President Obama today unveiled a “Cybersecurity National Action Plan.” The administration’s proposed budget includes $19 billion for cybersecurity spending, $3 billion of which will be devoted to updating agency systems. The plan includes the creation of a Federal Chief Information Security Officer to guide the implementation of increased security across the federal government and reside within the Office of Management and Budget. President Obama also issued two executive orders. The first establishes the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity within the Department of Commerce to be composed of technology, national security, and business leaders. The Commission is charged with developing by December 1, 2016 “detailed recommendations to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors.” The second requires the establishment of a Senior Agency Official for Privacy at each agency and creates the Federal Privacy Council as “the principal interagency forum to improve the Government privacy practices of agencies and entities acting on their behalf.” The OMB Director will be chair of the Federal Privacy Council, which will have the focus of coordinating internal agency policies.
On December 28, 2015, President Obama signed into law S. 2425, the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (the “Act”). In addition to provisions intended to ensure that Medicare reimbursement policies promote continued access to certain durable medical equipment, like wheelchair accessories, the Act includes provisions that affect adoption of Health Information Technology (“HIT”) and those that provide greater protection against medical identity theft. Specifically, the Act recognizes various categories of hardship exceptions from meaningful use requirements for the 2015 reporting period and strengthens the penalties associated with medical identity theft.
In an era where cyber risk is almost daily news, governments have been working to develop tools to help businesses protect themselves against those who want to steal or misuse data.
On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that Concentra Health Services Inc. (“CHS”) and QCA Health Plan Inc. (“QCA”) have agreed to pay a total of $1,975,220, collectively, to resolve potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Privacy and Security Rules stemming from the theft of unencrypted laptops. Specifically, CHS has agreed to pay $1,725,220, and QCA has agreed to pay $250,000, to OCR to settle potential HIPAA violations and will adopt corrective action plans to evidence their remediation of the potential violations. The clear message from both settlements is that OCR expects covered entities to encrypt mobile devices that store electronic Protected Health Information (“ePHI”).
SEC Launches Cybersecurity Examination Initiative – Promoting Cyber Preparedness
On April 15, 2014 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) released a Risk Alert announcing that the agency will be examining 50 registered broker-dealers and investment advisers in order to assess cybersecurity preparedness in the securities industry.1 The announcement was accompanied by a sample request for information and documents. According to OCIE, the examinations will focus on “cybersecurity governance, identification and assessment of cybersecurity risks, protection of networks and information, risks associated with remote customer access and funds transfer requests, risks associated with vendors and other third parties, detection of unauthorized activity, and experiences with certain cybersecurity threats.”
Recent data breaches at retailers like Target have increased awareness about growing cybersecurity threats. Broker-dealers in particular need to reevaluate their own cybersecurity preparedness in light of several recent events:
- FINRA’s launch of a cybersecurity sweep, publicly announced on the FINRA website on February 6, 2014;
- The inclusion of cybersecurity as a priority in the SEC’s National Examination Program for 2014 and FINRA’s 2014 Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter;
- The White House’s February 12, 2014 release of the much-anticipated Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity; and
- An upcoming SEC public roundtable on cybersecurity issues, to be held in Washington, DC on March 26, 2014.
On February 12, the White House released the widely anticipated Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (“the Framework”). Developed pursuant to Executive Order 13636 (issued in February 2013), the Framework strongly encourages companies across the financial, communications, chemical, transportation, healthcare, energy, water, defense, food, agriculture, and other critical infrastructure sectors to implement and comply with its voluntary standards. The provisions set forth in the Framework may establish a new baseline for industry standard practices, and may impact or guide FTC enforcement actions and plaintiff data breach lawsuits.