Incident & Breach Response , Security Operations

US FTC Imposes Strict Reporting Mandates for Global Tel*Link

New Reporting Measures Follow Data Breach Affecting Prison Communications Provider
US FTC Imposes Strict Reporting Mandates for Global Tel*Link
The FTC finalized an order for Global Tel*Link on Feb. 23, 2024. (Image: Shutterstock)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission finalized new requirements for a prison communications provider that failed to notify hundreds of thousands of users that their sensitive data had been compromised in a major data breach.

See Also: Meeting the Mandate: A Proactive Approach to Cybersecurity Compliance and Incident Reporting

Under the order announced Friday, Global Tel*Link Corp. and two of its subsidiaries must implement a comprehensive data security program and notify users of any future breaches. The prison communications provider will be required to implement multifactor authentication and deploy change management measures across its systems "to help reduce the risk of human error," the FTC said.

The commission voted 3-0 to finalize the order after it received a complaint about Global Tel*Link in November that alleged the company and its subsidiaries had failed to safeguard sensitive personal information belonging to hundreds of thousands of users within U.S. prison systems. Global Tel*Link was testing new search software in August 2020 when the company and a third-party vendor copied unencrypted sensitive data about nearly 650,000 users and then stored that information in plain text in the cloud.

The company rebranded as ViaPath Technologies in January 2022.

The data, which included Social Security numbers, full names and other sensitive information, "was left accessible via the internet without any safeguards," the FTC said in November. Hackers accessed billions of bytes of the exposed data, according to a forensic analysis, before a security researcher eventually notified Global Tel*Link about it.

Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement that the commission is committed to protecting privacy rights "for all consumers, including incarcerated consumers and their loved ones."

"When consumers have little or no choice about whether to use a business's products or services, the business has an even greater responsibility to ensure that its practices don't cause harm," Levine said.

Global Tel*Link waited nearly nine months before contacting consumers affected by the breach, and it only alerted 45,000 users that their data might have been compromised. Under the new order, the company must alert any users it failed to previously notify and provide credit monitoring and identity protection solutions to all affected users.

The company will also be required to notify consumers and facilities of future breaches or security incidents within 30 days and to notify the FTC within 10 days of reporting a security incident to authorities.

Global Tel*Link is also prohibited from misrepresenting its data security practices after the commission found that the company had "touted its security practices by claiming that data security is 'the cornerstone of what we do.'"

About the Author

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta

Managing Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Riotta is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president. His reporting has appeared in NBC News, Nextgov/FCW, Newsweek Magazine, The Independent and more.

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