As businesses struggle to navigate the new reality created by Covid-19, there are a few things to keep in mind both in the short and long term, when it comes to privacy and security.

Security & WFH.

With employees working remotely, now more than ever organizations are at risk of cybersecurity incidents. Malicious players will seek to exploit increased vulnerabilities in this age of WFH, and with IT teams scrambling to ensure that all of their employees can connect remotely and remain productive, some of the most obvious risks should not be overlooked:

  • A large number of organizations had not anticipated the need for laptops or other devices for ALL of their employees. As such, many workers across the country are now using their personal devices to perform their jobs, which may include handling proprietary and/or personal information. However, a number of these personal devices will not only lack some of the basic security tools and software (e.g., firewalls or antivirus software) and controls on what can be downloaded, but may also already contain some unsavory software or applications that increase the risk or malware distribution. In fact, some personnel may shortcut and use personal email accounts to transfer documents, which adds yet another level of risk, as further noted below. Add to this mix the exchange, transfer, and processing of proprietary and personal information, and this could lead to some very problematic unintended or unauthorized disclosures.
  • To connect and get work done, workers need a WiFi network, and unfortunately, some employees may be using unsecured WiFi networks. This could potentially be a very big problem if employees are accessing information via an unsecured or vulnerable WiFi network – such as a neighbor’s unsecure network. Some of the many risks of using unsecured WiFi networks include eavesdropping – which enables malicious players to access and capture everything remote workers are doing online including login credentials, emails, and other or proprietary information – as well as exposure to malicious attacks. No doubt, it is important to ensure that employees are using secure WiFi networks coupled with company VPN’s to prevent any malicious scanning activity.
  • Many organizations lack specific policies that specifically warn employees NOT to use personal email or messaging applications lacking encryption when they exchange the organization’s confidential information. Some of these policies, also commonly referred to as “BYOD” policies, are intended to inform workers of what they can and cannot do with their devices. Consider Bob sending a personal email to a friend and colleague that Mike in marketing tested positive for COVID-19 (i.e., sensitive health information) or an employee transferring customer lists with personal data via unencrypted messages. WFH devices aside, employees should also be reminded not to toss confidential documents in household garbage bins, to turn off smart devices that are voice-activated, and to take calls that involve confidential information in a “private area” of the home. Failing to clarify policies with personnel is very risky. Now would be a good time to remind employees of how they should minimize these risks.

Ensuring that your organization’s  IT and legal teams are working closely together to develop policies and procedures will help identify and minimize these increasing cybersecurity risks.
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If it’s not already, security should be a top priority for all companies that collect and hold personal data. Companies subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), effective since January 1, should be even more concerned given the new consumer right of action in the event of certain security incidents, and the increase in class actions to which this will inevitably lead (more on that below).

And yet…

During a recent discussion with friends in the hospitality/travel industry, I was surprised to hear of shockingly poor security practices when they described how travelers’ information was shared and transmitted on a daily basis. I learned, for instance, that travelers’ information – especially when it comes to groups – is often sent in unprotected, unencrypted documents, such as excel spreadsheets or pdfs, to equally insecure email addresses, with multiple recipients copied. These documents, which circulate freely among various players in the ecosystem, contain hyper-sensitive information, such as passport numbers, credit card information, location, and travel dates and addresses. We are not talking about a name and a device ID, here, but troves of data that hackers would love to get their hands on.
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As part of our blog series, we share some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from organizations across different industries regarding data privacy and security, and more specifically GDPR and CCPA. This is the second FAQ in our series.


Even though the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) will be effective January 1, 2020, the time to plan for compliance is now.  It may seem as though you have plenty of time to prepare but it is a mistake to not start preparing. Indeed with the twelve-month lookback provisions, companies must have proper records of personal information that they collected as of January 1, 2019.

Under the CCPA, individuals have various new rights that must be detailed in a company’s just in time privacy notice (a new requirement under the Attorney General’s proposed regulations) and a company’s privacy policy, including the right to access their information, to request deletion of their information, to be informed of certain transfers of their information, to opt-out (if over 16) of or opt-in (if under 16) to sales of their information, and receive equal service and price even if they exercise their rights.

There are many nuanced questions to consider that may not be apparent on a cursory read of the CCPA or the proposed Attorney General regulations. Some basic common questions arise when companies first hear about the CCPA, as follows.
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Similar to the months before the GDPR went into effect at the end of May 2018, companies are now actively preparing for compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).  As California leads the pack of states in terms of privacy and technology laws, other states have followed suit, including Nevada.

The Nevada statute (SB 220) is an amendment to Nevada’s existing law, which requires website operators to have a privacy policy with certain disclosures.
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With schools starting this fall, one invariably will think about the safety of their children – both online and in the real world. There are numerous security programs and apps now that tout data security technology and online measures to keep students safer in the real world classroom. The technology generally markets itself as having the ability to predict the propensity of students to conduct acts of violence in schools. In order to do so, the software offered by these companies reads our kids’ emails and social media posts insofar as they are publicly available or sent through school networks. The technology contains certain key words and phrases that trigger alerts, which are then sent to the provider’s customer, typically schools. It sounds promising and is definitely optimistic given today’s climate, which I like. But are they really getting the full picture? If a message is privately sent between students on social media as opposed to a school’s network email, it seems that the software would not have access important information indicating a kid’s nefarious plans or potential harmful activities if it were included in private interaction. It is also questionable if the limited scope of the protection services offered by these companies is worth what we give up in terms of privacy. 
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