September 2017

Data Breaches: A primer on data breaches and what it means for consumers.

What is a “Data Breach”?
Data breach refers to the release of data from a system without the knowledge or consent of its owner. Common examples of data breaches include hackers accessing a business’ systems to steal information;  an employee or ex-employee stealing customer information;  or the theft of computer devices (like laptops or USB drives) with consumer information on them.  Generally, hackers or thieves are looking for personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, and/or customer data.
1. Personally Identifiable Information:   Any data that could potentially identify a specific individual, or that could be used for de-anonymizing data.
Examples:  Name, Address, Social Security Number, biometric information, medical information, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers.  
2. Financial Information
Examples:  Credit card numbers, bank account numbers, paypal credentials.
3. Customer data:  
Examples:  Login information (username/passwords); tracking data; usage data.  
Examples of businesses which have failed to secure consumer data and therefore been held responsible for data breach incidents include:  insurance companies; medical providers; retail stores; credit bureaus, social networking sites, and employers.
Notification of a Breach
Forty-Eight states*, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have a law which requires some form of notification to consumers when a business has a data breach which affects consumers.  Only  
A business which fails to notify customers as required by law may be subject to liability to those customers.
The Risks for Consumers
Both Private Health Information and Personal Identify information is highly coveted and a frequent target of hackers.  This information is targeted not only for identity theft purposes, but also for committing health care fraud, obtaining medical services under another’s insurance. As
the FTC recognizes once identity thieves have personal information, “they can drain your bank account, run up your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance.” Further, as of 2013 a Javelin Strategy Study found “In 2013, data breaches became more damaging, with one in three people who received a data breach notification letter becoming an identity fraud victim.”
In order to avoid or limit such problems it is necessary for consumers to regularly monitor their accounts for suspicious activity and credit reports for fraudulently opened accounts as well as regularly review any explanations of benefits (EOBs) received from insurers.  Further, customers may need to cancel credit cards, close bank accounts, and pay out of pocket for fraudulently charged items or medical services.  Some consumers may also enroll in identity theft protection services at a monthly fee.  
If Your Data has been Compromised in a Data Breach
If your personal information has been compromised in a data breach, and you’d like to discuss your rights a lawyer who specializes in data breaches and privacy issues may
be able to help.  Our attorneys have represented individuals in data breaches against some of the largest corporations in the country.

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One of the several professional organizations that I am a member of is the J. Willard O’Brien American Inn of Court (AIC). This organization is a chartered member of the American Inns of Court which is the oldest and largest legal mentoring organization in the country. AlC’s mission is to promote professionalism, civility, ethics, and legal skills among members of the bench and bar. It has adopted the English Inns of Court tradition of legal apprenticeship by encouraging less experienced attorneys to learn from more seasoned attorneys and judges in a collegial atmosphere.

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Hurricane Season 2017 to Climate Change Deniers: Hold My Beer!

I’ve written before in this space about climate change deniers President Trump and EPA Chief Pruitt, and how the denial of science in the face of overwhelming evidence discredits our nation and places all of us in environmental danger.  From bad policy decisions to the failure of the EPA to protect our water and air, to the crippling of scientific research due to the stripping of funds for such programs, science deniers are forcing the US back into the 19th century.

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Congratulations to associate James Barry who was selected as a “Top 40 under 40” attorney by the National Trial Lawyers. Mr. Barry focuses his practice on complex litigation including class actions and mass torts, and has appeared regularly in State and Federal Courts on behalf of consumers and workers. Mr. Barry has also been before the New Jersey Supreme Court and Appellate Division regularly in the last few years, arguing on behalf of consumers regarding the enforceability of forced arbitration provisions and substantive consumer rights under New Jersey law.

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I remember the day I became a New Yorker.

I remember the day I became a New Yorker. It was not the day in 1991 when I landed at JFK Airport setting foot on American soil for the first time, a 21 year old Irish law graduate seeking adventure. It was not the day in 1994 when I moved, lock, stock and barrel, from Ireland to a studio apartment in the Flatiron District of Manhattan to live with my new husband. It was not the day I started my first job in a law firm on Fulton Street blocks from the World Trade Center. And it was not the day in 2000 when I was sworn in as a proud citizen of the United States at Federal Plaza. Yes, I lived in New York, I worked in New York, and I loved New York. But I still referred to Ireland as home.

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