Articles Posted in Cybersecurity

Identity theft has been described as the use of one person’s identity by another to commit fraud. See Remsburg v. Docusearch, Inc. (2003) 149 N.H. 148, 155, 816 A.2d 1001, 1007.  This case was about an individual seeking personal information (e.g., date-of-birth, social security number, work address) about someone else from an internet-based investigation and information service company. Unfortunately, the culprit, who obtained the personal information, located and fatally shot the victim as she left work. Thereafter, the victim’s mother sued the defendants for negligence, invasion of privacy, and violation of the state consumer protection act. In response, the federal court issued an order of certification and outlined the following factual questions to be determined by the state Supreme Court:

(1) Under the common law of New Hampshire and in light of the undisputed facts presented by this case, does a private investigator or information broker who sells information to a client pertaining to a third party have a cognizable legal duty to that third party with respect to the sale of the information?

(2) If a private investigator or information broker obtains a person’s social security number from a credit reporting agency as a part of a credit header without the person’s knowledge or permission and sells the social security number to a client, does the individual whose social security number was sold have a cause of action for intrusion upon her seclusion against the private investigator or information broker for damages caused by the sale of the information?

The Information Age has brought many advantages for us all across the globe. Now, we can instantaneously communicate with each other by email or text messages. We can connect by using videoconferencing software and see each other in real time. We can send and receive files in a very efficient manner.

Our clients want to know if a cyberthreat can be prevented before it happens. The usual answer is that a complete prevention is not possible for several reasons. First, the technology that is being used may be susceptible for using legacy or open source technologies. In most cases, the network architecture is outdated and the electronic devices may not be able to properly communicate with each other. In other words, they are as smart as the least smart device within the framework. Second, most individuals do not update their software programs on a constant basis and do not participate in training programs. Third, the executive team of an organization must ensure that their technology experts understand and efficiently use the latest tools and techniques. Fourth, it has been proven that not one organization can have sufficient threat intelligence to fend off all kinds of cyberthreats by itself. As such, it is important to strive for real-time sharing of threat intelligence.

What Is a Cyberthreat and How Does It Happen?

We have discussed the Fifth Amendment’s application to encryption and biometric information in the past. So now, the purpose of this article is to discuss biometric privacy laws. The State of Illinois has already passed several pieces of legislation to regulate biometric privacy laws. For example, it has passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) which addresses the protective measures of biometric information. The statute defines biometric information as “any information, regardless of how it is captured, converted, stored, or shared, based on an individual’s biometric identifier used to identify an individual. Biometric information does not include information derived from items or procedures excluded under the definition of biometric identifiers.” It defines a biometric identifier as follows:

A retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry. Biometric identifiers do not include writing samples, written signatures, photographs, human biological samples used for valid scientific testing or screening, demographic data, tattoo descriptions, or physical descriptions such as height, weight, hair color, or eye color. Biometric identifiers do not include donated organs, tissues, or parts as defined in the Illinois Anatomical Gift Act or blood or serum stored on behalf of recipients or potential recipients of living or cadaveric transplants and obtained or stored by a federally designated organ procurement agency. Biometric identifiers do not include biological materials regulated under the Genetic Information Privacy Act. Biometric identifiers do not include information captured from a patient in a health care setting or information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Biometric identifiers do not include an X-ray, roentgen process, computed tomography, MRI, PET scan, mammography, or other image or film of the human anatomy used to diagnose, prognose, or treat an illness or other medical condition or to further validate scientific testing or screening.

However, these rules seem to miss the mark by imposing statutory damages and fee-shifting provisions on commercial organizations. As a result, the legislators have opened the floodgates to class action lawsuits. It is important to note that biometric technology has evolved in recent years and the statutes that have attempted to regulate the technology may be outdated. Also, the recently-developed biometric equipment are capable of transforming the biometric identifier into an encrypted format which makes it unreadable or unidentifiable. Therefore, this kind of advanced technology prevents the anticipated harm, and as such, the statutory provisions should be updated by the lawmakers.

Internet privacy laws have been implemented to protect us from legal violations. These laws are meant to protect us against cyber threats and data intrusions which are designed to extract personal or confidential information (e.g., intellectual properties, trade secrets) without authorization. Data privacy is paramount when it comes to the collection, use, and storage of personal or confidential information. However, not many are taking proper steps to ensure security. These steps can include encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and two-factor authentication.

It is important to realize that even though the criminals are not personally entering your private space or domain, however, they are still able to follow your digital footprints. These digital footprints can be followed by using special tools – e.g., keylogger – which can follow you without your knowledge and consent. Also, cookies can be used to follow you around in a clandestine manner.

What are the internet privacy rules or regulations?

In general, ransomware is a type of malware (i.e., malicious software) that is designed to take control of an electronic communication device, prevent its owner from accessing the electronic communication device, notify its owner that the electronic communication device has been held ransom, demand payment from the owner, and return access to electronic communication device after payment. There have been many instances of ransomware attacks when the hackers have taken control of a company’s servers and prevented its employees from accessing the network and database servers. The hackers would notify the employees by email and demand payment of funds in order to return access to their computers. Now, in some instances, a payment was necessary, but in some exceptional cases the company owners can have an advantage over the hackers and not be required to transfer the funds.

There are several types of ransomware. First, there are applications that fall under the category of scareware and intended to create fear for the recipients and force them to purchase unnecessary software. Second, there is prankware which is intended to cause fear by sending unanticipated pictures, sounds, or videos. For example, NightMare was a type of prankware that would remain dormant on the recipient’s computer and launch itself by changing the computer screen to a skull and playing a loud noise. Third, there is a group of crypto-ransomware named as GPCode or PGPCoder that claims to use PGP encryption to prevent file access. So, in other words, it’s a virus that encrypts files on the infected computer and demands a ransom to release access to the encrypted files. The hackers have been able to become more effective with their tools. The new generation of this type of ransomware denies user access to files by writing encrypted files to a new location and deleting the original file. However, this strategy was ineffective since a file restoration would allow the victim to recover the files. Fourth, CryptoLocker became the new generation of ransomware. It shares similar distribution models of previous ransomware variants and relied on phishing attacks with portable executable attachments. It would install itself on the user’s profile folder and add a registry key to run on startup to maintain persistence. Then, it would start to communicate with the command and control server to generate an RSA-2048 key pair and send the public key to the victim host.

What are the relevant laws?

Cloud computing has become the normal protocol to store data for most individuals and businesses. The fact that online storage is cheaper these days has contributed to the expansion of this technology. There are numerous companies out there that provide cloud storage facilities which may be inside or outside of your jurisdiction. Now, the question is why is that important at all? Well, the answer is because the laws of each jurisdiction may be different when it comes to interstate commerce and cybersecurity. This is one good reason to make sure you read and understand the cloud service provider’s terms and conditions before you sign up. There will be provisions that can help you understand your rights and responsibilities. For example, where and how the parties can resolve their disputes? Also, the laws of which state will be used to resolve the dispute? The answers will be in the venue, choice of law, or governing law provisions. In some cases, the cloud service provider includes an arbitration clause which requires the parties to resolve their dispute through arbitration.

There are various cloud computing platforms that allow the users to send and receive information. So, obviously the users should use precautions when transferring data towards the cloud service provider. For example, it’s recommended to encrypt the data before transferring it. Also, it’s a good idea to confirm that data integrity will be protected after the transfer. The users should also have a functioning backup of their files in a safe place in case the data is lost, stolen, or destroyed.

The Privacy Shield Program applies to cloud computing platforms that do business with other countries – e.g., European Commission, Switzerland. This program is administered by the International Trade Administration (ITA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce and enables U.S.-based organizations to join the Privacy Shield Frameworks. For example, a U.S.-based organization must self-certify to the Department of Commerce and commit to the Framework’s requirements. It’s not mandatory to join the Privacy Shield Program, but once the organization makes the public commitment to comply with the Framework’s requirements, the commitment will become legally enforceable. The participating organization will receive the following benefits:

Part I: DMV Sale of Personal Information

A group has investigated and allegedly found that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has earned more than $50 million by selling personal information of drivers to third parties without consent. This data may include names, addresses, and registration information. The DMV claims on its website that it does not sell information to advertisers or marketers for advertising or direct marketing purposes. It also claims that:

Most information acquired by the DMV is subject to public inspection under Vehicle Code Section 1808. Other statutes, regulations or laws governing subpoenas, discovery for litigation, Public Records Act requests, and commercial requestor requester accounts also apply to information gathered at this website. However, various provisions of law do prohibit or restrict the disclosure of certain electronically transmitted information such as social security numbers, residence addresses, and credit card accounts numbers. DMV also uses the information gathered on this website to help improve this website. For example, by tracking the number of website visitors, the date of visit, and the pages visited, DMV can balance resources so that the maximum number of visitors can obtain needed information. Additionally, by tracking what visitor software is being used (e.g. browser) DMV can avoid using features that visitors can not view or use.

Quantum computing technology will be affecting most of us in a direct or indirect way. We have stated in a prior article that: “A quantum computer is a highly-advanced computer system that works exponentially faster than today’s conventional computers. Quantum computing is the practice of studying quantum computers and their potential. This practice is growing and has caused the rapid decrease in the size of computers at the same time as these systems are rapidly increasing in their capability.”

Now, quantum computing has become a reality and technology companies have launched projects in order to compete in this sector. The question is how quantum computers will affect us.

First, since quantum computers are faster than conventional computers, they can break passwords or decrypt encryptions in a shorter time. This has caused concern over privacy and security which has forced companies to invest in quantum resistant cryptography. This technology and its potential ramifications on encrypted networks will also affect EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which outlines the rules and regulations for protecting unauthorized access. The United States government has also reacted and Congress has passed H.R. 6227 in order to implement the National Quantum Initiative Act that states as follows:

There have been cases where spammers have transmitted spam via email and text messages. These messages can include improper content, propaganda, hidden messages, and malware (e.g., virus, trojan, ransomware, adware, spyware). The spammers use the Internet Service Provider’s and user’s bandwidth to disseminate spam which results in bandwidth saturation, lost productivity, and other complications.

What is spam?

Spam is unsolicited commercial email advertisement that is sent towards recipients by third parties. An “unsolicited commercial email advertisement” means a commercial email advertisement that: (1) The recipient has not provided direct consent to receive advertisements from the advertiser; and (2) The recipient does not have a preexisting or current business relationship with the advertiser.

Internet of Things is more extensive than the Internet itself. It constitutes the combination of all electronic devices that are connected on the web and are able to communicate with each other. It is different from the Internet because it is essentially governed by information that is stored by electronic devices without human intervention. Now, smart devices can be connected through complex network systems and embedded sensors. These smart devices include, phones, refrigerators, thermostats, automobiles, or pills that allow medical professionals monitor a patient’s health status. These technological advancements enable smart devices to communicate in real time and promote the process of developing a more intelligent environment.

Artificial Intelligence is the intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. It allows machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks.  It relies heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. It uses neural networks which are a combination of software and hardware devices that are designed to emulate the operation of neurons in the human brain.

Smart Dust is a system of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) such as sensors or robots that detect light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, or chemicals. They are usually operated on a computer network wirelessly and distributed over an area to perform tasks by sensing through radio-frequency identification. This technology is able to collect and transmit data which can be uploaded to the cloud or other remote location.