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Androvett Blog

by Dave Moore at 12:00:00 am

As traditional media outlets have migrated toward Twitter, Facebook and other social media, it would seem inevitable that they would be susceptible to hacking, just as other users have.

The Associated Press learned this lesson in dramatic fashion on April 23, when a hacker erroneously tweeted on the AP’s Twitter account that explosions were reported in the White House, and that the president was injured. Almost immediately, the U.S. stock market tumbled. The S&P 500 index momentarily dropped in value by more than $100 billion before the report was proven false.

In a recent interview on KLIF-AM, Dallas cyber security attorney Matthew Yarbrough said that the hacking of the Associated Press’ Twitter account typifies the vulnerability of Corporate America’s data.

“As you can see, tweets are becoming incredibly popular,” Mr. Yarbrough said. “Look at what happened up in Boston, when the police announced the capture of one of the Boston Marathon bombers via tweet. We must believe it's true, because it came from a tweet, right? I think these sorts of hoaxes are something hackers like to do, to point out vulnerabilities in systems and networks. And it does show we're putting more confidence into a very short electronic message. I can't believe people are trading upon that, but it does happen. And there will be people at some point in time, who will be prosecuted for things like this.”

Mr. Yarbrough added that many corporations are extremely vulnerable to password hacking. “I often find that typically, when I audit major companies for their cyber security, people in the CEO position have the worst passwords. There's a lot that people can do to really make sure that they're using more complex passwords that aren't so susceptible to something called a “password cracker” that's easily downloaded and someone could point at your account and gain access.”

While the Associated Press reports that it has resolved its vulnerabilities to Twitter hacking, it’s likely only a matter of time before the next major news outlet falls victim to hackers.

by Robert Tharp at 4:20:00 pm

Travelers at major airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Dallas have started experiencing delays and interruptions as mandatory furloughs for air traffic controllers kick in as part of the 2013 budget sequester.

Writes the LA Times: After the first week of furloughs because of light traffic and good weather, the nation's air travel system operated without serious problems. The FAA warned Monday that more delays are on the horizon when air traffic is heavier and severe weather puts pressure on understaffed air traffic control facilities.

Furloughs of air traffic controllers have prompted an outcry from Washington lawmakers and litigation by pilots and airlines who say they could have been avoided. Airline workers have even started to urge frustrated passengers to pressure the FAA to reconsider the budget cuts. To help cut more than $600 million called for by budget sequestration, the FAA ordered air traffic controllers starting Sunday to take one furlough day in every two-week pay period. That would cut the total of the nation's nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers about 10% on any given day.

Also on the list of cuts is a plan to close smaller air traffic control towers nationwide, including 14 in mostly smaller communities in Texas. The proposal is indicative of the significant struggle the federal agency is encountering in trying to balance mandates to cut costs as part of the 2013 budget sequestration against its primary purpose of preserving safety in the national airspace system, says Dallas aviation attorney and pilot David Norton.

"There are procedures in place that certainly make it possible to safely operate an airport without a control tower," says Norton, a partner at Shackelford, Melton & McKinley. "However, the larger and more active the airport is, the more important it is to have an active control tower in order to ensure the safety of pilots, passengers and everyone on the ground."

by Dave Moore at 11:23:00 am

It’s been nearly 45 years since seat belts became mandatory in all U.S. passenger cars. The anniversary would seem almost quaint, save the fact that bus manufacturers and operators still don’t have to install seat belts in buses and motor coaches.

That inconsistency became painfully apparent for passengers traveling aboard a Cardinal Coach charter bus, which crashed April 11 en route to the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Okla., killing two passengers and injuring more than 40 others. According to police reports, the vehicle lost control on northbound State Highway 161 near the Beltline Road exit and crashed into a concrete median barrier, tumbling over onto its side.

Dallas attorney Frank L. Branson says bus owners and manufacturers have known for years that they need to improve the safety features of buses.

In a recent interview on NBC Ch. 5 (KXAS-TV), Branson says that a federal law passed in 2012 requires bus operators and manufactures to install seat belts and other safety measures, but implementation of the measure has been delayed. The law also requires regulations to improve structural standards for buses. “The bus manufacturers need to be held accountable – they’ve known of this danger for a long time,” says Mr. Branson, who was part of a legal team that obtained an $80 million settlement on behalf of families whose relatives died aboard a chartered bus that burst into flames while fleeing Hurricane Rita in September 2005.

The legal team's independent investigation into the September 2005 incident revealed a defect in the bus' hub-and-axle system that was prone to failure. Defendants in the lawsuit included the manufacturer of the bus and the designer and manufacturer of the hub-and-axle component, among others.

In the case of mandatory seat belts for passenger cars, and later, airbags, manufacturers resisted the requirement as too expensive, but history has proved otherwise. In fact, safety features like additional side-impact airbags have become some automakers’ best selling points.

Unfortunately for the passengers traveling aboard the Cardinal Coach charter on April 11, further delays in seat belt installation and other safety measures likely played a role in contributing to injuries during the crash. 

by Dave Moore at 2:30:00 pm

Dallas corporate marketing and advertising attorney Jane Fergason of the Dallas office of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP has a few words of warning to consumers who innocently give their ZIP code information to merchants during everyday transactions.

“Once you give the merchant your ZIP code, that information can be sold to a data broker, or the merchant can use that to find out your address or phone number, and other types of publicly available, but hard-to-get information,” Ms. Fergason recently told KLIF-AM radio show host Kurt Gilchrist. The result can be unwanted junk mail or, much worse, identity theft. The abuse of ZIP code and other information has become so pervasive that some states have banned stores from collecting it, Fergason says.

“In California and Massachusetts, they’ve passed laws that say you can’t ask for ZIP code information because that is personal identification information, prohibited by the statute.”
Other states, including Texas, are considering similar measures, she says.

What’s a consumer in other states to do?

For starters, consumers shouldn’t give merchants personal information such as ZIP codes, email addresses or phone numbers, Fergason says. Consumers aren’t required to give that information to venders to complete transactions, she says.

Fergason’s one exception: “There are certain times, such as when you’re at a gas station, when you have to type in your ZIP code, and that’s to help protect you from fraudulent purchases. That’s the credit card company asking for that information; that is not the store where you’re getting your gas … using that information.”