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Top Privacy and Cybersecurity Trends of 2021Year in Review: 2021’s Top Privacy and Cybersecurity Trends

Year in Review: 2021’s Top Privacy and Cybersecurity Trends

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 proved to be another incredibly busy year for consumer privacy and cybersecurity. In this blog post, we revisit some of the most important domestic and international privacy and cybersecurity trends of the past year. 

 

New State Consumer Privacy Laws 

On the heels of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), Virginia and Colorado became the next two states to enact comprehensive consumer privacy laws. Signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam back in March, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) becomes effective on January 1, 2023 and applies to all companies who operate a business or produce products or services that are targeted to residents of Virginia and meet certain thresholds. Months later in July, Governor Jared Polis signed the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA) into law. Set to go into effect on July 1, 2023, the CPA applies to controllers that conduct business in Colorado or produce or deliver commercial products or services that are intentionally targeted to residents of Colorado and meet certain thresholds. Both the VCDPA and the CPA carve out several exemptions for entities that are already covered under the privacy and security requirements of other federal laws. Unlike the CCPA and the VCDPA, however, the CPA does not provide an exemption for non-profit organizations. Furthermore, neither the VCDPA nor the CPA offer a private right of action. 

Other notable state privacy developments include New York’s new rules on employee electronic monitoring as well as Nevada’s SB260 amendment, which expanded the right to opt-out of sales and created new requirements for “data brokers”. 

As we head into 2022, we anticipate that the patchwork of state consumer privacy laws will continue to grow. Beckage recommends that businesses take proactive steps to first evaluate what laws and regulations apply to their business and then develop a comprehensive roadmap and plan to mature their data privacy and security posture both internally and externally.   

 

Continued Focus on Cybersecurity 

Threat actors in 2021 continued to launch increasingly sophisticated ransomware and cyberattacks against businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In the wake of highly disruptive attacks such as SolarWinds and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, both the federal government and also state governments sought to increase their focus on cybersecurity standards. For example, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance to cyber insurers in the form of the Cyber Insurance Risk Framework. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also regularly issued advisories informing businesses of vulnerabilities. In an effort to secure critical infrastructure, President Biden signed an Executive Order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” in May. The new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative announced by the Department of Justice back in October further indicates the increasing importance of developing and maintaining resilient cybersecurity protocols.  

The federal government’s response to this year’s exponential increase in ransomware attacks has led several high-profile threat actors – such as DarkSide, REvil, and Black Matter – to take their dark web platforms offline.  At the same time, however, new variants of ransomware are constantly emerging and there is significant evidence that experienced cyber criminals are rebranding to evade law enforcement rather than shutting down their operations.   

In this complex threat landscape, companies across industries are wisely seeking to secure or renew cyber liability coverage in an increasingly competitive market.  Insurers are asking meaningful questions about applicants’ security programs and expecting strong safeguards in place.  For organizations of all sizes, the past year has shown that cybersecurity incidents are now a question of when rather than if.  

Beckage’s Incident Response Team urges businesses to develop plans and procedures to mitigate cyber and legal risk. Beckage recommends businesses continue to dedicate internal resources to refining compliance programs and testing incident response plans through tabletop training exercises. 

 

Health Privacy and Compliance Challenges 

Our lives have become increasingly digitized, and 2021 was no different – especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. The proliferation of apps and technologies handling personal health data led the FTC to confirm back in September that the requirements contained in the agency’s Health Breach Notification Rule extend to health apps and connected device companies. And as the world continued to operate under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses faced – and will continue to face – uncertainty regarding new federal vaccination and testing policies. Beckage’s Data Security and Privacy Compliance and Health Law Teams recommend businesses take stock of their employee data collection practices in their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

 

Biometrics Class Actions, BIPA Claims Accrual, and Statute of Limitations 

In 2021, litigation under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) remained at the forefront of the data privacy landscape. As we noted back in JanuaryMarch, and April, BIPA’s private right of action has contributed in part to an increase in the number of class actions. In September, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court found that the statute of limitations period could range from one year to as much as five years depending on the nature of the alleged violation. But as the year closed out, Illinois courts continued to wrestle with the issues of BIPA claims accrual and statute of limitations. As this blog post goes to press, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had just issued its decision in Cothron v. White Castle, certifying the issue of BIPA claims accrual to the Illinois Supreme Court.  

 

Website Accessibility Litigation and What Counts as a Place of Public Accommodation 

The Beckage Accessibility Team continues to see a drastic increase in litigation filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the rapidly evolving caselaw surrounding website accessibility claims. 2021 is set to be a record-breaking year, with approximately of 4,000 new lawsuits filed this year alone, with most of these cases filed against small to medium sized businesses. The issue of whether websites qualify as places of public accommodates under the ADA continued to take shape in 2021. For example, in May the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores that a website is not a “place of public accommodation” under Title III of the ADA, creating a clear conflict with 9th Circuit authority that has held a website is a place of public accommodation if there is a nexus to a brick and mortar location. In September, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a decision in Winegard v Newsday LLC, which also concluded that a website is not a “place of public accommodation” under Title III of the ADA. Despite this unsettled landscape, we anticipate more litigation to come around the specific statutory definition of what constitutes a “public accommodation.” 

Nevertheless, there is no end in sight for companies facing lawsuits under the ADA. Accordingly, Beckage recommends that businesses with any online presence or mobile application take proactive steps and prioritize accessibility internally. Minimizing legal risk through a digital accessibility compliance buildout that includes both a full scale audit of digital assets and internal and external policy development is recommended for all businesses looking ahead in to 2022.  

 

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) 

TCPA class actions are numerous. Beckage’s TCPA team has charted the complex legal landscape surrounding text message marketing and telemarketing throughout the course of 2021. In April, we covered the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Facebook v. Duguid et al., which narrowed the scope of the TCPA down to systems that utilize random number generators. In November, we covered Florida’s new telemarketer requirements. As we head into 2022, TCPA compliance will continue to be an important area of focus for businesses. Businesses that leverage text messaging marketing as part of their consumer outreach should evaluate compliance initiatives and stay up to date on this fast moving area of the law. 

 

More Global Privacy and Cybersecurity Developments 

Privacy and cybersecurity continued to be areas of significant focus on an international scale. For example, China’s new Data Security Law (DSL) and new Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) became effective on September 1 and November 1, respectively. Along with the Cybersecurity Law (CSL) of 2017, these two new laws have added a set of new cross-border requirements for international companies seeking to do business in China. Furthermore, following the Schrems II decision, which invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield, the EU Commission released new standard contractual clauses (SCCs) intended to provide more flexibility and options for cross-border data exchange. The new SCCs are applicable for all new contracts entered into as of September 27, and businesses have until December 27, 2022 to transition all contracts using the older SCCs to ones with the new SCCs. Additionally, Québec’s Bill 64, which received royal assent a few months ago, has a series of new requirements coming into effect within the next couple of years for businesses both within and outside the province. 

On the global data privacy class action front, the UK Supreme Court’s recent decision in Lloyd v. Google suggests that opt-out class action cases for data privacy claims will be very difficult to bring. 

 

Conclusion and Key Takeaways 

In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in sophisticated cyberattacks, 2021 saw many privacy and cybersecurity trends and developments. There were new laws and regulations on both a domestic and an international scale. Case law in relevant areas developed rapidly, with some issues still unresolved as we embark on 2022. Things do not seem to be slowing down at all in the realm of privacy and cybersecurity. Beckage’s team of attorneys and technologists work with businesses of all sizes and industries to develop comprehensive scalable data security and privacy infrastructures to navigate this fast moving area. 

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Construction Industry and Cyber AttacksWhy the Construction Industry Is Being Impacted By Cyber-Attacks, and What To Do About It

Why the Construction Industry Is Being Impacted By Cyber-Attacks, and What To Do About It

By Jennifer A. Beckage, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E
and Daniel Parziale, Esq., CIPP/US

Introduction

For many years, the construction industry has appeared almost immune from cyber events because of the limited personal information it keeps. However, the last 12 months directly negate this view, reminding the industry that this perspective no longer carries weight. The construction industry is one of the leading industries impacted by data security incidents. This begs the question: why? And what can the industry do to address this rise in cyber threats?

Threat actors know that the construction industry is, in some areas, behind in data security and privacy initiatives. This is in large part because this industry, to date, avoided heavy regulation in data security and privacy laws. The limited regulation and guidance in the construction industry may have contributed to less focus on cybersecurity than in other industries.

Additionally, many in the construction industry are leveraging artificial intelligence technologies (AI) such as machine learning (ML) and robotics, among others. These new technologies still require data security and privacy risk assessments and proper controls in place, something that may be a second thought for those in the construction industry that, historically may not have had cybersecurity top of mind.

Lastly, the threat actors seek to extort money, and the construction industry presents a big, lucrative target. The exposure of cyber-attacks in construction, in part, is amplified by the amount of confidential and proprietary information digitally stored and shared across projects and their long information technology (IT) chains. Infrastructure, financial accounts, as well as the data of employees, projects, and business- sensitive information may be at risk. Accordingly, the number of cyber-attacks in the construction industry are growing exponentially.

The legal and threat landscapes are constantly changing, requiring those in the construction industry to be familiar or associate themselves with experienced tech and legal providers who can assist in navigating these rushing river waters.

 

Some of the Largest Cyber Risks Facing the Construction Industry

While the risks of cyber-attacks are not unique to the construction industry, their impact on the industry is distinctive.

For example, on January 30, 2020, French construction behemoth, Bouygues, announced that threat actors were holding 200GB of data ransom. See Naveen Gourd, Maze Ransomware hits Bird Construction and Bouygues Construction, https://www.cybersecurity-insiders.com/maze-ransomware-hits-bird-constriction-and-bouygues-construction/. Ultimately, the ransomware event caused a delay to various projects as Bouygues shut down various operating systems to prevent the propagation of the attack. See Bouygues, Press Release – Information on a Cyber-Attack, https://www.bouygues.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/prbouyguesconstructioncyberattack01-31-2020-pdf.pdf.

Unfortunately, Bouygues is not alone in their suffering. Bird Construction, a large Canadian construction company, suffered a similar ransomware attack in December 2019, where the threat actors were demanding $9,000,000 CAD in exchange for decrypting the 60GB of data they were holding for ransom. See Naveen Gourd, Maze Ransomware hits Bird Construction and Bouygues Construction, https://www.cybersecurity-insiders.com/maze-ransomware-hits-bird-constriction-and-bouygues-construction/.

These events are, unfortunately, very common in the construction industry.

There are five main cyber-attacks that could impact a construction company: i) ransomware; ii) fraudulent wire transfer; iii) downtime or business interruption; iv) breach of intellectual property; and v) breach of bid data. Each presents its impact and harm.

  • Ransomware: Ransomware, when a threat actor holds a computer system hostage for payment, can limit a construction company’s access to critical systems and potentially delay work at a project. Moreover, a construction company may be left with little choice but to incur the financial responsibility of paying the ransom. However, damage from a ransomware event is not simply limited to the payment of the ransom but may also include reputational damage.

 

  • Fraudulent Wire Transfers: Fraudulent wire transfers, often the result of social engineering, present a substantial risk to the construction industry, which is often moving large sums of capital around. Falling victim to fraudulent wire transfer not only presents dire fiscal issues for a construction company but can also lead to severe reputational harm.

 

  • Downtime or Business Interruption: The construction industry is heavily reliant on the ability to deliver projects on a deadline. A cyber-attack on a construction company’s software or equipment could potentially cause a delay in the project while the cyber-attack is properly addressed.

 

  • Breach of Intellectual Property: If a construction company is holding highly sensitive blueprints or schematics in its computer system, breach of these computer systems could result in major reputational damage and potential lawsuits.

 

  • Breach of Bid Data: If a construction company holds information regarding its bidding strategies on a computer system, access and acquisition of these files could lead to a loss of a competitive edge.

 

What Happens In A Data Breach

The fast-moving cyber threat landscape above is juxtaposed with emerging data security and privacy laws. In the United States, there is no overarching data security and privacy law(s). Instead, we have a patchwork of federal and state laws that may apply to an organization.

For example, let’s pretend that Company XZY suffers a data breach that not only seizes access to systems, but one such system is a human resources program that contains all of the employee’s personal information (whether hosted internally or with a third-party provider). Perhaps another system is a client management program that has a sensitive design or tenant plans or city or government projects with confidentiality treatment requirements. Assuming in this scenario that the threat actor accessed and then exfiltrated the human resource system and client management program data, then Company XZY would have to provide notice to all potentially impacted persons (the employees in our scenario) under a myriad of state and perhaps federal laws, but also under contract to the third parties whose confidential business information was impacted.

As it relates to the employees, it is important for the legal counsel for Company XZY to review where each employee resides to determine applicable laws that will direct notification requirements for employees. As one can imagine, in a data breach with hundreds or thousands or more employees who are impacted, this could become complicated, but there are seasoned professionals who can help the organization prepare and respond. Unfortunately, most organizations are not prepared.

Besides operational setbacks from a data security incident and notifications to potentially impacted persons, there could also be revenue loss, reputational harm, legal fees, technical costs, call center expenses, credit monitoring costs, regulatory reporting, third-party claims, and more.

There are, however, ways that this risk can be shifted.

 

Actionable Steps the Construction Industry Can Take to Mitigate Cyber Risk

There are several methods your organization can leverage to limit its exposure to cyber risks. These include but are not limited to: 1) building a team of trusted advisors; 2) picking the plan that is right for you; 3) evaluating risk so it is properly allocated through contract; 4) evaluating whether your organization has a strong cyber liability insurance policy; and 5) implementing good cyber hygiene and best practices.

1. Build A Team of Trusted Advisors

Cybersecurity preparedness will require knowledge and awareness across many roles within the organization. The leaders of the organization, information technology, legal, and most likely also marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, finance, human resources, and other groups to the extent they exist at the organization.

Third parties will likely need to be engaged as the legal and technical areas are emerging at rapid speeds. Further, the market is oversaturated with vendors, providers, partners of all types and sizes. Organizations should take time to validate credentials, years of experience, contractual terms, insurance carried, and more before engaging third-party partners to assist with cybersecurity program development.

2. You Pick the Plan

The organization’s team should, through a risk assessment, determine its cybersecurity program goals. Too often organizations are “sold” by a vendor as to a plan, but if a breach occurred such a plan would do very little to prevent legal and technical risk.

Some in the construction industry have robust experience with information technologies and others rely heavily on third parties. If the latter, find a trusted partner to help you manage your third-party providers if your organization does not fully understand technically what they are doing. Just like an employee, those third parties should be reviewed regularly (more on that soon).

3. Contract with Strong Data Security & Privacy Provisions

Another method of mitigating cyber risk is through contract. When reviewing your company’s agreements with third-party vendors and subcontractors, it should pay close attention to indemnification and insurance procurement provisions for how they might allocate cyber risk between the parties. A data security incident at one of your company’s vendors may have serious consequences when it exposes your business’ information. To that end, your company may want to consider including language in its third-party contracts which require vendors and subcontractors to indemnify your company in the event the third-party vendor or subcontractor suffers a data breach. Similarly, your company might want to consider requiring a third-party vendor or subcontractor to name your company as an additional insured on its cyber liability insurance policy. Both of these steps help in the event your third-party vendor suffers a data security incident, as the financial impact on your business would be minimal.

4. Cyber Liability Insurance

If the third parties the organization is using do not want to (or they should not) carry certain risk, one potential method of mitigating risk associated with cyber-attacks are a cyber liability insurance policy. These policies generally provide coverage for the following types of attacks:

  • Data Breach Expenses: When a threat actor accesses or acquires Personal Identifiable Information as defined by applicable law, your company has suffered a data security incident. Cyber liability insurance policies typically cover the costs of hiring lawyers, forensic IT security vendors, public relations, or crisis communication costs to assist you in handling your response. Moreover, cyber liability insurance policies cover the cost associated with notifying individuals and state regulators, providing identity and/or credit monitoring services to affected individuals, and running a call center.

 

  • Cyber Extortion or Ransomware: When a threat actor acquires access to your company’s systems and encrypts or otherwise locks you out of the network, demanding the payment of a ransom to unlock the system. Cyber liability insurance policies typically cover the cost of negotiating with the threat actor as well as potentially paying part of the ransom.

 

  • Fraudulent Wire Transfer: When a threat actor misdirects a wire transfer from your company to a vendor, your company is a victim of a fraudulent wire transfer. Cyber liability insurance policies will normally cover such fraudulent wire transfers if your company took certain steps to prevent them. Coverage for fraudulent wire transfers is generally limited to the amount of the wire transfer itself.

 

  • Business Interruption: When a threat actor executes a cyber-attack, some cyber liability insurance policies provide coverage for the loss of business income as a result of being locked out or shut down as part of the cyber-attack.

As provided above, cyber liability insurance policies generally cover the major types of cyber-attacks a construction company may face; however, cyber liability insurance is not the only means of mitigating the risk of a cyber-attack.

Cybersecurity insurance can provide first-party and third-party damages. Other insurance such as Tech Errors & Omissions may be options for some organizations to consider as well.

5. “What’s Good for the Goose is Good For The Gander” Policies and Practices

a.) Policies & SOPs

Applicable here is the old proverb “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

If an organization is going to require that its vendors and third-party partners have certain controls and practices, then that organization should perhaps think about its practices. In fact, its insurance carrier may require it. Also, the organization may have requirements under laws and regulations, under contract, or other duties owed.

This is where most organizations are paralyzed – it sounds overwhelming. Or they find some stock policies, modify them slightly, and place the policies on a virtual shelf.

In creating policies, the team charged with building a construction cybersecurity program will identify first the laws that apply to the organization, IT standards it wishes to follow, along with other guiding principles – organization mission, vision, codes of conduct, or company ethics policies, and more.

Policies and standard operating procedures can come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, which makes creating them sometimes difficult for organizations – too many choices – so they pick and choose from numerous templates and the result is, frankly, often a mess.

Organizations should plan to take time to put together written policies and procedures that reflect the organization’s goals, vision, standards, controls, and more – not some other organization’s that is in a template found online.

What are some good cybersecurity controls and practices? The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (“NIST”) Cybersecurity Framework Version 1.1 offers for some a good place to start looking at what a cybersecurity program may look like on the technical side for your organization. See NIST, Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, Version 1.1 (available at https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/CSWP/NIST.CSWP.04162018.pdf).

b.) Controls

The organization will need a variety of physical, administrative, and technical controls.

Physical controls include safeguarding server rooms to video monitoring of secure areas (*be careful if you are collecting biometric information, this is also a fast-moving area).

Administrative controls include the policies and SOPs discussed earlier, but also that there are folks responsible for these duties, there is training, review, auditing, discipline, and more.

Technical controls can take many forms but include changing passwords regularly, implementing two-factor authentication where possible, and regularly informing employees of the dangers of social engineering. Good cyber hygiene can prevent a cyber-attack from occurring in the first place, and in that regard is one of the most effective means of mitigating cyber risk.

6. Construction Cyber Culture

One final method of mitigating cyber risk is through fostering good cyberculture across the organization.

An organization is on its way to great construction cyber culture through the actionable items above: 1) team of trusted advisors, 2) selecting a plan, 3) third-party contracting and auditing, 4) cybersecurity insurance, and 5) policies and procedures.

Great construction cyberculture begins with a buy in at the top and demonstrating by example (so no exceptions!).

 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, organizations in almost every industry are navigating cyber threats and the construction industry is no exception. There are, however, a number of risk mitigation strategies that can be reviewed for applicability to an organization. As discussed, the first step is to find those experienced trusted advisors to help navigate this complex and sophisticated legal and technical terrain.

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CryptocurrencyWhat Recent Cryptocurrency Heists Reveal About Blockchain Security

What Recent Cryptocurrency Heists Reveal About Blockchain Security

In early August 2021, blockchain-based platform Poly Network reported a hack in which malicious actors moved an equivalent of $600 million in cryptocurrencies to their private wallets. This hack was the largest ever, after the 2014 hack of a Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange, which led to the theft of the equivalent of $460 million. A few days later, DAO Maker, a decentralized finance (DeFI) crypto platform announced a hack and theft of 2,261 Ethereum (the equivalent of $7 million at the time of the hack).

These heists reveal potential security vulnerabilities in the current system for purchasing and exchange cryptocurrencies despite the general promises of security provided by decentralized cryptocurrencies.

To understand how these cryptocurrency heists occurred, it is crucial to understand how cryptocurrency functions. In particular, how certain organizations provide cryptocurrency conversion services (i.e., converting Bitcoin to Ethereum). Traditionally, forms of currency (often referred to as “fiat” currency when distinguished from cryptocurrencies) are government issued and rely on a centralized banking system to validate money transfers and accounts. Most fiat currencies are not backed by commodities, such as gold, and therefore, have no intrinsic value. Value in fiat currency derives from consumer confidence (and is subject to government manipulation).

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, however, are decentralized currencies with no central banking or financial system to validate transactions. Rather, these currencies rely on a network of users to validate transactions and balances. The technology that supports the storing and validating of transactions in a database (essentially a digital ledger) is called blockchain.

Most cryptocurrencies distribute this Blockchain ledger database across its users. The users earn rewards (usually the in the form of cryptocurrency) for hosting the ledger, validating transactions in the blockchain ledger, and solving complex computational math problems.

Cryptocurrency TransferThe lack of centralization creates complexities in converting currencies. Traditional exchange services involving fiat currency are handled by financial institutions who have the capacity to receive one type of currency (i.e., U.S. Dollar) and provide the equivalent amount in a different currency (i.e., the Euro).

Performing a similar instant exchange among cryptocurrencies requires an exchange service to stockpile multiple cryptocurrencies. Of course, this type of exchange service is inherently centralized – and that centralization of decentralized currency creates the security vulnerability that led to the recent string of crypto currency heists.

The attackers targeted the code behind the accounts that convert cryptocurrencies and injected malicious code that made the exchange service believe that the attacker was the intended recipient of the converted cryptocurrency.  The attackers ultimately redirected the currency into their personal wallets.

These recent events do not mean that those interested in holding or trading cryptocurrency should entirely avoid the use of exchanges. No transaction is 100% secure, and users should understand the potential risk involved in exchanging cryptocurrencies or converting fiat currency within the current systems of exchange.

The legal concerns stemming from these incidents mirror those in traditional incidents involving consumer information or fiat funds. However, the potential risk of loss is increased by the fact that cryptocurrency transactions in certain instances are uniquely untraceable and irreversible, meaning that the exchange may not be able to recover the stolen funds. Further compounding the risk is that these crypto exchange services may not have the same financial protections, insurance, or government backing as traditional financial institutions.

These events serve as a reminder that the security provided by decentralized currency may be lost when that currency is funneled through a centralized exchange.

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Cybersecurity Map of United StatesCISA Cybersecurity Advisory – Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations

CISA Cybersecurity Advisory – Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations

On July 19th, the National Security Agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released a joint cybersecurity advisory pertaining to Chinese state-sponsored threat actors. The advisory warns of potential malicious activity targeting “U.S. and allied political, economic, military, educational, and critical infrastructure (CI) personnel and organizations.”  

In response to this increased threat, CISA suggests organizations, particularly managed service providers, semiconductor companies, the Defense Industrial Base (DIB), universities, and medical institutions, take the following steps: 

Patch your systems as soon as you can after the release of operating system and application patches.  Updates are often quickly reverse-engineered by threat actors to determine the vulnerability that is being fixed and whether it can be weaponized. 

Employ monitoring and detection technologies give you a 360-degree view of what is happening on your network.  Be sure you can see lateral movement, which may show indicators of compromise, inside-out traffic to malicious hosts, which may indicate command and control communication, and outside-in communication, which could reflect attempts at compromise from external sources.   

Implement strong preventative measures to mitigate or help prevent compromise from occurring.  These include active anti-virus and multi-factor authentication. 

Read the full cybersecurity advisory issued by CISA here. While this alert focuses on businesses that would be potential targets for nation-state threat actors, the advice above is applicable to any business. Following these best practices does not guarantee the prevention of a security incident but can make it substantially more difficult for threat actors to gain a foothold in an organization’s network and systems and can reduce detection time. 

If you suspect any malicious activity in your systems, or would like to speak to an incident response attorney to help improve your organization’s security, Beckage attorneys can be reached 24/7 via our Data Breach Hotline: 844.502.9363 or IR@beckage.com.  

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United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Announces New Grant Plan to Slow Epidemic Spread of Cyber Attacks

United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Announces New Grant Plan to Slow Epidemic Spread of Cyber Attacks

Businesses may be able to take a little sigh of relief that some help may be coming to the persistent threat of ransomware attacks.  The DHS announced that significant funds will be provided to a number of public and private sectors to help improve the nation’s protection against data security attacks and other crises.

The Feb. 25 Announcement

On February 25, 2021, DHS announced its funding notice for several different types of cyber preparedness grants worth nearly $1.87 billion.  After noticing a rise in both the number and complexity of cyber threats faced by communities, including targeted ransomware attacks on our infrastructure, hospital, transportation systems, DHS identified five critical priority areas for attention for its fiscal 2021 grant cycle: 1) cybersecurity; 2) soft targets and crowded places; 3) intelligence and information sharing; 4) domestic violent extremism; and 5) emerging threats.  These grant programs provide funding to state, local, tribal/territorial governments, transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector to improve the nation’s readiness in preventing, protecting against, responding to, recovering from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

The DHS announced several non-competitive grants which are to be awarded to recipients based on several factors:

  • State Homeland Security Program – The State Homeland Security Program provides $415 million to support the implementation of risk-driven, capabilities-based state homeland security strategies to address capability targets;
  • Urban Area Security Initiative – The Urban Area Security Initiative provides $615 million to enhance regional preparedness and capabilities in 31 high-threat, high-density areas; and
  • Emergency Management Performance Grant (“EMPG”) – EMPG provides more than $355 million to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in enhancing and sustaining all-hazards emergency management capabilities; and
  • Intercity Passenger RailAmtrak Program – The Amtrak Program provides $10 million to Amtrak to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and increase the resilience of the Amtrak rail system.

Moreover, the DHS announced several competitive grants, including:

  • Operation Stonegarden – Operation Stongarden provides $90 million to enhance cooperation and coordination among state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal law enforcement agencies to jointly enhance security along the United States land and water borders;
  • Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program – The Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program provides $15 million to eligible tribal nations to implement preparedness initiatives to help strengthen the nation against risk associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards;
  • The Nonprofit Security Grant Program – The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides $180 million to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack;
  • Port Security Grant Program – The Port Security Grant Program provides $100 million to help protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve port-wide maritime security risk management, and maintain or re-establish maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resiliency capabilities;
  • Transit Security Grant Program – The Transit Security Grant Program provides $88 million to owners and operators of public transit systems to protect critical surface transportation and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure; and
  • Intercity Bus Security Program – The Intercity Bus Security Program provides $2 million to owners and operators of intercity bus systems to protect surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure.

Impact on Business

Private sector businesses can apply for these grants, especially if they are in the process of developing and creating cyberwarfare and other data defense tools.  Grant  information can be found here.

Beckage has responded to countless data breaches and is always comforted to see more dollars that foster collaboration between public and private sectors to help defend and protect U.S. business and more.

If you have questions about the grant dollars or how to apply, please contact a Beckage attorney at 716.898.2102.

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