California Attorney General Releases Report Defining "Reasonable" Data Security
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On February 16, 2016, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released the California Data Breach Report 2012-2015 (the “Report”) which, among other things, provides (1) an overview of businesses’ responsibilities regarding protecting personal information and reporting data breaches and (2) a series of recommendations for businesses and state policy makers to follow to help safeguard personal information. Importantly, the Report states that, “[t]he failure to implement all the [Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security] Controls that apply to an organization’s environment constitutes a lack of reasonable security” under California’s information security statute. Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.81.5(b) requires that “[a] business that owns, licenses, or maintains personal information about a California resident shall implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information, to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.” The Center for Internet Security’s Critical Security Controls are a set of 20 cybersecurity defensive measures meant to “detect, prevent, respond to, and mitigate damage from cyber attacks.”

The Report also provides the following recommendations:

  • Organizations should make multi-factor authentication available on consumer-facing online accounts that contain sensitive personal information.
  • Organizations, particularly in the health care industry, should consistently use strong encryption to protect personal information on laptops and other portable devices, and should consider it for desktop computers.
  • Organizations should encourage individuals affected by a breach of Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers to place a fraud alert on their credit files and make this option very prominent in their breach notices.
  • State policy makers should collaborate to harmonize state breach laws on some key dimensions. Such an effort could reduce the compliance burden for companies, while preserving innovation, maintaining consumer protections and retaining jurisdictional expertise.


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