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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.


AlertBoot Endpoint Security

AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

January 2017 - Posts

  • Third Circuit Appellate Court Says “OK” To Data Breach Lawsuit

    Recently, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded that "the improper disclosure of one's personal data in violation of FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act] is a cognizable injury for Article III standing purposes."

    In other words, people can go to court over data breaches and data breaches alone; there is no need to show that you were adversely affected by events following a data breach (for example, by proving that your data was misused by hackers).

    Of course, this doesn't guarantee that an individual will win in court. However, it does mean that anyone whose personal information was stolen as part of a data breach can, at least, see the inside of a court. For the past ten years or so, most (if not all) judges ruled that plaintiffs in such lawsuits didn't have "standing" and their cases were "summarily dismissed" from court. That's a fancy way of saying that the courts booted the cases and moved on to other stuff.

    When it comes to lawsuits revolving data breaches where personal information was compromised, this won't be happening anymore in the Third Circuit – which covers Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Hopefully, other districts will begin to see data breaches in the same light.  

    Theft of Unencrypted Laptops

    What led to this legal development? It started in 2013, with the theft of two laptops, Apple Macintoshes to be precise. These computers contained personal and medical information. Encryption was not used despite the fact that full disk encryption comes gratis on all Apple computers made since 2003. Not an ounce of hyperbole is added when I observe that the performance of a Mac is unaffected by the use of said encryption. Plus, since these were already "password-protected," users didn't have to jump through any additional "security hoops" to use their computers.

    Over 800,000 people were affected by the data breach. Oops.

    The owner of these laptops? Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, a company that's been involved in laptop-related data breaches before.

    Apparently, the only security was the cable lock that tied the laptops to their desks, and the computers' location on the eighth floor of Horizon's headquarters. Under HIPAA, this could have been perfectly adequate security.

    However, from the FCRA standpoint, it isn't. As the Third Circuit pointed out, the law behind FCRA focuses on consumer privacy. The fact that one's personal information has been transferred to persons unknown (that is, the data was easily accessible once the machines were stolen) means the company is potentially in violation of FCRA. The use of encryption, of course, could have laid this to rest three years ago, when the laptops were stolen. Instead, here we are.

    If things continue in this course, we could see a greater number of companies taking a careful look at the use of encryption, or lack thereof. Unlike federal laws and regulations like HIPAA that are limited in scope, or the patchwork of state laws that supposedly govern data security and privacy – which also fall prey to "standing" issues – FCRA affects many companies across many sectors.  


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  • UK Encryption: Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Fined £150,000 For Stolen Hard Drive

    The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined an insurance company, Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA), a total of £150,000 for the theft of an external storage device with information on nearly 60,000 clients (and credit card details for 20,000 people).  

    Stolen From a Locked Room

    Unlike your run-of-the-mill hard drive theft cases, there are a number of wrinkles to RSA's data breach. To begin with, the external storage device in this case is a NAS (a network attached storage device).
    NASes are like external hard drives but also so much more. One of their key differentiators to the lay person is their size: despite the modern device's emphasis on miniaturization, the modern NAS is still pretty big, considering. It's not unlikely for them to be about as big as a Nintendo Cube (or bigger). Due to its physical size, it's not possible to surreptitiously steal one of these babies; some thought and strategy, possibly pre-planning, is needed when stealing such a device.
    The other wrinkle is that the NAS was stored in a data server room which can only be accessed with "an access card and key," leading to the belief that staff or visiting contractors stole the NAS.
    In other words, it wouldn't have been easy to steal the device.
    And yet, as subsequent events have shown, it would not have been impossible, either. While NASes can offer file encryption, the stolen machine's data was not encrypted – either because this particular NAS didn't offer it or because someone in IT did not deem it worthwhile; excusable, some may think, since it was under lock and key.  


    Well, it wasn't excusable. Far from it, as the six-figure fine shows. It's one thing for your average Joe to not encrypt his sizable storage device that he keeps locked up. A multinational insurance company, on the other hand, has responsibilities, and keeping the same data security practices as your average Joe is contemptible.
    Especially when you consider that up to 40 people were allowed unsupervised access to the room storing the NAS, or that nobody realized that the device had gone missing for over two months.
    This is exactly the type of situation where you want any sensitive data to be encrypted.  

    Giving a Break Where They Shouldn't

    Only the ICO knows how the fine's final amount was calculated. However, they note under "mitigating features" that the "personal data held on the device was not easily accessible."
    There must be some confusion here, since the lack encryption makes access to the data quite easy. It's true that you probably can't just access the information directly from a computer; however, a simple search in Google will provide more than helpful links for getting to the data, instructions that your average middle-schooler can follow while half-asleep.
    Imagine what staff or contractors that were given access to a data server room, literally a room where techie types go into, could do with access to the internet and a few keystrokes.  


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  • Netherlands Officially Files 5,500 Breach Notifications In 2016

    The Personal Data Protection Authority of the Netherlands (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens, "AP") revealed last week that they received nearly 5,500 data breach notifications in 2016, the first year of mandatory data breach notifications for the European country.
    This contrasts with the 980 data breaches in the same period for the US, compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), which is not government-affiliated. When you consider that the US has somewhere around 320 million people vs. the Netherlands's 17 million, something feels very, very wrong here.
    I can think of two possible ways to interpret the situation:
    1. The Dutch are just terrible at data security. This seems unlikely. It is the US, after all, that holds various records when it comes to data breaches. Last year, for example, Yahoo was crowned with the largest data breach in recorded history.
    2. The US data is severely undercounted. Most probably the reason for the seeming anomaly.
    The latter is supported by the data breach reporting environment in the US.
    To begin with, the US does not have a central authority in charge of data protection. There is no federal law addressing it, although a number of federal agencies do dictate data security in their respective areas; e.g., medical entities and their contractors follow the Department of Health and Human Services requirements regarding data security and breach notifications.
    At the same time, states have their own laws governing data breach reports, governing what is and isn't classified as such. And, each body that overseas such reports have their own policies on whether a data breach should be made public. Some make it easy to find online; others, not so much.  

    Running Numbers

    The 5,500 reported breaches translate to one data breach per 3,090 Dutch citizens. For the US, the 980 translates to one per 326,000 people. That's a ratio of 105 to 1.
    Granted, this is not the best way to represent the figures since it's legal entities that have the duty to report data breaches. A search in Wolfram Alpha shows that the total number of registered businesses in the Netherlands and the USA were, respectively, 1.03 million and 5.156 million.
    This brings down the numbers to one data breach per 187 Dutch businesses, and 5,261 per American businesses. The ratio is now 28 to 1, a considerable reduction, but still very large. Some of the difference could be attributed to the stronger regulations governing data security in Europe: stricter laws, with a propensity to err on the side of caution (read: privacy), means that the Dutch would see a data breach where Americans don't. Also, it could be that the Dutch are more forthcoming with such things because the legal environment is not as litigation-happy.
    No matter how it's cut and dried, however, one thing is certain: 980 breaches reported in the US seems comically low. If we were to assume that the US is comparatively affected by data breaches as the Netherlands, with a similar rate of notification to the authorities, then one would expect 27,500 data breaches in 2016.
    At the end of the day, all the signs point to this: we don't have in the US a good idea of how big or bad the problem is. The best we're willing to do, apparently, is rig the system so that we lowball the number to a point it's not realistic.
    That's a real problem because, who would feel the need to marshal resources when the problem appears to be so small?  


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