The lawyers are coming

IT security negligence

Following the first virus epidemics (I Love You, Melissa, Nimda, etc.) insurance companies in the US began to remove the computer damages cover from their commercial insurance plans, writes Bloor Research analyst Robin Bloor. At the same time the US was on a legislative security spree, which was another reason for the insurance companies to duck out. Thus it came to pass that the victims of security problems started to conjure with the word "negligence" and take their stories to their lawyers.

To be realistic, it was not before time, but it had to be tried out in the courts for anyone to have an idea of what the definition of IT security negligence was.

The following two cases, both of which are done and dusted, provide the early guidelines:

  • Maine Public Utilities Commission v. Verizon. Verizon rents the use of Maine Public Utilities infrastructure, but Verizon went out of action due to the Slammer worm - revealing that Verizon's patch management process was not up to snuff. Verizon asked Maine for a refund for the time it was out of action. Maine refused to pay asserting that Verizon was negligent. The argument went to court and the verdict went to Maine.

  • The State of New York v The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU, through poor IT security, let confidential information about its donors leak out. The State of New York felt litigious about this. The ACLU's defence was to point the finger at a supplier to which it outsourced its security. The case was eventually settled out of court on the advice of ACLU's lawyers. The defence wasn't going to wash.

All of this makes the current

"hackergate" scandal

in the US Congress all the more ironic. Apparently, Republican staff members hacked in to Democrat computers to steal confidential memoranda that related to judicial nominees. Democrats realized that something was amiss when these memoranda began appearing in the press and they complained to the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

He began investigations which led directly to Republican staff members. Some Republicans have seen fit to blame the Democrats for negligence in the area of IT security - and to be honest, I think they should 'fess up - and switch to using Apple or Linux.

What's wrong with Microsoft Windows security you ask? Well there will be an official judgment on this at some point. A 50-year-old female victim of identity theft is suing Microsoft over its inadequate security. The suit alleges that Microsoft's "eclipsing dominance in desktop software has created a global security risk" Dana Taschner, the lawyer who filed the suit, wants Windows PC users to launch a class-action suit together. It will be interesting to follow this one.

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