Category: General

Cancer Care Organization settles for 2.3 Mio $ after Data Breach

22. December 2017

In 2015, a data breach occurred at 21st Century Oncology  (21stCO), one of the leading providers of cancer care services in the USA, potentially affecting names, social security numbers, medical diagnoses and health insurance information of at least 2.2 million patients.

On its website, the provider had announced in 2016 that one of its databases was inappropriately accessed by an unauthorized third party, though an FBI investigation had already detected an attack as early as October 2015. The FBI, however, requested 21stCO to delay the notification because of ongoing federal investigations.

21stCO had then stated that ““we continue to work closely with the FBI on its investigation of the intrusion into our system” and “in addition to security measures already in place, we have also taken additional steps to enhance internal security protocols to help prevent a similar incident in the future.” To make amends for the security gap patients had been offered one year of free credit monitoring services.

Nevertheless, the provider now has to pay a fine worth 2.3 million dollars as settled with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR; part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

It has been accused of not implementing appropriate security measures and procedures to regularly review information system activity such as access or security incident reports, despite the disclosure by the FBI.

The OCR further stated that “the organization also disclosed protected health information to its business associates without having a proper business associate agreement in place”.

The settlement additionally requires 21stCO to set up a corrective action plan including the appointment of a compliance representative, completion of risk analysis and management, revision of cybersecurity policies, an internal breach reporting plan and overall in-depth IT-security. The organization will, in addition, need to maintain all relevant documents and records for six years, so the OCR can inspect and copy the documents if necessary.

Following the settlement, District Attorney Stephen Muldrow stated “we appreciate that 21st Century Oncology self-reported a major fraud affecting Medicare, and we are also pleased that the company has agreed to accept financial responsibility for past compliance failures.”

New and surprising password guidelines released by NIST

21. December 2017

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes innovation and industrial competitiveness often by recommending best practices in matters of security, has released its Digital Identity Guidelines uttering advice for user password management.

Considering that Bill Burr, the pioneer of password management, has admitted regretting his recommendations in a publication back in 2003, the NIST is taking appropriate action by revising wide-spread practices.

For over a decade, people were encouraged to create complex passwords with capital letters, numbers and „obscure“ characters – along with frequent changes.

Research has now shown that these requirements don’t necessarily improve the level of security, but instead might even make it easier for hackers to crack the code as people tend to make minor changes when they have to change their already complex password – usually pressed for time.

This is why the NIST is now recommending to let go of periodic password change requirements alongside of algorithmic complexity.

Rather than holding on to these practices, the experts emphasize the importance of password length. The NIST states, that „password length has been found to be a primary factor in characterizing password strength. Passwords that are too short yield to brute force attacks as well as to dictionary attacks using words and commonly chosen passwords.“

It takes years for computers to figure out passwords with 20 or more characters as long as the password is not commonly used.

The NIST advises to screen new passwords against specific lists: „For example, the list may include, but is not limited to passwords obtained from previous breach corpuses, dictionary words, repetitive or sequential characters (e.g. ‘aaaaaa’, ‚1234abcd’), context-specific words, such as the name of the service, the username, and derivatives thereof.“

Subsequently, the NIST completely abandons its own suggestions and causes great relief for industries all over:

„Length and complexity requirements beyond those recommended here significantly increase the difficulty of memorized secrets and increase user frustration. As a result, users often work around these restrictions in a way that is counterproductive. Furthermore, other mitigations such as blacklists, secure hashed storage, and rate limiting are more effective at preventing modern brute-force attacks. Therefore, no additional complexity requirements are imposed.“

French Data Protection Commission threatens WhatsApp with sanctions

The French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) has found violations of the French Data Protection Act in the course of an investigation conducted in order to verify compliance of WhatsApps data Transfer to Facebook with legal requirements.

In 2016, WhatsApp had announced to transfer data to Facebook for the purpose of targeted advertising, security and business intelligence (technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help executives, managers and other corporate end users make informed business decisions).

Immediately after the announcement, the Working Party 29 (an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy, set up under Article 29 of Directive 95/46/EC; hereinafter referred to as „WP29“) asked the company to stop the data transfer for targeted advertising as French law doesn’t provide an adequate legal basis.

„While the security purpose seems to be essential to the efficient functioning of the application, it is not the case for the “business intelligence” purpose which aims at improving performances and optimizing the use of the application through the analysis of its users’ behavior.“

In the wake of the request, WhatsApp had assured the CNIL that it does not process the data of French users for such purposes.

However, the CNIL currently not only came to the result that the users’ consent was not validly collected as it lacked two essential aspects of data protection law: specific function and free choice. But it also denies a legitimate interest when it comes to preserving fundamental rights of users based on the fact that the application cannot be used if the data subjects refuse to allow the processing.

WhatsApp has been asked to provide a sample of the French users’ data transferred to Facebook, but refused to do so because being located in die United States, „it considers that it is only subject to the legislation of this country.“

The inspecting CNIL thus has issued a formal notice to WhatsApp and again requested to comply with the requirements within one month and states:

„Should WhatsApp fail to comply with the formal notice within the specified timescale, the Chair may appoint an internal investigator, who may draw up a report proposing that the CNIL’s restricted committee responsible for examining breaches of the Data Protection Act issue a sanction against the company.“

 

Facial recognition data may become purchasable for private companies in Australia

5. December 2017

The Australian government is considering making facial recognition data available for private companies.

By paying a fee they are supposed to get access to data originally collected for the sake of national security.

However, the companies are to be restricted to cases where the person has given her/his consent.

In an interview with The Guardian, Monique Mann, a director of the Australian Privacy Foundation and a lecturer at the faculty of law at the Queensland University of Technology, says that requiring companies to ask for consent may not be enough to protect consumers’ rights or mitigate the risks involved with biometric data, and would encourage firms to store more data.

As also reported by The Guardian, the government struck a deal with states and territories over the controversial national facial recognition database last month. It is said, that according to the documents, which predate the agreement, at that time 50% of the population was already included in the database.

With the help of state and territory governments, the federal Attorney General’s Department planned to expand that number to cover 85% of Australians.

Google gathers location data even if location services are disabled

23. November 2017

As Quartz reports, since the beginning of 2017, Google is gathering location data from Android phones, even if the location services are disabled. To do so, Google has been collecting the addresses from nearby cellular towers. With the gathered information Google has access to the location of Android phone users and data about their movements.

Quartz further reports, that according to a Google spokesman, the tower addresses were sent to a Google system that manages push notifications and messages on Android phones and that the collected data had never been stored. It is further said that by the end of November Google will end this practice.

Category: General

Moscow adds facial recognition to its network of surveillance cameras

2. October 2017

Moscow adds facial recognition to its network of 170.000 surveillance cameras across the city to be able to identify criminals and boost security, Bloomberg reports. The camera surveillance started in 2012. The recordings of the camera surveillance system have been held for five days after they are captured, with an amount of 20 million hours of video material stored at any one time. “We soon found it impossible to process such volumes of data by police officers alone,” Artem Ermolaev, who is Head of the Department of Information Technology in Moscow, said according to Bloomberg. “We needed an artificial intelligence to help find what we are looking for.”, he further said.

A Russian start-up, named N-Tech.Lab Ltd designed the facial recognition technology. The start-up is known for its mobile app FindFace which was released last year. With FindFace it is possible to search for users of the Russian social network VKontakte by making a picture of a person’s face and match it against the user profiles of VKontakte.

However, due to high costs the face recognition technology should not be deployed to every camera and therefore only be installed selectively within specific districts where it is needed the most. To maintain the camera surveillance, the Moscow government already should spend about $ 86 million a year and this amount would triple if every camera would use the new facial recognition technology.

The new technology is used to cross-reference images captured by the cameras with those from the Interior Ministry’s database.

Credit Bureau Equifax has been hacked

11. September 2017

The consumer credit reporting agency Equifax has been hacked in the middle of May. The operators have noticed the breach much later, on 29th July. The public has learned about the breach just last week on Thursday, 7th September.

The breach potentially affects the sensitive data of approximately 143 million consumers. Data concerned are the consumer’s name, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and in some cases driver’s license numbers. As well as credit card numbers for 209.000 U.S. consumers and other dispute documents that contained identifying information for 182.000 consumers.

Not only the US is concerned. A hired third-party cybersecurity company also found some residents of the U.K. and Canada.

The Equifax Chairman and CEO Rick Smith announced steps Equifax is taking at the moment to respond on the breach and is working with authorities.

Category: Data breach · General · USA
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New Zealand: Police uses backdoor in law to gather private data

5. September 2017

According to the New Zealand Council of Civil Liberties, in several cases private data was handed over by banks to the police, after the police requested these data from them. It is further explained that the police used forms that looked official, instead of applying to a judge for a search warrant or examination. The police should neither have an oversight, nor a register which tracks the amount of filed requests.

The Police and banks rely on a legal loophole in the Privacy Act that allows organisations to reveal information about persons in order “to avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law”. The Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is willing to end the further use of this backdoor. Referring to the case of handing over the private information of activist and journalist Martyn Bradbury, he said:

“…we concluded that Police had collected this information in an unlawful way by asking for such sensitive information without first putting the matter before a judicial officer. Our view is that this was a breach of Principle 4 of the Privacy Act, which forbids agencies from collecting information in an unfair, unreasonable or unlawful way.”

India: Is the “right to privacy” a fundamental human right?

4. August 2017

The Indian Supreme Court has to decide if the “right to privacy” should be considered a fundamental human right.

According to the Wire, a bench of nine justices was set up after several petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of India’s Aadhaar scheme, with some petitioners claiming that the biometric authentication system is a violation of the privacy of Indians. The bench examined over the last two weeks the nature of privacy as a right in context of two earlier judgements. Back in 1954 and 1962 these judgements came to the conclusion that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right. Legal experts expect the judgement in the last week of August.

Times of India reports that the Supreme Court outlined a three-tier graded approach to examine the question whether privacy can be considered as a fundamental right. The Bench therefore configures privacy into three zones. As stated by a justice of the Bench, the first zone could be the most intimate zone concerning for example marriage or sexuality. The state should only intrude this zone under “extraordinary circumstances provided it met stringent norms”.

The second zone would be the private zone. This zone could involve personal data like the use of credit card or the income tax declaration. In this zone, “sharing of personal data by an individual will be used only for the purpose for which it is shared by an individual”, it is further said.

The third zone would be the public zone. This zone should require only minimal regulation. However, that should not mean that the individual would lose the right of privacy, but “retain his privacy to body and mind”.

 

Annual Transparency Report released by the US Intelligence

10. May 2017

In April 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its fourth annual Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities for calendar year 2016.

The annual Transparency Report provides information (in form of statistics) about how often the US government uses certain national security authorities for surveillance activities. Further, it explains under which legal basis a surveillance has to be performed and names national security authorities (besides the FISA authorities) that are involved, such as the CIA, FBI or the NSA.

It is shown that based on the applied surveillance activity and the purpose of the investigation, U.S.-persons as well as non-U.S.-persons can be targets. Furthermore, it is described which legal prerequisites have to be fulfilled when investigating a target.

For example, the Transparency Report provides information about the number of issued National Security Letters (NSLs) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The number of NSLs slightly decreased compared to last year. However the number of issued NSLs does not contain the number of individuals or organisations that are the subjects of the NSLs.

During an investigation, personal data may be collected for example telephone numbers or email addresses.

 

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