fundraising, and financial management software, notified its clients that it had discovered and stopped a ransomware attack.  In a public statement, Blackbaud described the attack:

In a ransomware attack, cybercriminals attempt to disrupt the business by locking companies out of their own data and servers. After discovering the attack, our Cyber Security team—together with independent forensics experts and law enforcement—successfully prevented the cybercriminal from blocking our system access and fully encrypting files; and ultimately expelled them from our system. Prior to our locking the cybercriminal out, the cybercriminal removed a copy of a subset of data from our self-hosted environment.  . . .  Because protecting our customers’ data is our top priority, we paid the cybercriminal’s demand with confirmation that the copy they removed had been destroyed. Based on the nature of the incident, our research, and third party (including law enforcement) investigation, we have no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused; or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly. . . . The subset of customers who were part of this incident have been notified and supplied with additional information and resources.

Since its July announcement, nonprofit organizations throughout the world have issued their own notices of breach to their stakeholders, relying in large part on Blackbaud’s description of the breach.

Key Takeaways from the Breach

While data breaches are an almost daily occurrence, the Blackbaud breach is notable for a couple of reasons.  First, even though it was able to prevent the ransomware attack, the cybercriminal exfiltrated unencrypted data from Blackbaud’s servers, in reaction to which Blackbaud elected to pay a ransom for the criminal’s agreement to destroy the data – given the reliability of criminals, a somewhat dubious promise.  The response indicates that Blackbaud was threatened with a new, but increasingly common, tactic in ransomware attacks – the cybercriminal will couple a ransomware attack with theft of data, and threaten to make the data public unless it receives payment.  As more and more companies are able to reconstruct compromised systems through backups and other means, cybercriminals have found a new way to monetize their attacks.

More importantly, the fact that this breach created a waterfall of breach disclosures reflects the impact of vendors on today’s data environment.  Blackbaud provides comprehensive data, financial management, fundraising, payment, and other services to schools, museums, faith communities, foundations, healthcare organizations and nonprofit organizations, and those entities rely on Blackbaud for critical functions that are essential to their missions.

The Role of Vendors

Firms increasingly rely on vendors for data management functions. The 2018 Ponemon Institute survey of data breaches reported that that at least 56% percent of organizations participating in the survey experienced a data breach due to a vendor’s security shortcomings.  At the same time, companies are increasingly reliant on vendors – a recent Bomgar survey reported that, on average, companies allow 89 vendors to access their networks weekly, and that 71% of respondents expect to become more reliant on third parties in the coming years. Continue reading

Shrems II – Groundhog Day, All Over Again

Past is Prologue

One of the keys to the European’s Union data protection regime has been the prohibition against transferring personal data from EU countries to jurisdictions that do not have regimes that, in the determination of the EU, provide adequate protection to consumers. Beginning in 2000 the U.S. – EU Safe Harbor Framework allowed U.S. companies to certify their compliance with EU data protection requirements, and facilitated the transfer of data between the EU and the U.S. On October 6, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Union’s highest court, overturned the Safe Harbor Framework. In response, the EU and the U.S., primarily through the Department of Commerce, developed International Safe Harbor Privacy Principles, commonly called the “Privacy Shield,” and a more robust framework was adopted, allowing substantially the benefits of the Safe Harbor.

On July 16, 2020, the CJEU held that the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield arrangement — which includes more than 53,000 participating companies — is invalid. The CJEU said in a press release that, in the court’s view, “the limitations on the protection of personal data arising from the domestic law of the United States on the access and use by U.S. public authorities … are not circumscribed in a way that satisfies requirements that are essentially equivalent to those required under EU law, by the principle of proportionality, in so far as the surveillance programmes based on those provisions are not limited to what is strictly necessary.” The Court also said that the United States ombudsman is neither independent enough, nor has adequate authority, to provide an effective cause of action to guarantee the protections under EU laws and regulations.

In particular, the court said that the ombudsperson mechanism in the U.S. — a role created by the Privacy Shield arrangement — “does not provide data subjects with any cause of action before a body which offers guarantees” at the level of EU law. The CJEU said the ombudsperson, which sits under the U.S. Department of State, is neither empowered nor independent at an adequate level.

Impact of the Decision

Like the invalidation of the Safe Harbor, the rejection of the Privacy Shield is likely to create substantial disruptions in data transfers, a key to international trade, until a resolution is found. It is hard to overstate the significance of this decision. The U.S. Commerce Department estimates that the value of the transatlantic economic market at $7.1 trillion, and that a multitude of companies, large and small, rely on the ability to transfer personal, employee and other data from the EU to the U.S. The impact on individual firms will be wide: Continue reading

Michael A. Gold, co-chair of JMBM’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Group, will host a panel of industry leading experts for the webinar, The Right Stuff: Validating Reasonable Information Security

Date: Thursday, June 18, 2020

Time: 10 AM – 11:15 AM PDT; 1 PM –  1:15 PM EDT

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Most organizations have never had to prove that they have reasonable information security. Business and legal pressures are changing this dramatically. The California Consumer Privacy Act exposes businesses that have been breached to serious financial liability when they do not have reasonable information security. With data breaches increasing in scope and damage regardless of the money spent on cybersecurity, businesses will need to validate – in effect prove – that they have reasonable information security in order to avoid financial, legal and reputational harm.

During this webinar, our panel of experts cover:

The meaning of reasonable information security: What is it? Why the established information security frameworks, such as NIST, ISO and CISO,  do not deliver reasonable information security; Why dynamic assessment of an organization’s information security posture is crucial; The impact of overlooked vulnerabilities in cloud and IoT environments.

The legal requirement for validating reasonable information security: The far-reaching impact of the California Consumer Privacy Act’s requirement for reasonable information security practices and procedures; Why the law is a precursor to similar requirements likely to be adopted by other states and the federal government; legal exposures arising from inability to validate reasonable information security.

The business and insurance imperatives for validating reasonable information security: Cyber insurance carriers will no longer take at face value an insured’s representations about its information security posture; Larger enterprises will decline to do business with companies that cannot validate the effectiveness of their information security measures; Regulated companies will no longer be permitted to self-certify their compliance with information security and privacy requirements. Continue reading

As a privacy and cybersecurity lawyer, I’m often asked by clients and potential clients about preparing a privacy policy – whether they need one, and how much it costs. And underlying the question is an assumption – privacy policies are really just formalities, and all they need to do is find the right form, or a competitor’s model, make sure to change the name and contact information, and they’re done.

They are right about one thing – any company that collects any kind of personal information needs a privacy policy. Laws throughout the world – not just in the United States, but in the European Union, Canada, Australia and elsewhere – have laws that require a privacy policy, some in great detail, others more generally. The California Online Privacy Protection Act, which went into effect in 2004, began this trend, and the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in California increased the details for privacy policies of companies under their jurisdiction, by requiring greater detail on the types of data collected, the uses of the data, and how consumers can limit the use of personal data.

There are also third parties that require privacy disclosures, including Google Analytics, a ubiquitous feature of commercial websites.

But they are wrong about what it takes to create a privacy policy. Using another company’s policy might be a starting place, but it takes much more. Assuming that all privacy policies are alike is a dangerous practice – if a company does not take the steps to ensure that the policy is accurate and complete, it increases, rather than limits, its liability. Companies must analyze their data collection practices and make sure that reality is reflected in the policy.

What is Included in a Privacy Policy?

While there are a wide variety of policies, they generally include some key elements:

  • Information about the business, including contact details;
  • The types of personal data that is collected;
  • How the data is used;
  • Whether and how it is shared with third parties; and
  • What does the company do to protect personal information?

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Robert E. Braun, chair of JMBM’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Group, will be the keynote speaker for the webinar, Privacy and Information Security – Best Practices and Imperatives.

Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Time: 2:00 PM Pacific Time

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Moving to the Cloud to Save Money

The Covid-19 pandemic has created profound challenges for almost every organization. As these challenges mount, companies are dramatically cutting their soft costs, including information security. Many companies are reducing their information security and privacy compliance spending by moving to the cloud. This is good, right? Maybe, and only if the move is managed in a well-informed way. Not asking the right questions up front can lead to serious consequences.

It is crucial to keep in mind that no information security or privacy law in existence today views being in the cloud, in and of itself, as constituting reasonable information security. Nor does any information security or privacy law view the cloud as a mitigating factor in the context of data breaches.

 Increasing Reliance on Cloud Computing

The use of cloud platforms has grown exponentially. One of the results of the work-at-home mandate, which will persist even as work restrictions are relaxed, is the continuing move to cloud computing, both because of the benefits of scalability and the dedicated IT and IS resources afforded by cloud vendors and also the need to conserve financial resources. It is difficult and expensive to maintain onsite information technology and information security operations and staff. Cloud computing reduces costs and increases accessibility.

Moving to the cloud, however, does not eliminate all risks – some hazards go away but others are introduced. Cloud environments are vulnerable if end-users fail to observe proper security hygiene – vulnerabilities at the end-user level will create vulnerabilities in the cloud environment. It is imperative as well that the cloud vendor has appropriate information security and privacy compliance measures in place. Many smaller cloud vendors and service providers who use the cloud have deficient information security and privacy compliance frameworks, assuming they have any in place at all. Many organizations, especially small and medium sized businesses, seldom evaluate whether their vendor’s cloud is a safe place to be.

Getting the move to a cloud environment right is crucial. The security and availability of an organization’s data is important for both operational and business continuity reasons. Moving to a cloud is no excuse for taking eyes off of information security or for lax privacy compliance. Continue reading