News

New Florida law offers employers protection against hackers

by Lisa Berg

Effective October 1, Florida business owners will have a new civil remedy in the event they’re harmed by unauthorized access to their computers or information stored on protected computers.

Under Florida’s Computer Abuse and Data Recovery Act (CADRA), businesses can pursue a civil action for “harm or loss” suffered as a result of unauthorized access to “protected computers.”

Harm means “any impairment to the integrity, access, or availability of data, programs, systems, or information.” “Loss” is defined as reasonable costs incurred in conducting a damage assessment, remedial measures (e.g., restoring the data), economic damages, lost profits, consequential damages (including interruption of service), and profits earned by the violator.

A “protected computer” is defined as a “computer that is used in connection with the operation of a business and stores information, programs, or codes in connection with the operation of the business in which the stored information, programs, or codes can be accessed only by employing a technological access barrier.”

In addition to damages for losses, CADRA provides for injunctive relief and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The time limit for filing an action is three years after the violation occurred, is discovered, or, with due diligence, should have been discovered.

What employers should do

Businesses wanting to take advantage of CADRA’s protections against hackers and other unauthorized users should do the following:

  • Assess information security systems and implement appropriate measures (“technological access barriers”) to safeguard computers and data.
  • Review computer use and data access policies to ensure they define “authorized users,” state when authorization may be revoked, and explain the type of conduct that is improper and may result in disciplinary action.
  • Conduct vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to ensure your security systems and technological barriers are effective.

For more information on CADRA, see the September issue of Florida Employment Law Letter.

Lisa Berg is an attorney with Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A., in Miami. She can be reached at lberg@stearnsweaver.com.