Category Archives: Computer Law

PUC Creates New Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight

puc_sealSeptember 20, 2018 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced the appointment of Michael C. Holko, of Dauphin County, as the Director of the Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight (OCCO), a new position created by the PUC to direct the Commission’s cybersecurity and regulatory oversight program in helping to ensure that the Commonwealth’s regulated utilities are protected from cyber-attacks and ensuring adequate, safe and reliable public utility service to consumers.

“We are pleased to add Michael to our PUC team as he joins us in this most critical position,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown at Public Meeting.  “The creation of our new Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight is the next important step in the Commission’s continued efforts to protect Pennsylvania utility customers from experiencing disruption of utility services and other vital systems and services we depend on.”

Holko’s experience includes positions at the state’s Office of Administration’s Bureau of Personnel, the state’s Office of the Budget, the Pennsylvania Justice Network and most recently as a program manager at the state’s Office of Administration, Office for Information Technology.  Holko received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Slippery Rock University.  He resides in Harrisburg.

As the Director of the Office of Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight, Holko will advise the Executive Director and Commissioners on policy issues and procedural improvements involving cybersecurity oversight functions of regulated utilities; draft proposed cyber-related regulations; and oversee the preparation of orders, rulemakings, policy statements, Secretarial Letters and memoranda related to cybersecurity policies and procedures of those regulated utilities.

Chairman Brown also noted that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and discussed how the PUC is working with utilities, state agencies such as the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, emergency responders, and other organizations to better prepare for cyber and physical attacks, strengthen critical systems, share information about current and future threats, and ensure that essential services are as resilient as possible. Last summer, those entities joined other stakeholders around the world in EARTH EX 2017, a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.

Additionally, Chairman Brown stressed that it is equally important for consumers to review Pennsylvania’s online cybersecurity guide for tips to prevent identity theft, protect passwords, keep children safe online and secure mobile devices and referred utilities to the Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small and Medium Pennsylvania Utilities Guide, published by the PUC and available on its website.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding communications law, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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FCC SPEEDS ACCESS TO UTILITY POLES TO PROMOTE BROADBAND, 5G DEPLOYMENT

Access to Poles Must Be Safe, Swift, Predictable, and Affordable

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2018—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) promoted broadband deployment and competition by speeding the process and reducing the costs of attaching new network facilities to utility poles.FCCRuling

To enable broadband providers to enter new markets and deploy high-speed networks, access to poles must be swift, predictable, safe, and affordable.  Pole access also is essential in the race to deploy fast 5G wireless service, which relies on small cells and wireline backhaul.  An estimated 100,000 to 150,000 small cells will be constructed by the end of 2018, and these numbers are projected to reach 455,000 by 2020 and 800,000 by 2026.

The FCC fundamentally reformed the federal framework governing pole attachments by adopting a process in which the new attacher moves existing attachments and performs all other work required to make the pole ready for a new attachment.  Called “one-touch, make-ready,” (OTMR) this process speeds and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive—the new attacher—to prepare the pole quickly, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties.

By some estimates, one-touch, make-ready alone could result in approximately 8.3 million incremental premises passed with fiber and about $12.6 billion in incremental fiber capital expenditures.  The process will not apply to more complicated attachments, or above the “communications space” of a pole, where safety and reliability risks are greater, but the Order improves current processes for attachments in these spaces.

The FCC also addressed two forms of state and local regulatory barriers to the deployment of wireline and wireless facilities.  The Report and Order makes clear that the FCC will preempt, on a case-by-case basis, state and local laws that inhibit the rebuilding or restoration of broadband infrastructure after a disaster.  And in a Declaratory Ruling, the FCC made clear that blanket state and local moratoria on telecommunications services and facilities deployment are barred by the Communications Act because they, in the language of Section 253(a), “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.”

Action by the Commission August 2, 2018 by Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling (FCC 18-111).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, and Carr approving.  Commissioner Rosenworcel approving in part and dissenting in part.  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.  WC Docket No. 17-84; WT Docket No. 17-79.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding communications law, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Report tax identity theft with IdentityTheft.gov

If you’re a tax professional, business owner, or in a human resources department, the FTC and IRS can help you help clients, employees, or other people who discover they’re victims of tax-related identity theft.IdentityTheft.gov website on a laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

 Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return and claim your refund. You might find out about it when you try to e-file — only to find that someone else already has submitted a return — or when the IRS sends you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious tax return that used your SSN. That’s when you’ll need to file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039), so that the IRS can begin resolving your case.

 Until now, you had to complete an Affidavit from the IRS website, print it, then fax or mail it to the IRS. Now, the FTC and IRS have collaborated to let people report tax-related identity theft to the IRS online, using the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. It’s the only place you can submit your IRS Form 14039 electronically.

 What are the benefits? IdentityTheft.gov will:

Walk you through the process of completing the Form 14039

  • Transfer your Form 14039 to the IRS securely
  • Guide you through placing fraud alerts on your credit files, checking your credit reports, and taking other steps to stop the tax identity theft from harming your accounts, and
  • Help you resolve any other problems the tax identity theft may have caused.

Here’s how it works: IdentityTheft.gov will first ask you questions to collect the information the IRS needs, then use your information to populate the Form 14039 and let you review it. Once you’re satisfied, you can submit the Form 14039 to the IRS through IdentityTheft.gov and download a copy for yourself. About 30 days later, the IRS will send you a letter confirming it received the information.

Remember, though — filing the Affidavit doesn’t eliminate the need to pay your taxes. If you couldn’t e-file your tax return, you’ll still need to mail it to the IRS and pay any taxes you owe.

You may share this information with any victims of tax-related identity theft you encounter and remind them to visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the problem and get recovery help.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Investing in Bitcoin – Cryptocurrencies

Clients have been asking me about investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently provided some helpful advice.  ftc-seal

You do your best to keep up with the latest financial news. You’ve been hearing more about cryptocurrencies and asking yourself “Hmmm.” Of course, it’s not just Bitcoin. There are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are a type of digital currency, on the market. They’ve been publicized as a fast and inexpensive way to pay online, but many are now also being marketed as investment opportunities. But before you decide to purchase cryptocurrency as an investment, here are a few things to consider:

  • Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by a government or central bank. Unlike most traditional currencies, such as the dollar or yen, the value of a cryptocurrency is not tied to promises by a government or a central bank.
  • If you store your cryptocurrency online, you don’t have the same protections as a bank account. Holdings in online “wallets” are not insured by the government like U.S. bank deposits are.
  • A cryptocurrency’s value can change constantly and dramatically. An investment that may be worth thousands of dollars on Tuesday could be worth only hundreds on Wednesday. If the value goes down, there’s no guarantee it will rise again.
  • Nothing about cryptocurrencies makes them a foolproof investment. Just like with any investment opportunity, there are no guarantees.
  • No one can guarantee you’ll make money off your investment. Anyone who promises you a guaranteed return or profit is likely scamming you. Just because the cryptocurrency is well-known or has celebrities endorsing it doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.
  • Not all cryptocurrencies or the companies behind them are the same. Before you decide to invest in a cryptocurrency, look into the claims the company is making. Do an internet search with the name of the company and the cryptocurrency with words like review, scam, or complaint. Look through several pages of search results.

Read more about Investing Online.

Want to learn more about the technology underlying cryptocurrencies? See my earlier blog post Blockchain Technology Overview https://blog.princelaw.com/2018/02/07/blockchain-technology-overview/

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Blockchain Technology Overview

When and if to use blockchain

Aiming to clarify blockchain, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released an introduction to blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
blockchain_illustration_KIrvineShutterstock

Credit: K. Irvine/NIST/Shutterstock

 

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Online Dating and Relationship Scams

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but if an online love interest asks you for money, it’s probably a scam.online-dating-scams-3_350

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims.

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people, but scammers use them too, and eventually the scammers ask for money.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and how to handle them.

How to Recognize a Scam

The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:

  • wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM
  • claims love in a heartbeat
  • claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
  • plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour

Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.

What You Can Do About It

You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:

  • travel
  • medical emergencies
  • hotel bills
  • hospital bills for a child or other relative
  • visas or other official documents
  • or losses from a temporary financial setback

Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, your money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.

Report relationship scams to:

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2

It is tax time.  The tax scammers are gearing-up.  Learn how to protect yourself during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2, 2018.IRS

Tax identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else’s Social Security number to either file a tax return and claim the victim’s refund, or to earn wages that are reported as the victim’s income, leaving the victim with the tax bill.

The Federal Trade Commision, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and others throughout the week are hosting free webinars and Twitter chats focused on steps consumers and businesses can take to help avoid tax identity theft and recover if it occurs. There will also be discussions about ways to identify and avoid IRS imposter scams that target consumers and businesses.

The events include:

  • January 29 at 2 p.m. ET: A webinar for consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, how to protect yourself, and how to recover, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center.
  • January 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET: A webinar for older adults and other consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, co-hosted by the FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
  • January 31 at 11 a.m. ET: A Twitter chat for service members, veterans, and their families, co-hosted by the FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Join the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft.
  • January 31 at 1 p.m. ET: A closed webinar co-hosted by the FTC, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, focused on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams. This webinar is only available to Veterans Administration employees and patients.
  • February 1 at 1 p.m. ET: A webinar for small businesses, Protecting Sensitive Business and Customer Data: Practical Identity Safety Practices for Your Business, co-hosted by the FTC and IRS focused on tax identity theft, imposter scams targeting businesses, cybersecurity practices to reduce your risk, and data breach response.
  • February 1 at 3 p.m. ET: A Twitter chat for consumers on protecting yourself from tax identity theft, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center. Join the conversation at #IDTheftChat.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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