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Claridge v. Rockyou, 09-6032 PJH (N.D. Cal.; Apr. 11, 2011)

Claridge v. Rockyou, 09-6032 PJH (N.D. Cal.; Apr. 11, 2011)

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Court declines to dismiss data breach claims against RockYou for lack of standing.
Court declines to dismiss data breach claims against RockYou for lack of standing.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on Apr 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/08/2012

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTNORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIAALAN CLARIDGE,Plaintiff,No. C 09-6032 PJHv.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART ANDDENYING IN PART MOTION TO
ROCKYOU, INC.,
DISMISS
Defendant. _______________________________/ Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint came on for hearing on February 2,2011 before this court. Plaintiff Alan Claridge (“plaintiff” or “Claridge”), appeared throughhis counsel, Christopher Dore and Michael Aschenbrener. Defendant RockYou, Inc.(“defendant” or “RockYou”) appeared through its counsel, Daniel Weinberg, and KarenJohnson-Mckewan. Having read all the papers submitted and carefully considered therelevant legal authority, the court hereby GRANTS defendant’s motion to dismiss in partand DENIES the motion to dismiss in part, for the reasons stated at the hearing, and asfollows.
BACKGROUND
Plaintiff brings the instant action against defendant for allegedly failing to secure andsafeguard its users’ sensitive personally identifiable information (“PII”), including emailaddresses, passwords, and login credentials for social networks like MySpace andFacebook. See First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), ¶ 1.Defendant RockYou is a publisher and developer of online services andapplications for use with social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, hi5 andBebo. Applications developed by RockYou include those that enable users to share
Case4:09-cv-06032-PJH Document47 Filed04/11/11 Page1 of 16
 
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123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282photos, write special text on a friend’s page, or play games with other users. FAC, ¶ 10.Customers sign up to use RockYou’s applications through rockyou.com, and they areasked to provide a valid e-mail address and registration password, which RockYou thenstores in its database. FAC, ¶ 11. Additionally, a customer may be required to provideRockYou with a username and password for accessing a particular social network. Id.When users operate a RockYou application on a social networking site, RockYou utilizesthe application as a platform to display paid advertisements. See FAC, ¶ 10. Defendantclaims to be the leading provider of social networking application-based advertisingservices, with more than 130 million unique customers using its applications on a monthlybasis. Id.Plaintiff Claridge was a registered account holder with RockYou during the relevanttime period, having registered with RockYou on August 13, 2008. FAC, ¶ 52. He signedup to utilize a photo sharing application offered by defendant, and submitted his e-mailaddress and password to defendant in order to do so. Id. at ¶ 53.Plaintiff alleges that RockYou promised through its website that it would safeguardits users sensitive PII, through a written policy that stated: “RockYou! uses commerciallyreasonable physical, managerial, and technical safeguards to preserve the integrity andsecurity of your personal information...” FAC, 12. Despite this promise, plaintiff allegesthat RockYou – which collects and stores millions of users’ PII in a large-scale commercialdatabase – stored all PII in “clear” or “plain” text, which means that RockYou utilized noform of encryption in order to prevent intruders from easily reading and removing users’ PII.FAC, ¶ 15. The PII was therefore readily accessible to anyone with access to thedatabase. Id., 16.Among the options available to protect its customers, plaintiff alleges that RockYoucould have followed a commonly used method of protecting sensitive data that requiresconversion and storage of a “hashed” form of a plain text password. Defendant failed,however, to use hashing, or any other common and reasonable method of data protection.
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123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627283FAC, ¶¶ 18-19. Plaintiff alleges that, by failing to secure its users’ PII, RockYou madeemail account and social networking account access available to even the least capablehacker. Id., 21.On December 4, 2009, an online security firm called Imperva, Inc. (“Imperva”)notified RockYou of a security problem with its SQL database (SQL is a database computerlanguage designed for storing data in database management systems). Impervaspecifically informed RockYou that it had become aware of a ‘SQL injection flaw’ inRockYou’s system – which would allow a hacker to take advantage of web software tointroduce malicious code into a company’s network. FAC, ¶ 25. According to Imperva,hackers were regularly discussing RockYou’s SQL injection vulnerability in undergroundhacker forums, and the fact that this vulnerability was being actively exploited. Id. Impervaallegedly believed that prior to warning RockYou, it was likely that breaches had alreadyoccurred through RockYou’s SQL injection flaw, and that RockYou users’ webmailaccounts had been accessed as a result of such breaches. Id., ¶ 28.Plaintiff alleges that knowledge and understanding of SQL injection flaws has beenwidespread for more than a decade, and that such flaws are easy to prevent and wellknown to any web developer handling a large-scale commercial website. See FAC, ¶ 27.However, because RockYou did not have proper security in place and failed to usecommercially reasonable methods to prevent a well-known method of attack, its securityflaw was being actively exploited and the contents of its database were known and beingmade public through underground hacker forums on or before November 29, 2009. Id., ¶31.After Imperva warned RockYou of its SQL injection flaw, RockYou issued a pressrelease stating that RockYou had immediately brought down its site in response to thewarning, and kept it down until a security patch was in place. FAC, ¶ 34. Plaintiff alleges,however, that RockYou did not in fact respond immediately to Imperva’s warning, andwaited at least one day to take action to repair the SQL vulnerability. Id., ¶ 35.
Case4:09-cv-06032-PJH Document47 Filed04/11/11 Page3 of 16

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