Most would expect that when an entity experiences a data breach, that entity would take reasonable and appropriate steps to investigate the breach and mitigate harm. Making credit monitoring services available to affected persons is a typical way companies attempt to mitigate harm, and that is exactly what the Plymouth County Correctional Facility did when one of its prisoners hacked into its personnel records. Including these monitoring costs in a restitution award to the prison facility was proper, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in United States v. Janosko.

Charged under the criminal provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the inmate who hacked into the prison’s records while incarcerated pleaded guilty

not only to causing such “damage” but also to causing “loss” by his damaging conduct, § 1030(a)(5)(B)(i).

The Court found that the "near juxtaposition of “loss” to “damage” inflicted on items or systems of equipment indicates some broader concept of forbidden effect and consequent scope of restitution" and that the definition of "loss" under the CFAA includes “any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense.” In this case, recovery by the prison facility was further enabled under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act which mandates restitution for “expenses incurred during … the investigation or prosecution of the offense.”

Actually recovering these costs from this or any other hacker will likely be difficult. However, companies are increasingly experiencing breaches and are getting better at being able to identify those committing the breach, which often times are employees or former employees. This decision provides support for those companies seeking to recover the costs they incur when taking appropriate steps to investigate these data incidents and mitigate harm when a breach is found to have occurred. As this court noted:

It should go without saying that an employer whose personnel records have been exposed to potential identity thieves responds reasonably when it makes enquiry to see whether its employees have been defrauded. This act of responsibility is foreseeable to the same degree that indifference to employees’ potential victimization would be reproachable. It is true, of course, that once they were told of the security breach, the individual employees and former workers involved in this case could themselves have made credit enquiries to uncover any fraud, but this in no way diminishes the reasonableness of the Facility’s investigation prompted by the risk that its security failure created. And quite aside from decency to its workers, any employer would reasonably wish to know the full extent of criminality when reporting the facts to law enforcement authorities.


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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.