Cyberthieves Hit Owners: US Courts Extend Legal Protection to Small Firms Whose Accounts Were Hacked

A U.S. court ruled that builder Mark Patterson, pictured here in Maine, could proceed with a suit against his bank.But two recent court rulings are giving those business owners new hope that banks which don’t cater to their specific security needs may be held liable for funds stolen by hackers who increasingly have focused on attacking small businesses.Banks typically are responsible for losses when personal accounts are hacked. But state laws uniformly place the burden on commercial clients to show that banks didn’t do enough to protect their money.The laws generally have treated individuals and companies differently, reasoning that companies should be more sophisticated than individuals and have their own online security measures in place.The two recent rulings may alter that equation, recognizing small-business owners often lack an understanding of cyberthreats when they accept bank security procedures, said lawyers who represent owners in such disputes.

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