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AT&T's data breach settlement called a 'slap on the wrist'

Grant Gross | April 10, 2015
Some cybersecurity experts question whether the FCC's settlement will help change behaviors.

It's interesting that the data breach settlement came through the FCC, when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been the agency that often pursues companies for data breaches, said Robert Cattanach, a partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney focusing on cybersecurity and other regulatory litigation.

The FCC settlement, the largest in agency history for a data breach, "ups the ante" for penalties, but the FCC may still have been a better option for AT&T, Cattanach said.

"It's no secret that the regulated community -- especially a large player -- enjoys, relatively speaking, a much more cozy relationship with the FCC than is the case with FTC," he said by email. "The FCC is not a push-over to be sure, but it does not project the attack dog mentality that the FTC prides itself in conveying."

Companies should consider that the cost of protecting the data at the three contract call centers would be a fraction of the cost of the settlement, said Philip Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software, another cybersecurity vendor.

New protections, however, would require a change in process, "which is generally harder than the purchase of any technology," he added by email. "The C-level staff will have to explain this to the board as to why they did not implement a control when the cost would be trivial."

 

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