So…Everyone’s Been Compromised? What To Do In The Wake of the Equifax Breach

By now, you’ve probably heard that over 143 million records containing highly sensitive personal information have been compromised in the Equifax data breach. With numbers exceeding 40% of the population of the United States at risk, chances are good that you or someone you know – or more precisely, many people you know – will be affected. But until you know for certain, you are probably wondering what to do until you find out.

To be sure, there has been a lot of confusion. Many feel there was an unreasonable delay in reporting the breach. And now that it has been reported, some have suggested that people who sign up with the Equifax website to determine if they were in the breach might be bound to an arbitration clause and thereby waive their right to file suit if necessary later (although Equifax has since said that is not the case). Others have reported that the “personal identification number” (PIN) provided by Equifax for those who do register with the site is nothing more than a date and time stamp, which could be subject to a brute-force attack, which is not necessarily reassuring when dealing with personal information. Still others have reported that the site itself is subject to vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting (XSS), which could give hackers another mechanism to steal personal information. And some have even questioned the validity of the responses provided by Equifax when people query to see if they might have been impacted.

In all the chaos, it’s hard to know how to best proceed. Fortunately, you have options other than using Equifax’s website.

1. Place a Credit Freeze

Know that if you are a victim of the breach, you will be notified by Equifax eventually. In the meantime, consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts with the three major credit reporting bureaus. All three major credit reporting bureaus allow consumers to freeze their credit reports for a small fee, and you will need to place a freeze with each credit bureau. If you are the victim of identity fraud, or if your state’s law mandates, a credit freeze can be implemented without charge. In some states, you may incur a small fee. Lists of fees for residents of various states can be found at the TransUnionExperian, and Equifax websites. Placing a freeze on your credit reports will restrict access to your information and make it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. This will not affect your credit score but there may be a second fee associated with lifting a credit freeze, so it is important to research your options before proceeding. Also, know that you will likely face a delay period before a freeze can be lifted, so spur-of-the-moment credit opportunities might suffer.

Here is information for freezing your credit with each credit bureau:

Equifax Credit Freeze

  • You may do a credit freeze online or by certified mail (return receipt requested) to:

            Equifax Security Freeze

            P.O. Box 105788

            Atlanta, GA 30348

  • To unfreeze, you must do a temporary thaw by regular mail, online or by calling 1-800-685-1111 (for New York residents call 1-800-349-9960).

Experian Credit Freeze

  • You may do a credit freeze online, by calling 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742) or by certified mail (return receipt requested) to:


            P.O. Box 9554

            Allen, TX 75013

  • To unfreeze, you must do a temporary thaw online or by calling 1-888-397-3742.

TransUnion Credit Freeze

  • You may do a credit freeze online, by phone (1-888-909-8872) or by certified mail (return receipt requested) to:

            TransUnion LLC

            P.O. Box 2000

            Chester, PA 19016

  • To unfreeze, you must do a temporary thaw online or by calling 1-888-909-8872.

After you complete a freeze, make sure you have a pen and paper handy because you will be given a PIN code to keep in a safe place.

2. Obtain a Free Copy of Your Credit Report

Consider setting up a schedule to obtain a copy of your free annual credit report from each of the reporting bureaus on a staggered basis. By obtaining and reviewing a report from one of the credit reporting bureaus every three or four months, you can better position yourself to respond to unusual or fraudulent activity more frequently. Admittedly, there is a chance that one of the reporting bureaus might miss an account that is reported by the other two but the benefit offsets the risk.

3. Notify Law Enforcement and Obtain a Police Report

If you find you are the victim of identity fraud (that is, actual fraudulent activity – not just being a member of the class of affected persons), notify your local law enforcement agency to file a police report. Having a police report will help you to challenge fraudulent activity, will provide you with verification of the fraud to provide to credit companies’ fraud investigators, and will be beneficial if future fraud occurs. To that end, be aware that additional fraud may arise closer to the federal tax filing deadline and having a police report already on file can help you resolve identity fraud problems with the Internal Revenue Service if false tax returns are filed under your identity.

4. Obtain an IRS IP PIN

Given the nature of the information involved in the breach, an additional option for individuals residing in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. is to obtain an IRS IP PIN, which is a 6-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to help prevent the misuse of Social Security numbers in federal tax filings. An IP PIN helps the IRS verify a taxpayer’s identity and accept their electronic or paper tax return. When a taxpayer has an IP PIN, it prevents someone else from filing a tax return with the taxpayer’s SSN.

If a return is e-filed with a taxpayer’s SSN and an incorrect or missing IP PIN, the IRS’s system will reject it until the taxpayer submits it with the correct IP PIN or the taxpayer files on paper. If the same conditions occur on a paper filed return, the IRS will delay its processing and any refund the taxpayer may be due for the taxpayer’s protection while the IRS determines if it is truly the taxpayer’s.

Information regarding eligibility for an IRS IP PIN and instructions is available here and to access the IRS’s FAQs on the issue, please go here.


Clearly, the Equifax breach raises many issues about which many individuals need to be concerned – and the pathway forward is uncertain at the moment. But by being proactive, being cautious, and taking appropriate remedial measures available to everyone, you can better position yourself to avoid fraud, protect your rights, and mitigate future fraud that might arise.

 This post was written by Justin L. Root Sara H. Jodka of Dickinson Wright PLLC © Copyright 2017
For more legal news go to The National Law Review

Equifax Breach Affects 143M: If GDPR Were in Effect, What Would Be the Impact?

The security breach announced by Equifax Inc. on September 7, 2017, grabbed headlines around the world as Equifax revealed that personal data of roughly 143 million consumers in the United States and certain UK and Canadian residents had been compromised. By exploiting a website application vulnerability, hackers gained access to certain information such as names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. While this latest breach will force consumers to remain vigilant about monitoring unauthorized use of personal information and cause companies to revisit security practices and protocols, had this event occurred under the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (set to take effect May 25, 2018), the implications would be significant. This security event should serve as a sobering wake up call to multinational organizations and any other organization collecting, processing, storing, or transmitting personal data of EU citizens of the protocols they must have in place to respond to security breaches under GDPR requirements.

Data Breach Notification Obligations

Notification obligations for security breaches that affect U.S. residents are governed by a patchwork set of state laws. The timing of the notification varies from state to state with some requiring that notification be made in the “most expeditious time possible,” while others set forth a specific timeframe such as within 30, 45, or 60 days. The United States does not currently have a federal law setting forth notification requirements, although one was proposed by the government in 2015 setting a 30-day deadline, but the law never received any support.

While the majority of the affected individuals appear to be U.S. residents, Equifax stated that some Canadian and UK residents were also affected. Given Equifax’s statement, the notification obligations under GDPR would apply, even post-Brexit, as evidenced by a recent statement of intent maintaining that the United Kingdom will adopt the GDPR once it leaves the EU. Under the GDPR, in the event of a personal data breach, data controllers must notify the supervisory authority “without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it.” If notification is not made within 72 hours, the controller must provide a “reasoned justification” for the delay. A notification to the authority must at least: 1) describe the nature of the personal data breach, including the number and categories of data subject and personal data records affected, 2) provide the data protection officer’s contact information, 3) describe the likely consequences of the personal data breach, and 4) describe how the controller proposes to address the breach, including any mitigation efforts. If it is not possible to provide the information at the same time, the information may be provided in phases “without undue further delay.”

According to Equifax’s notification to individuals, it learned of the event on July 29, 2017. If GDPR were in effect, notification would have been required much earlier than September 7, 2017. Non-compliance with the notification requirements could lead to an administrative fine of up to 10 million Euros or up to two percent of the total worldwide annual turnover.

Preparing for Breach Obligations Under GDPR

With a security breach of this magnitude, it is easy to imagine the difficulties organizations will face in mobilizing an incident response plan in time to meet the 72-hour notice under GDPR. However, there are still nearly eight months until GDPR goes into effect on May 25, 2018. Now is a good time for organizations to implement, test, retest, and validate the policies and procedures they have in place for incident response and ensure that employees are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a breach. Organizations should consider all of the following in crafting a GDPR incident response readiness plan:

plan, GDPR, incident response

This post was written by Julia K. Kadish and Aaron K. Tantleff of Foley & Lardner LLP © 2017
For more legal analysis got to The National Law Review

Data Breaches Will Cost Yahoo and Verizon Long After Sale

data breach Yahoo VerizonFive Things You (and Your M&A Diligence Team) Should Know

Recently it was announced that Verizon would pay $350 million less than it had been prepared to pay previously for Yahoo as a result of data breaches that affected over 1.5 billion users, pending Yahoo shareholder approval. Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam led the negotiations for the price reduction. Yahoo took two years, until September of 2016, to disclose a 2014 data breach that Yahoo has said affected at least 500 million users, while Verizon Communications was in the process of acquiring Yahoo. In December of 2016, Yahoo further disclosed that it had recently discovered a breach of around 1 billion Yahoo user accounts that likely took place in 2013.

While some may be thinking that the $350 million price reduction has effectively settled the matter, unfortunately, this is far from the case. These data breaches will likely continue to cost both Verizon and Yahoo for years to come.  Merger and acquisition events that are complicated by pre-existing data breaches will likely face at least four categories of on-going liabilities.  The cost of each of these events will be difficult to estimate during the deal process, even if the breach event is disclosed during initial diligence. First, the breach event will probably render integration of the systems of the target and acquirer difficult, as the full extent of the security issues is often difficult to assess and may evolve through time. According to Verizon executives, Yahoo’s data breaches created integration issues that had not been previously understood.  The eventual monetary cost of this issue remains unknown.

Second, where the target is subject to the authority of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), an SEC investigation and penalties if applicable, is likely, along with related shareholder lawsuits. As we wrote previously, The SEC is currently investigating if Yahoo should have reported the two massive data breaches it experienced earlier to investors, according to individuals with knowledge. Under the current agreement, Yahoo will bear sole liability for shareholder lawsuits and any penalties that result from the SEC investigation.

Third, there will likely be additional private party actions due to the breach. Exactly what these liabilities will be will depend on the data subject to exfiltration as a result of the breach.  In Yahoo’s case, Verizon and Yahoo have agreed to equally share in costs and liabilities created by lawsuits from customers and partners.  Multiple private party lawsuits have already been filed against Yahoo alleging negligence.

Fourth, other government investigations, such as by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), could result in additional costs, both monetary and reputational. The FBI is currently investing the Yahoo breaches.  Verizon and Yahoo will share the costs of the FBI investigation and other potential third party investigations.

Fifth, depending on the scope of the breach, there would likely be on-going remediation costs after the deal closes. According to a knowledgeable source, as of February 2017, Yahoo had sent notifications to a “mostly final” list of users, indicating that some remaining remediation activities may yet occur.

As we have seen, merger and acquisition events involving a target with a pre-existing data breach issues create difficult to assess costs and liabilities that will survive the closing of the transaction.

©1994-2017 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.

In re: Target Corporation Customer Data Security Breach Litigation — instructive 8th Circuit case re class certification

target security breachJim Sciaroni  v.  Target Corporation Civil case – Class Action in Target Security Breach. The district court’s statement in the class certification order regarding Rule 23(a)(4)’s representation adequacy requirement are conclusions, not reasons, and on their own do not constitute the “rigorous analysis” of whether certification was proper in this case; the court has a continuous duty to reevaluate certification throughout the litigation and the court’s order rejecting an allegation of intraclass conflict made before final certification improperly refused to reconsider the issue solely because it had already certified the class; as a result the district court abused its discretion by failing to rigorously analyze the propriety of certification, especially once new arguments regarding the adequacy of representation were raised after preliminary certification, and the matter is remanded to the district court for it to conduct and articulate a rigorous analysis of Rule 23(a)’s certification prerequisites as applied to this case; “costs on appeal” for Rule 7 purposes include only those costs that a prevailing appellate litigant can recover under a specific rule or statute; as a result the bond set in this matter, which included delay-based administrative costs, is reversed and the matter remanded with directions to reduce the Rule 7 bond to reflect only those costs appellee will recover should they succeed in any issues remaining on appeal following the district court’s reconsideration of class certification. The panel retains jurisdiction over any remaining issues following the district court’s disposition on remand. The district court shall certify its findings and conclusions to this court within 120 days.

02/01/2017  Jim Sciaroni  v.  Target Corporation

   U.S. Court of Appeals Case No:  15-3909 and No:  15-3912 and No:  16-1203 and No:  16-1245 and No:  16-1408

   U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota – Minneapolis

   [PUBLISHED] [Shepherd, Author, with Benton, Circuit Judge, and Strand, District Judge]

Download In re Target Corporation Customer Data Security Breach Litigation

© Copyright 2017 Armstrong Teasdale LLP. All rights reserved

The White House’s Revisions to its Breach Response Policy For Federal Agencies and Departments Also Affect Contractors

White House data breach responseOn January 3, 2017, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum to all executive departments and agencies setting for a comprehensive policy for handling breaches of personally identifiable information (the “Memorandum”), replacing earlier guidance. Importantly, the Memorandum also affects federal agency contractors as well as grant recipients.

The Memorandum is not the first set of guidance to federal agencies and departments for reporting breaches of personally identifiable information (PII), but it establishes minimum standards going forward (agencies have to comply within 180 days from the date of the Memorandum). The Memorandum makes clear that it is not setting policy on information security, or protecting against malicious cyber activities and similar activities; topics related to the recent fiery debates concerning the 2016 election results and Russian influence.

The Memorandum sets out a detailed breach response policy covering topics such as preparedness, establishing a response plan, assessing incident risk, mitigation, and notification. For organizations that have not created a comprehensive breach response plan, the Memorandum could be a helpful resource, even for those not subject to it. But it should not be the only resource.

Below are some observations and distinctions worth noting.

  • PII definition. Unlike most state breach notification laws, the Memorandum defines PII broadly: information that can be used to distinguish to trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual. So, for example, the notification obligation for a federal contractor will not just apply if Social Security numbers or credit card numbers have been compromised.
  • Breach definition. Breaches are not limited phishing attacks, hackings or similar intrusions. They include lost physical documents, sending an email to the wrong person, or inadvertently posting PII on a public website.
  • Training. Breach response training must be provided to individuals before they have access to federal PII. That training should advise the individuals not to wait for confirmation of a breach before reporting to the agency. A belief (or hope) that one will find that lost mobile device should not delay reporting.
  • Required provisions in federal contracts. Federal contractors that collect or maintain federal PII or use or operate an information system for a federal agency must be subject to certain requirements by contract. The Memorandum requires agencies to update their contracts with contractors to ensure the contracts contain certain provisions, such as requiring contractors to (i) encrypt PII in accordance with OMB Circular A-130, (ii) train employees, (iii) report suspected or confirmed breaches; (iv) be able to determine what PII was or could have been accessed and by whom, and identify initial attack vectors, and (v) allow for inspection and forensic analysis. Because agencies must ensure these provisions are uniform and consistent in all contracts, negotiation will be difficult. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is directed to work the Office of Management and Budget to promptly develop appropriate contract clauses and regulatory coverage to address these requirements.
  • Risk of harm analysis. Agencies will need to go through a complex risk of harm analysis to determine the appropriate breach response. Notably, encryption of PII is not an automatic exception to notification.
  • Notification. The rules for timing and content of breach notification are similar to those in many of the state breach notification laws. The Memorandum also advises agencies to anticipate undeliverable mail and to have procedures for secondary notification, something not clearly expressed in most state notification laws. The Memorandum also suggests website FAQs, which can be more easily updated and tailored. Agency heads have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether notify. They can consider over-notification and should try to provide a single notice to cover multiple notification requirements. They also can require contractors to provide notification following contractor breaches.
  • Tabletop Exercises. The Memorandum makes clear that testing breach response plans is essential and expressly requires that tabletop exercises be conducted at least annually.

Federal contractors and federal grant recipients that have access to federal PII will need to revisit (or develop) their own breach response plans to ensure they comply with the Memorandum, as well as the requirements of the applicable federal agency or department which can be more stringent. Of course, those plans must also incorporate other breach response obligations the organizations may have, whether those obligations flow from other federal laws (e.g., HIPAA), state laws, or contracts with other entities. Putting aside presidential politics, cybersecurity threats are growing and increased regulation, enforcement and litigation exposure is likely.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017

Law Firm Data Breaches: Big Law, Big Data, Big Problem

law firm data breachesThe Year of the Breach

2016 was the year that law firm data breaches landed and stayed squarely in both the national and international headlines. There have been numerous law firm data breaches involving incidents ranging from lost or stolen laptops and other portable media to deep intrusions exposing everything in the law firm’s network. In March, the FBI issued a warning that a cybercrime insider-trading scheme was targeting international law firms to gain non-public information to be used for financial gain. In April, perhaps the largest volume data breach of all time involved law firm Mossack Fonesca in Panama. Millions of documents and terabytes of leaked data aired the (dirty) laundry of dozens of companies, celebrities and global leaders. Finally, Chicago law firm, Johnson & Bell Ltd., was in the news in December when a proposed class action accusing them of failing to protect client data was unsealed.

A Duty to Safeguard

Law firms are warehouses of client information and how that information is protected is being increasingly regulated and scrutinized. The legal ethics rules require attorneys to take competent and reasonable measures to safeguard information relating to client. (ABA Model Rules 1.1, 1.6 and Comments). Attorneys also have contractual and regulatory obligations to protect information relating to clients and other personally identifiable information, financial and health, for example.

American Bar Association’s 2016 TechReport

Annually, the ABA conducts a Legal Technology Survey (Survey) to gauge the state of our industry vis-à-vis technology and data security. The Survey revealed that the largest firms (500 or more attorneys) reported experiencing the most security breaches, with 26% of respondents admitting they had experienced some type of breach. This is a generally upward trend from past years and analysts expect this number only to rise. This is likely because larger firms have more people, more technology and more data so there is a greater exposure surface and many more risk touch-points.

Consequences of Breach

The most serious consequence of a law firm security breach is loss or unauthorized access to sensitive client data. However, the Survey shows there was a low incidence of this, only about 2% of breaches overall resulted in loss of client data. Other concerning consequences of the breaches are significant though. 37% reported business downtime/loss of billable hours, 28% reported hefty fees for correction including consulting fees, 22% reported costs associated with having to replace hardware/software, and 14% reported loss of important files and information.

Employing & Increasing Safeguards Commonly Used in other Industries

The 2016 Survey shows that while many law firms are employing some safeguards and generally increasing and diversifying their use of those safeguards, our industry may not be using common security measures that other industries employ.

1. Programs and Policies. The first step of any organization in protecting its data is establishing a comprehensive data security program. Security programs should include measures to prevent breaches (like policies that regulate the use of technology) and measures to identify, protect, detect, respond to and recover from data breaches and security incidents. Any program should designate an individual, like a full-time privacy officer or information security director, who is responsible for coordinating security. However, the numbers show that the legal industry may not be up to speed on this basic need. Survey respondents reported their firms had the following documented policies:

Document or records management and retention policy: 56%

Email use policy: 49%

Internet use/computer use policy: 41%

Social media use: 34%

2. Assessments. Using security assessments conducted by independent third parties has been a growing security practice for other industries; however, law firms have been slow to adopt this security tool, with only 18% of law firms overall reporting that they had a full assessment.

3. Standards/Frameworks. Other industries use security standards and frameworks, like those published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to provide approaches to information security programs or to seek formal security certification from one of these bodies. Overall, only 5% of law firms reported that they have received such a certification.

4. Encryption. Security professionals view encryption as a basic safeguard that should be widely deployed and it is increasingly being required by law for any personal information; however only 38% of overall respondents reported use of file encryption and only 15% use drive encryption. Email encryption has become inexpensive for businesses and easier to use with commercial email services yet overall only 26% of respondents reported using email encryption with confidential/privileged communications or documents sent to clients.

5. Cybersecurity Insurance. Many general liability and malpractice polices do not cover security incidents or data breaches, thus there is an increasing need for business to supplement their coverage with cybersecurity insurance. Unfortunately, only 17% of attorneys reported that they have cyber coverage.


It is important to note that the figures revealed by the 2016 Survey, while dismaying, may also be extremely conservative as law firms have a vested interest in keeping a breach of their client’s data as quiet as possible. There is also the very real possibility that many firms don’t yet know that they have been breached. The 2016 Survey demonstrates that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the privacy and data security space for law firms. As law firms continue to make the news for these types of incidents it is likely that improvement will come sooner rather than later.

Why You Need Law Firm Data Breach Response Plan

Law Firm Data BreachHacking was once again prominently in the news when it was announced right before the Democratic National Convention that Democratic Party emails had been compromised. This comes after an incident earlier this year when it was announced that hackers broke into the computer networks at a number of well-known law firms, including Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, which represent Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies.

Sadly, we have grown accustomed to, and possibly numb, from the almost weekly announcements that major corporations, organizations and government agencies have been victims of cyberattacks. The potential vulnerability of law firms is raising concerns among their clients, who are conducting their own assessments of the firms they hire.

Law Firms in the Crosshairs 

Law firms now recognize that cybercriminals are constantly looking for easy targets and sources of potentially valuable data that can be used to steal identities. Since law firms act as warehouses of extremely sensitive client and employee data, they are prime targets for cyberattacks. In the new, highly connected reality we operate in, law firms must consider the risks these cyberthreats pose and take the data protection steps necessary to reduce those risks. Otherwise, the oversight may prove costly.

It should be noted that, historically, most data breaches experienced by law firms are related to the loss or theft of a laptop, thumb drive, smartphone, tablet or other mobile device that contains sensitive client information. Such theft can be an open door for cybercriminals to gain easy access to a firm’s corporate network and steal confidential information. All that said, cybercriminals are much more savvy than ever before and have developed means of hacking into protected networks without using a piece of the organization’s hardware.

For example, according to a March 19 article in the Wall Street Journal, in February of this year, “a posting appeared on an underground Russian website called, in which the person offered to sell his phishing services to other would-be cyberthieves and identified specific law firms as potential targets. In phishing attacks, criminals send emails to employees, masked as legitimate messages, in an effort to learn sensitive information like passwords or account information. As a result, security firm Flashpoint issued alerts to law firms in January and February about the threats and has acquired a copy of a phishing email that is aimed at law firms, according to a person familiar with the alerts.”

Communicating a Data Breach 

Since no one can fully prevent the risk of a data breach, it’s important to have a crisis communication plan in place to inform stakeholders in case one occurs, and the media should they cover the story. The goal of the plan should be to address the situation as quickly as possible and restore trust with stakeholders. Tactics should include:

  • Identify a spokesperson for the firm.

  • Prepare written statements for employees, clients and media.

  • Craft message points for any media interviews.

  • Call key clients to inform them personally of the breach.

  • Post a statement on the firm’s website where it can be found easily.

As for the media, law firms should avoid the instinct to take a “head in the sand” approach. The conversation in the media, especially over social media, will take place whether you participate or not. It’s important to be honest and direct when telling your story. This will allow the law firm to better control the narrative.

The risk of your law firm’s computer network being hacked can never be completely eliminated. As the threats continue to increase, it’s critical to create a crisis communications plan to mitigate the fallout and reduce the likelihood that it will have a long-term negative impact on your firm’s reputation or bottom line.

ARTICLE BY Carlos Arcos of Jaffe

© Copyright 2008-2016, Jaffe Associates