Why VPNs and Encryption Services Are Our Digital Masks and Gloves

By Jaren Butts and Nickeyea Wilkinson 

Thanks to social distancing mandates, teleconference platforms have experienced a huge surge in site traffic as new users around the world participate in telehealth, telework, and many other teleservices that have now been transitioned online.[1] As virtual capabilities become more important to our daily lives than ever before, now is also the time to focus on the importance of our daily digital hygiene by gearing up with VPN and encryption services in the same way as we do with our masks and gloves.

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Hey Health Plan, I Want _______ App to Have My Health Data!

By Sheila Spence and Nickeyea Wilkinson

On March 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized two rules (now released for publication in the Federal Register, as of April 21, 2020) intended to give patients additional access to their health data. The rules, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), implement interoperability and patient access provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act as well as the Administration’s MyHealthEData initiative.[1] The heart of CMS’ rule is to support data flowing freely and securely between payers, providers, and patients, and to truly achieve coordinated care, improved health outcomes, and reduced costs.[2]

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Educated Users Are the Best Defense Against Phishing And Ransomware

By Eva Lorenz 

Ransomware has been an ongoing threat to law firms for years.[1] Once impacted by this form of attack, law firms struggle with issues such as how to pay ransom, which often requires some form of cryptocurrency (e.g., bitcoin). Alternately, if the firm elects not to pay the ransom, the issue becomes how to provide continuous service to its clients while staff cannot access important files from a down computer network.

While ransomware is a more recent threat compared to other forms of malware, the delivery vehicle used for such attacks has been around for decades. Most ransomware attacks start with a phishing email. Prior to ransomware, most phishing emails captured account credentials that attackers then repurposed for spam attacks. But with the advent of ransomware, attackers found a more lucrative outlet for their “creative” ideas. Studies predict there will be a ransomware attack on businesses every 14 seconds by the end of 2019, and by 2021, it’s projected that attacks will increase to every 11 seconds.[2] Educating users not to click on phishing emails is more important than ever and is a critical first step in preventing ransomware attacks. But what is the most effective way to train users to avoid the 1.5 million new phishing sites that are created each month?[3] In addition to regular security awareness training that explains how to pick a strong password, companies should amend their training to include phishing awareness.

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Fight Hunger, Help Others in the COVID-19 Pandemic – Participate in the Legal Feeding Frenzy and Support Your Local Food Bank!

Michele Livingstone

Will Quick

By Michele Livingstone and Will Quick

We are in unprecedented times with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  It is now more important than ever that we help our neighbors and those who are not as fortunate. I am confident that each of you is doing your part.

Even in the best of times, however, over 1.5 Million North Carolinians struggle with hunger—of those, nearly half a million are children. With public schools and many religious and nonprofit organizations that traditionally serve the food insecure in our communities being closed for indefinite periods, and government leaders calling for social distancing to help limit the spread of Coronavirus, that need is never more pressing than now.

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A Message from the Chair of the NCBA Privacy and Data Security Section

By Alex Pearce

Greetings Privacy and Data Security Section members!  It’s hard to believe we’re more than halfway through our inaugural year as a Section.

Following the Section Council’s February meeting, I wanted to provide an update on the Section’s activities and highlight some opportunities for members to get involved in the Section’s work.

Annual Meeting and CLE – Planners Needed

On October 24, 2019 the Section held its first Annual Meeting and CLE at the Bar Center in Cary.  The meeting was jam-packed with useful content and was well-received by attendees.  Thanks again to the speakers and to Karin McGinnis and Kate Kliebert, the co-chairs of the CLE committee, for their work in making the program a resounding success.

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Was 2019 the “Year of Privacy” in the U.S.? (Or Will It Be 2020?)

By Matt Cordell

What a year it has been!  As one year closes and another begins, let us take a moment to reflect on the significance of 2019.  It may not be an exaggeration to say that 2019 brought some of the most important changes in privacy and data security law that most of us have seen in our professional careers.

Yet, with all the momentum toward heightened consumer data protection, there remain conspicuous absences: Congress again considered, and again failed to deliver, a comprehensive privacy and data security bill.  The North Carolina General Assembly declined to meaningfully revise the State’s core privacy and cybersecurity statute (the Identity Theft Protection Act or ITPA); House Bill 904, the most recent incarnation of Representative Jason Saine’s and Attorney General Josh Stein’s bipartisan update to the ITPA, languishes in the General Assembly.  The General Assembly did, however, approve some modest updates to the data security laws affecting North Carolina government entities, in HB 217/SL 2019-200, giving the State Chief Information Officer greater oversight of State agencies’ cybersecurity controls.

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Equifax and the Increasing Role of State Attorneys General in Data Privacy Regulation and Enforcement

By Will Quick

In June of this year, Alex Pearce and Sean Fernandes wrote on this blog about the increasing role of state AGs in data security enforcement actions.  Boy were they right!

Just a month later, on July 22, 2019, the attorneys general of fifty U.S. states and territories, including North Carolina, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a settlement with Equifax, Inc., following what has been reported as the largest-ever breach of consumer data in the U.S.[1]

The Equifax Breach

In September 2017, Equifax, one of the “big three” consumer reporting agencies, announced a data breach affecting more than 147 million consumers—a number that represents nearly half of the population of the United States.  The information reportedly exposed included consumers’ names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers, and driver’s license numbers.

Attorneys general from the across the U.S. moved quickly to organize a coalition to undertake a multi-state investigation of the breach in conjunction with federal regulators.  The investigation found that Equifax had failed to implement adequate security measures to protect consumers’ sensitive personal information.[2]

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NCBA Privacy and Data Security Section 2019 Annual Meeting

By Karin M. McGinnis

On behalf of your NCBA Privacy & Data Security Section, we would like to invite you to attend the Section’s 2019 Annual Meeting, to be held at the NC Bar Center in Cary on Thursday, October 24.

Whether you’re an experienced privacy and data security practitioner, an attorney hoping to learn more about this exciting area of practice, or a general practitioner looking to be prepared when a client inevitably calls with a data privacy concern, this CLE provides valuable insight from seasoned experts on the current privacy landscape. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss!

Join your fellow Privacy & Data Security colleagues for a day of interesting and timely CLE presentations including:

  • ·         Update of US Data Privacy Law
  • ·         GDPR – A Year Later and Beyond
  • ·         Privacy & Technology and the Lawyer (ethics and tech credit!)
  • ·         Mock Data Breach

During lunch we have a Keynote Speaker, Representative Saine – “A Legislative Perspective on Cyber Security and Identity Theft in North Carolina.”

For more information or to register click here.

Also, Wednesday, October 23, join us for a Reception at The Oak in Raleigh. Be on the lookout for an invitation!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Welcome To the NCBA Privacy and Data Security Section’s Inaugural Year

By Alex Pearce

Dear Members of the Privacy and Data Security Section:

It is my privilege to serve as the chair of the Privacy and Data Security Section during the 2019-2020 bar year.  Following our inaugural Section Council meeting on July 31, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the Section and provide updates on the Section’s work and upcoming events.

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The Medical Informatics HIPAA Settlement: Implications for the Future of State Data Security Enforcement

By Alex Pearce and Sean Fernandes

Last month, the attorneys general (“AGs”) of sixteen states, including North Carolina, settled a multistate HIPAA enforcement lawsuit against Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE), a cloud-based electronic health records vendor.

The lawsuit was the first time that state AGs have joined together to pursue a HIPAA-related data breach case in federal court.

This post explores the case, State of Indiana v. Medical Informatics Engineering, and its potential implications for future state data security enforcement efforts.

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