United States: Data Security Threats Evolve

Published in Business NH Magazine 2/16/2018

How much do you really worry anymore about a breach of your credit card? If your card is lost or your number is stolen, a thief might make a purchase or two before the fraud is detected and the card is deactivated. Retailers and banks absorb the charges. You should bear no financial loss, promptly receive a new card and proceed happily in your life of credit.

Credit cards were a big concern in the era of data security 1.0. Breaches like TJX, Home Depot and Target made national headlines. Fortunately, the adoption of smart cards with chips and improvements in advanced fraud detection rendered those types of breaches less profitable, and therefore less prevalent. So, cyber criminals evolved.

Data security 2.0 is the era of identity theft. Breaches topping the headlines now are Equifax, Yahoo! and Anthem. Such thefts are designed to secure information that is useful for stealing identities. The commodities of identity theft are:

  • Social Security numbers;
  • government identification, like driver's license and passport numbers;
  • user names and passwords for online accounts;
  • health insurance numbers and medical, dental and counseling information;
  • bank, investment and other financial account numbers, PINs and passwords;
  • biometric and genetic information;
  • location and global positioning data;
  • consumer patterns and purchasing history;
  • personal information, like residential and email addresses, phone and cellular numbers, date and place of birth, and mother's maiden name.

Identity theft is more lucrative and lasting than credit card fraud. Unlike a card number, identity information is essentially permanent and cannot be easily replaced. A robust fraudulent identity, particularly with a high credit score, can be used to perpetrate a variety of high-value crimes before the individual or financial institution detects and stops it, like obtaining a mortgage or line of credit secured by the individual's property, incurring large uninsured medical bills, and rapidly obtaining and maxing out credit cards. Also, unlike credit card fraud, victims of identity theft often bear huge financial costs and invariably suffer damaged or destroyed credit.

Theft of a child's identity is even more traumatic. Because credit bureaus do not release a child's credit report until the individual is 18 years old, it can be impossible to determine if an identity is stolen while the individual is a child.  In fact, by the time the individual turns 18, the fraudulent identity can be more robust than the real identity. It is extraordinarily difficult, costly and time consuming for the individual to prove that he or she is the real person, stop the thief from using the identity, and expunge the criminal, financial and other deleterious history from public and private systems that retain such information.

Protecting Your Identity

Protecting yourself involves enhancing safeguards for the online accounts, electronic devices and documents that contain your identity information. Taking the following steps will significantly reduce your risk of identity theft.

Clean Credit Report and Freeze Credit: Obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the three major bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Terminate any account that is inactive and, of course, any that is fraudulent. Then implement a security freeze with each credit bureau. You will receive a PIN to use with each to temporarily unfreeze your credit (like if you apply for a new loan) or adjust the freeze.

Purchase Credit and Identity Insurance: Reputable credit and identity monitoring and theft insurance is available and affordable. It ensures that you have a sophisticated security network monitoring the internet to detect malicious activity and provides you with credit and identity restoration insurance and support services if you become a victim of identity theft.

Secure Mobile Devices and Passwords: Laptops, cellphones, tablets, USB and external hard drives, and other mobile devices are treasure troves of identity information. They should be encrypted. Such technology is widely available and often already installed and ready to be activated on the device. Using strong passwords that are themselves protected to access your devices and online accounts also is imperative. Using a commercially available password manager is an excellent way to do so.

Monitor Financial Accounts and Report Fraud: Establishing account notifications and carefully reviewing your credit card, bank, investment and other financial account statements monthly will enable you to detect and report fraudulent activity promptly.

Destroy Documents Properly: Documents you receive from banks, financial advisors, health care providers and insurers frequently contain account numbers and personal information. Cross-shred all such mail, documents and historical files before you discard them.

Protecting Your Business

In the era of identity theft, all businesses—not just big corporations, banks and large retailers—are targets for cyber attack. In fact, small and medium-size businesses, particularly professionals and service providers, face significant threats because they often possess large amounts of sensitive identity information related to customers and employees, and commonly have inadequate security measures.

Protecting your business is more involved than protecting yourself. You need an experienced data security attorney to work in collaboration with the operations, finance, IT and other leaders of your business. Becoming data secure is not just an IT function. It is a process of adopting and implementing business protocols and cultivating a culture of security throughout your business. 

Comprehensive Risk Assessment: A comprehensive risk assessment involves preparing an inventory of all the business's regulated and sensitive information. That information is mapped throughout its life cycle to discover security vulnerabilities with respect to building and physical structures, technology and IT networks, and administrative processes.  The risk assessment yields a report that lists and prioritizes the vulnerabilities and remediation for them.

Remediate Vulnerabilities and Adopt Security Enhancements: Using the report, the business researches and implements measures to remediate the vulnerabilities. Remediation often depends on the availability and affordability of such measures, and commonly takes six to 18 months for a business to complete.

Adopt a Written Data Security 

Policy: A data security policy is created from the information gathered during the risk assessment and the remedies implemented or anticipated. Policies created without a risk assessment are guesswork and do not comply with state or federal law or accepted practice. No two data security policies are the same because no two businesses are the same, and there is no boilerplate policy.

Train Employees: Training your employees is an integral component of data security. Employees handle protected data on a daily basis and need to be taught about data security and the business's specific policies.

Reassess Periodically: Data security is ever-changing, and there is no finish line. Instilling a culture of security for your business means periodically reassessing and implementing improvements when appropriate.

Cam Shilling is a director at  McLane Middleton, P.A. (mclane.com) in Manchester and chair of the firm's Privacy and Information Security Group.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions