Articles Posted in Technology

Published on:

In March 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack occurred which was believed to be one of the largest ransomware attacks in history. Discussions of this past attack and who should take the blame has been previously discussed in our blog and newsletter. Now, just a few months later there has been another major cyberattack. At the end of June 2017, another large ransomware attack occurred, which has been called Petya. This ransomware attack is similar to WannaCry in that it locks up the computer files using encryption and demands a ransom in order to unlock the files. This ransomware also takes advantage of the vulnerability within the Microsoft Windows computers that have not yet updated to the latest software.

This attack began in Europe and spread to the United States. The North American Treaty Organization (NATO) says that a “state actor” was behind the Petya ransomware attack. NATO also stated that there is a possibility that the attack was not done by a state actor, but that it would have been done by a non-state actor who had the approval and support from another state. They believe this because Petya was very complex and expensive to run.  According to NATO, if it is found that Petya was done by a state actor, then it would mean that this cyberattack could potentially be viewed as an act of war.

The Petya attack has hit over 12,000 different devices in 65 countries. More than 30% of the institutions that were affected by this attack were financial organizations.  Industrial organizations, such as, utilities, oil and gas, transportation, and other companies were also targeted and it is believed that they made up half of the targets.

Published on:

The United States Supreme Court has accepted a new case that implicates cell-phone location privacy. The case of Carpenter v. United States was decided by the Sixth Circuit and now the Supreme Court will issue a decision in the future as to whether the lower court’s decision was correct. The main issue in this case is that the court will be deciding whether or not the warrantless search and seizure of historical cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of a 127-day period is permitted by the Fourth Amendment.  In general, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also implicates the laws regarding search warrants, wiretaps, other forms of surveillance and is central to privacy laws.

What are the case facts?

In 2011, four men were arrested because they were suspected of committing a string of armed robberies at T-Mobile and Radio Shack in the Detroit area. One of the four men confessed to the crimes and told the police that a shifting group of 15 other men served as getaway drivers and lookouts. The one man who confessed gave his phone number along with the phone numbers of some of the other participants to the FBI. The FBI then reviewed the call records of the man who confessed and were able to identify the phone numbers of others that he had called around the time of the robberies.

Published on:

Identity theft is an epidemic impacting people across America. During 2016, an estimated 15.4 million consumers experienced some kind of identity theft. This is an increase from 13.1 million in 2015. Another staggering statistic is that 1 in every 16 adults in the United States is a victim of identity theft.

This increase in identity theft notwithstanding the fact that 2016 was the first year that retailers were forced to accept EMV chip cards. The belief was that by switching to these EMV chip cards it would almost entirely eliminate card cloning, which is a major type of identity theft.  Instead of lessening the amount of credit card fraud this switch has made criminals move away from card cloning and into different types of fraud. More criminals are starting to make online purchases where swiping or inserting a physical card is no longer necessary.

Over the past few years, we have seen numerous data breaches. Data breaches have been hitting financial, health, commercial, government, and education institutions. These breaches have ranged from password management services like LastPass, the OneLogin security breach, and Target security breach.  All of these different breaches compromise our data and our identity. The above companies are just a few that have been hit by a security breach.

Published on:

OneLogin recently suffered from a major security breach. This breach has compromised private and confidential information, which is managed by its datacenter. OneLogin provides a service that is used by organizations to secure their data. It is basically a password manager for corporations. It allows employees, customers, and partners to gain secure access to the company’s cloud and applications on any device.  It allows its customers to integrate other websites and services like Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Webex, LinkedIn, and Google Analytics. The OneLogin website says that it currently has over 2,000 enterprise customers across 44 different countries. This includes well-known companies like Indeed, Pinterest, Midas, and Yelp.

How did this breach occur?

The breach occurred because the intruders were able gain unauthorized access to the OneLogin datacenter. Alvaro Hoyos, who leads the company’s risk management, security, and compliance efforts posted a blog about the risks. He wrote that a threat actor used one of our AWS keys to gain access to the AWS platform via API from an intermediate host with another, smaller service provider in the United States.  He said his company’s staff was able to detect and stop the intrusion very quickly.

Published on:

After this month’s discussion on the statutes that prohibit the unauthorized access of email accounts and digital assets, one might wonder how these statutes may apply in a case. However, in the lengthy saga of Facebook v. Power Ventures, the Ninth Circuit issued a determination giving a bright line example of what would not be permissible under the law. So, how did Power Ventures violate these unlawful access laws? How did they attempt to move around the laws? What was Facebook’s argument, that has thus-far prevailed in the courts?

Case History

This case focuses on Power’s use of Facebook through the actions of other users.  Power, a type of social media aggregator, would allow users to “link” Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts to permit control from a single website.  From there, Power would “scrape” data under the permission of the Facebook users.  However, this was against Facebook’s terms and conditions.  Power would also invite users to invite others in spam-like messages, as well as deploying bots.  This ultimately resulted in an IP-based ban against Power. Yet, Power evaded those bans and defied a cease and desist letter, prompting Facebook to sue based on CAN-SPAM, Penal Code 502, and CFAA.

Published on:

What happens to a person’s digital assets when he or she passes away? They still have email, social media, and bank accounts.  This could be an uncomfortable topic.  However, any unauthorized access to a person’s online account that is password protected will constitute a violation of state or federal law.  For example, checking on a deceased relative’s emails or wrapping up any lingering business is forbidden as it can violate Section 2511 (unlawful interception) or Section 2701 (unlawful access).  Yet, California, in hopes to give an acceptable bit of leeway to the federal law has passed a new statute.  So, what is this statute? How might it allow you to take care of the lingering communications of decedents? What can a person do?

Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act

The Act allows an individual to use either an online tool to give access to online data or digital assets, including, but not limited to, electronic communications. In the absence of a tool, a trustee, personal representative, or other fiduciary, could be named via a will or other instrument.  While this doesn’t impair the terms-of-use, it does allow a custodian (a/k/a “service provider”) to grant the fiduciary either full access to an account, sufficient access to complete the necessary task, or access to physical copies of digital assets.  Naturally, a service provider can charge for this task and does not need to disclose deleted assets.

Published on:

In addition to California’s precautions against unauthorized email access, there are additional Federal measures to protect privacy. Compared to state measures, this gives another way for an individual to seek legal remedies in a federal court. This is broken up into three different statutes, as part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, first regarding wiretapping, unlawful access, and pen registers.  Yet, to a business only the first two have real consequence, with the final one applying in a narrower scope.  So, what is the difference between anti-wiretapping and unlawful access laws? Why might someone choose to sue under the wiretapping statute, but not unlawful access? Can either provision provide an individual the ability to recover for lost or misappropriated sensitive information from electronic mail?

Federal Laws

Federal wiretapping laws are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 2511, which focuses on prohibiting the intentional interceptions of electronic communication unless it is for valid government purposes. Yet, while it is called a wiretapping statute, it’s far more expansive. An unlawful interception would result in a fine and, at most, five years of imprisonment.  However, the civil remedies for a violation come from Section 2520, which allows equitable relief (e.g., injunction), punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.  The computation of damages is limited to the greater between the actual damages or statutory damages of $100/day for each day of violation or $10,000.

Published on:

This article discusses the remedies for unauthorized access to email in the State of California.  Now, email is an essential part of our lives and has been granted extensive protections in the state and federal spheres. Beyond that, it can occur in a variety of ways such as: (i) leaving an unlocked device on your desk; (ii) lending someone your email password; (iii) getting hacked by someone; or (iv) simply failing to properly update security on your device. Yet, what laws are in place to punish those who would unlawfully access an email account? What are the consequences? How might this help business owners protect their confidential information and intellectual properties?

California Laws

In California, there are statutes for computer crimes, which would prohibit individuals from unlawfully accessing another person’s email accounts.  For example, Penal Code 502 prohibits access without permission of computers, networks, internet websites, electronic mail, and similar things. Although, it should be noted that Penal Code 502 lists other criminal acts, such as knowing misuse of domain names, introductions of contaminants, and deletion of data.

Published on:

There are few things that you consider when forming a cybersecurity framework. Naturally, chief among them are the perpetrators such as hackers who engage in mysterious online threats by constantly adapting to new technology. These hackers might seem indomitable, clever, and always working to break down security.  Yet, this is not necessarily the case. What if the nature of the threat was different? What if anyone could become a top-level hacker without sufficient knowledge of computer programming? How might a business address this issue and anticipate a different threat?

What is the nature of the threat?

On the issue of hackers, while there are certainly those who have the skills to access systems, but they are not the only threat.  There are three kinds of hackers: First: “white-hat” hackers, who will hack to expose security flaws for a company. Second, “black-hat” hackers who hack to cause harm or gain profit. Third, “script kiddies” who are an offshoot of black-hat hackers. These script kiddies tend not to have the technical skills of a black-hat hacker. Instead, they rely on pre-existing tools that black-hat hackers disseminate. This allows a script kiddie to engage in a more advanced attack and cause harm. One particularly notorious instance occurred on February 7, 2000, where a 15-year old launched a massive DDoS attack using a slightly modified tool that was downloaded online.

Published on:

In our last blog post, we mentioned eBay, Inc. v. Bidder’s Edge, Inc. While the case wasn’t related directly to ransomware, it creates an important precedent for tort liability. Specifically, it supports the idea that common law torts can be carried out and applied in the digital world.  So, what does eBay give us as a legal theory? How might it get applied to ransomware in a hypothetical case? What is the likelihood of succeeding on such a case?

Case Analysis: eBay, Inc. v. Bidder’s Edge, Inc.

In this case, eBay sued Bidder’s Edge for the use of a type of program known as a “spider” or “bot.” These programs would automatically go to eBay, search for information, and repost it on Bidder’s Edge. The purpose of this was to allow others to get better ideas of what to bid on items by searching multiple auction sites. While there were negotiations to allow Bidder’s Edge to access eBay, however, the negotiations broke down, and ultimately prompted the lawsuit.