Recent activity by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) highlight the continued focus by government regulators on cybersecurity. As these and other regulators take an increasingly assertive enforcement posture, companies should be proactive about structuring their cybersecurity compliance programs to avoid fines, safeguard sensitive data, and protect their reputation.
Recent enforcement actions and announcements show that state and federal regulators are continuing to focus intensely on cybersecurity and data protection. Notably, the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) recently issued the latest proposed amendments to its Cybersecurity Regulations. NYDFS also recently announced a $4.25 million cybersecurity consent order with OneMain Financial Group, LLC (“OneMain”). In addition, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently announced a settlement with genetic testing company 1Health.io (“1Health”).
New Proposed Amendments to NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulations
The NYDFS recently announced updated proposed amendments to its industry leading cybersecurity regulations. These latest amendments follow public comments on earlier proposed amendments circulated in November 2022. If adopted, companies regulated by NYDFS would face several new requirements, including the following:
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A recent consent order between the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) and cryptocurrency trading platform, bitFlyer USA (“bitFlyer”), shows that the NYDFS continues to utilize an aggressive enforcement posture with respect to cybersecurity for regulated financial services companies. Notably, the bitFlyer consent order and other recent consent orders demonstrate that NYDFS is no longer waiting for regulated entities to experience a cyber-attack before commencing an enforcement action, and, instead, is using routine examinations to uncover and prosecute companies for failing to comply with the NYDFS’s cybersecurity regulations.
In 2017, the NYDFS promulgated first-of-its-kind regulations establishing cybersecurity requirements for financial services companies. 23 NYCRR Part 500. These regulations were amended once and a proposed second amendment was published in late 2022, with final amendments expected to be adopted sometime later this year.
On June 23, 2022, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced the entry of a Consent Order in connection with its most recent cybersecurity enforcement action, which included a $5 million monetary penalty against Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Costa Cruise Lines (“Carnival Companies”), for violations of NYDFS’s Cybersecurity Regulation, 23 NYCRR Part 500 (“Part 500”). In addition to the $5 million monetary penalty, the Carnival Companies also surrendered their insurance producer licenses and agreed to cease selling insurance to residents of New York.
According to the Consent Order, between 2019 and 2021, the Carnival Companies were the subject of four separate cybersecurity events, including ransomware and phishing attacks. All four of the cybersecurity events led to the exposure of nonpublic personal information (NPI) of both consumers and employees, including such information as names, addresses, birth dates, passport numbers, and in some instances, other sensitive information such as social security numbers and health information.
With cyberattacks continuing to plague the financial services industry, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) recently released new guidance for regulated entities related to the use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and cybersecurity frameworks.
On December 7, 2021, NYDFS issued a formal Industry Letter entitled Guidance on Multi-Factor Authentication. According to the Industry Letter, MFA “is an essential part of cybersecurity hygiene . . . which is why it was one of the few technical controls explicitly required by” the NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation, 23 NYCRR Part 500 (the Cybersecurity Regulation). However, the Industry Letter goes on to note that “MFA weaknesses are the most common cybersecurity gap exploited at financial services companies,” most often due to MFA “being absent, not fully implemented, or configured improperly.” Specifically, NYDFS noted that, from January 2020 to July 2021, more than 18.3 million consumers were impacted by cybersecurity incidents reported to NYDFS that were linked to an MFA failure.
We have written here previously about the dramatic increase in cyberattacks on companies of all types since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, by some estimates, ransomware attacks have increased over 90% during the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year. As these and other types of cyberattacks have increased, various federal and state regulators have correspondingly stepped up efforts to investigate and bring enforcement actions – which often include large fines – against companies that are perceived to have been negligent in their cybersecurity efforts. Two of the most active agencies in cybersecurity enforcement have been the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) and the United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), both of which have made important announcements regarding cybersecurity compliance in the past few months.