Data breaches

Could this be the bar exam bandit?

Bar exam applications suck (believe me, I know — I’ve had to fill out quite a few of them). Bar applicants need to supply every single piece of personal information imaginable, from their birthday and Social Security number to their 10-year work history. If anyone with criminal intent ever got their hands on that information, we can’t even begin to describe how screwed those poor bar applicants would be.

As it turns out, some bar applicants are getting a taste of what it feels like to be violated by a state bar outside of a timed test-taking situation.

Which state bar just exposed an untold number of exam applicants to identity theft due to a break-in?

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With all of the recent advances in technology, even doing the simplest of things can be quite difficult for law school personnel. How hard is it to send an email to prospective students without cursing in the subject line? Very. How hard is it to send an email without attaching the admissions data for a law school’s entire admitted class? Extremely.

We’ve got yet another email screw-up for you, and we think you’re going to like it. When the good folks at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles aren’t busy telling women not to dress like whores, they’re emailing students with very private personal information about everyone in the graduating class.

Sorry Loyola, but we don’t think “law school transparency” means what you think it means….

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Shoes. Oh my God, shoes.

On Monday, my roommate came home griping that his Zappos.com account, which he had not used in a year, had been hacked. Instead of feeling sympathetic, I started wondering how I might write about it. Data breaches are a dime a dozen these days.

It seems almost every company loses control of their customers’ sensitive data at some point. Someone almost always sues after the news breaks. But the lawsuits are rarely successful, unless customers can show real harm caused by the breach.

Most often, companies do not give up full credit card or Social Security numbers. This week, Zappos said it only suffered unauthorized access to somewhat less sensitive information. It’s a bit unnerving, but not the end of the world.

Did that stop some opportunistic consumer from taking action against the online shoe retailer?

Of course not. And we didn’t have to wait very long. A Texas woman filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, which owns Zappos, the same day the breach was announced. Is her lawsuit premature, vague, and a bit silly? Probably. Will it go anywhere? Probably not. But c’mon, you gotta love melodramatic, eager-beaver, consumer litigation.

So what, exactly, did Zappos lose? And how many people’s data was compromised? (Hint: it’s a lot.) Let’s mosey on past the jump and find out….

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I write about hacking and data security periodically, even though sometimes I get the feeling legal professionals try hard not to think about the subjects. But the stories in this realm bear repeating. Corporate data security is a real concern for many, many corporate attorneys, and especially in-house counsel.

Data security problems used to stem most frequently from weak firewalls or unencrypted equipment. But more and more, the biggest sources of risk and liability are just dumb or technologically overeager employees.

What kind of computer trouble are you and everyone you know getting your company or firm into? Let’s see….

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At this point, the lengths companies go to in order to protect data, keep it secure, and prepare for e-discovery is old news. Data breaches — and the news coverage that usually follows — have frightened many companies into at least attempting to ratchet up data security policies. Likewise with retention practices. There have been enough e-discovery horror stories that most companies, and especially their lawyers, know they need to start prioritizing this stuff.

Strangely though, you don’t often hear much about data security within corporate boards. But it turns out that the boards of many multinational corporations with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue are way, way behind the curve on data security.

Company boards are doing everything from printing out physical copies of thousands of pages of sensitive material, to sending unencrypted information to personal e-mail accounts, unsecured iPhones, and home computers. The Thomson Reuters report, released Wednesday, gives a harrowing account of disasters waiting to happen….

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