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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

NYDFS enforces its cybersecurity regulation for the first time

State Issues Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Title Insurance Mortgages 23 NYCRR Part 500 NYDFS Enforcement

State Issues

On July 22, NYDFS filed a statement of charges against a title insurer for allegedly failing to safeguard mortgage documents, including bank account numbers, mortgage and tax records, and other sensitive personal information. This is the first enforcement action alleging violations of NYDFS’ cybersecurity regulation (23 NYCRR Part 500), which took effect in March 2017 and established cybersecurity requirements for banks, insurance companies, and other financial services institutions. (See InfoBytes coverage on NYDFS’ cybersecurity regulation here.) Charges filed against the company allege that a “known vulnerability” in the company’s online-based data storage platform was not fixed, which allowed unauthorized users to access restricted documents from roughly 2014 through 2019 by changing the ImageDocumentID number in the URL. Although an internal penetration test (i.e., an authorized simulated cyberattack) discovered the vulnerability in December 2018, NYDFS claims that the company did not take corrective action until six months later, when a well-known journalist publicized the problems.

The company allegedly violated six provisions of 23 NYCRR Part 500, including failing to (i) conduct risk assessments for sensitive data stored or transmitted within its information systems; (ii) maintain appropriate, risk-based policies governing access controls to sensitive data; (iii) limit user-access privileges to information systems providing access to sensitive data, or periodically reviewing these access privileges; (iv) implement a risk assessment system to sufficiently identify the availability and effectiveness of controls for protecting sensitive data and the company’s information system; (v) provide adequate data security training for employees and affiliated title agents responsible for handling sensitive data; and (vi) encrypt sensitive documents or implement suitable controls to protect sensitive data. Additionally, NYDFS maintains that, among other things, the company misclassified the vulnerability as “low” severity despite the magnitude of the document exposure, failed to investigate the vulnerability within the timeframe dictated by the company’s internal cybersecurity policies, and did not conduct a reasonable investigation into the exposure or follow recommendations made by its internal cybersecurity team.

A hearing is scheduled for October 26 to determine whether violations occurred for the company’s alleged failure to safeguard consumer information.

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