The Garden State has been updating its data privacy and security laws and you may be wondering why. On October 28, 2018, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey State Police the New Jersey announced statistics on the effects of data breaches in 2017 on New Jersey residents. Based on that report, here are some interesting data points:

  • Reported breaches affecting NJ residents increased 41% from 2016 to 2017 (676 to 958). Remember, these are only reported breaches. Yes, not all breaches are reported, reported properly, or are even discovered.
  • Business sectors most often involved with breaches include finance/banking, health services followed by business services and retail trade. Other areas include education, restaurant, industrial/manufacturing, hotels, non-profits, non-medical insurance, and telecommunications.
  • Phishing attacks were the most popular method used to breach the security of an organization’s information systems, followed by website malware, employee incident, unauthorized email access and ransomware. It is unclear from the report if these are in any particular order. Importantly, note that with phishing attacks, unauthorized email access, and ransomware, employees very likely play a role in making the attacks successful. That is, employees typically are not intentionally causing these attacks, but they are duped into clicking a link or entering information that helps out the bad guys. Training and awareness are critical.
  • The New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office enforcement activities resulted in $4.8 million in civil settlements with the State.

The announcement also included some tips individuals can take to better protect sensitive personal and business information. Notably, the announcement states that:

this effort is part of a broader effort by Attorney General Grewal to strengthen the state’s cybersecurity protections, and follows an announcement earlier this year the creation of a Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Section within the Division of Law (DOL) to investigate data privacy cases and advise state agencies on related matters.

The tips offered by the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs are directed at individual consumers, but organizations and businesses certainly could adopt these, and require their employees to follow some or all of these best practices:

  • Avoid clicking on e-mail links or attachments from unknown individuals, financial institutions, computer services or government agencies. To check out the message, go to the sender’s legitimate public website, and use the contact information provided.
  • Choose a strong password containing letters, numbers and symbols. If a website offers two-factor authentication security, use it.
  • Before disposing of any electronic device, wipe the hard drive using specialized software that will overwrite your information.
  • Avoid free Wi-Fi, especially for health, financial, and other personal transactions.

Efforts similar to this are underway in a many states as personal information and confidential business information either continue to be under attack or are maintained without adequate safeguards. Organizations need to monitor these developments and strengthen their administrative, physical, technical, and organizational defenses.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, 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, Mr. Lazzarotti 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 – Mr. Lazzarotti 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 – Mr. Lazzarotti’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.

Mr. Lazzarotti 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.

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