Data Breach Fallout Continues: Lawsuit Filed by Massachusetts AG, NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation to Possibly Include Credit Reporting Agencies, and Joint Letter Sent From 34 States Requesting Fee-Based Credit Monitoring Service Be Disabled
Massachusetts AG Lawsuit. On September 19, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced it had filed the first enforcement action in the nation against the credit reporting agency. The complaint, filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleges that the agency ignored cybersecurity vulnerabilities for months before the breach occurred and claims that the agency could have prevented the data breach had it “implemented and maintained reasonable safeguards, consistent with representations made to the public in its privacy policies, industry standards, and the requirements of [the Massachusetts Data Security Regulations],” which went into effect March 1, 2010. The failure to secure the consumer information in its possession, the complaint asserts, constitutes an “egregious violation of Massachusetts consumer protection and data privacy laws.” Causes of action under the complaint arise from (i) the agency’s failure to provide prompt notice to the commonwealth or the public; (ii) the agency’s failure to safeguard consumers’ personal information; and (iii) the agency engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices under Massachusetts law. The commonwealth seeks, among other things, civil penalties, disgorgement of profits, and restitution.
NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation. On September 18, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released a notice directing the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) to issue a proposed regulation that would expand the state’s “first-in-the-nation” cybersecurity standard to include credit reporting agencies and to require the agencies to register with NYDFS. The annual reporting obligation would, according to a press release issued by NYDFS, grant it the authority to deny or revoke a credit reporting agency’s authorization to do business with New York’s regulated financial institutions should the agency be found in violation of certain prohibited activities, including engaging in unfair, deceptive or predatory practices. Under the proposed regulation, credit reporting agencies would be subject to compliance examinations by NYDFS, would be required to initially register with NYDFS by February 1, 2018 and annually thereafter, and would be required to comply with cybersecurity regulations starting on April 4, 2018, in accordance with a phased-in compliance schedule. On the same day, NYDFS issued a separate press release urging New York state chartered and licensed financial institutions to take immediate action to protect consumers in light of the recent credit reporting agency data breach. The guidance presented in the release by the NYDFS is provided in conjunction with the state’s cybersecurity regulations.
State Attorneys General Request. On September 15, a letter co-authored by 34 state attorneys general was sent to the credit reporting agency’s legal counsel. The letter expresses concern over the agency’s conduct since the disclosure of the breach, including the offer of both fee-based and a free credit monitoring services, the waiver of certain consumer rights under the agency’s terms of service, and the charges incurred by consumers for a security freeze with other credit monitoring companies. Specifically, the attorneys general objected to the agency “using its own data breach as an opportunity to sell services to breach victims,” and argued that “[s]elling a fee-based product that competes with [the agency’s] own free offer of credit monitoring services to [data breach victims] is unfair, particularly if consumers are not sure if their information was compromised.” Accordingly, the letter requests that the agency temporarily disable links to fee-based services and extend the offer of free services until at least January 31, 2018. Further, the letter also expresses concern that consumers must pay for a security freeze with other credit monitoring companies and states that the agency should reimburse consumers who incur fees to completely freeze their credit.