Cybersecurity attacks have increasingly garnered significant attention this summer—and financial regulators are taking notice and taking action. Earlier in August, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced the indictment of nine players in a major hacking ring. The ring was designed to obtain corporate announcements prior to their public release, to give purchasers of the illegally obtained information an edge in securities trading. The attack combined old-school securities fraud with new-school cybercrime, and served as a reminder of financial markets’ potential vulnerabilities from the ingenuity of cybercriminals.
On June 29, the FTC and New Jersey Attorney General announced the filing of a joint complaint, and proposed, stipulated settlement, against an Ohio-based app developer, Equiliv Investments LLC and an individual officer of the company. The federal and state enforcement agencies alleged that Equiliv marketed a free app that users believed would let them earn rewards points for playing games or downloading affiliated apps. The agencies alleged that Equiliv explicitly represented the app was free of malware when in fact the app’s main purpose was actually to load malicious software on the users’ phone to mine virtual currency. Allegedly, the app took control of the devices’ computing resources and degraded the phones’ performance by draining battery life and data plans, and causing the devices to charge slowly. The malware was alleged to pool the computing resources of consumers’ mobile devices to benefit the company’s effort to generate virtual currencies through a peer-to-peer network to compete with other devices in solving complex mathematical equations – a process known as “mining.”
Following meetings between President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff this week, the leaders issued a joint communiqué addressing a number of cyber issues. It would appear that post-Snowden tensions have ameliorated. In 2013, President Rousseff condemned alleged US spying. In their statement this week, the Presidents expressed a “share[d] understanding that global Internet governance must be transparent and inclusive, ensuring full participation of governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations, so that the potential of the Internet as a powerful tool for economic and social development can be fulfilled” and they reaffirmed “their adherence to the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.”
Cyberthreat Sharing Bills Gain Momentum. On March 12, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (“CISA”) to increase sharing of cybersecurity threat information by U.S. companies on a vote of 14-1. The legislation grants liability protections for companies that voluntarily share cybersecurity threat information with the government or industry partners. The measure should be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor shortly.
California has been experiencing a wave of putative class actions under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”). A decision this week by a federal court judge in California could halt new case filings and lay the groundwork for the dismissal of pending actions.
In a recent case of first impression, the California Supreme Court unanimously held a trial court’s preliminary injunction preventing publication of a computer program for descrambling digital video disks did not violate the defendant’s free speech rights, assuming the trial court properly issued the injunction under California’s trade secret law. In its August 25, 2003 decision in DVD Copy Control Assoc., Inc. v. Andrew Bunner, the Court resolved an apparent conflict between the free speech clauses of the United States and California Constitutions and California’s trade secret laws. This decision is significant because it is one of the first in the country to deal with the interplay between the free speech rights of parties who wish to publish technical information on the Internet and the property rights of parties who claim trade secret ownership in such information.