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FMG Law Blog Line

Posts Tagged ‘#Atlanta’

Smart Cities Face Hacking Threat

Posted on: August 15th, 2018

By: Ze’eva Kushner

As you sit in traffic, frustrated and wondering why the city or municipality cannot do something to ease congestion, know that a city’s use of internet-connected technology to make your commute better may also invite hackers to wreak havoc on your city.

Traffic is just one of many problems that “smart cities” use internet-connected technology to address.  A smart city can set up an array of sensors and integrate their data to monitor things like air quality, water levels, radiation, and the electrical grid.  That data then can be used to automatically inform fundamental services like traffic and street lights and emergency alerts.

Smart city technology provides many benefits to city management, including connectivity and ease of management.  However, these very same features make the technology an attractive target for hackers.  In a recently released white paper, IBM revealed 17 vulnerabilities in smart city systems around the world.  Some of these risks were as simple as failing to change default passwords that could be guessed easily, bugs that could allow an attacker to inject malicious software commands, and others that would allow an attacker to sidestep authentication checks.  Additionally, use of the open internet rather than an internal city network to connect sensors or relay data to the cloud presents an opportunity for hackers.

Atlanta is an example of a smart city that is attempting to improve its efficiency by employing smart city technology, with its focus being mobility, public safety, environment, city operations efficiency, and public and business engagement.  Atlanta knows all too well how crippling a hack can be, as it suffered from the ransomware attack in the Spring that kept residents from services such as paying their water bills or traffic tickets online.  The hacking threat to smart cities is real and significant.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Ze’eva Kushner at [email protected].

Enforcing an HOA Covenant

Posted on: February 12th, 2018

By: Jan S. Sigman

Many homes built in the metro Atlanta area in the past 20 years are located in subdivisions that have a homeowner’s association (HOA). In 1994, Georgia adopted the Property Owner’s Association Act.  If an HOA elects to become subject to the Act, then the covenants passed by the HOA are enforceable against all the current property owners in the association, as well as subsequent purchasers into the community. Covenants may include restrictions on the development and use of the property.

In Great Water Lanier v. Summer Crest at Four Seasons on Lanier Homeowners Ass’n, Case No. A17A1810 (January 2, 2018), the Georgia Court of Appeals enforced various HOA covenants on a subdivision plat where Great Water accepted but did not sign the warranty deed. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court held the parcel was subject to the HOA covenants.  Great Water appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling.  By accepting the deed, the Court of Appeals held, Great Water voluntarily consented to be bound by the HOA covenants. This case illustrates the need for buyers to conduct due diligence into HOA covenants that could encumber the property.

Jan Seanor Sigman is licensed to practice in Georgia and represents contractors and design professionals in all construction matters including contract negotiations, payment disputes and delays, contract terminations, and defective work. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jan Seanor Sigman at [email protected].

Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal – Civil Liability Next?

Posted on: April 2nd, 2015

By: Wayne S. Melnick

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, a Fulton County Superior Court jury handed down guilty verdicts to 11 of the 12 defendants charged in the notorious Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) cheating scandal in which educators and administrators were alleged to have acted in a wide-spread conspiracy to artificially inflate grades in order to obtain and/or maintain grant money for their schools as well as personal bonuses and prestige for themselves.  Hopefully, this closes one chapter of any ugly period in the history of APS.

However, the specter of civil liability now rears its head.  As an attorney that defends teachers, administrators, and school districts, it is only natural to wonder whether (or when) civil lawsuits will follow. During the criminal trial testimony, prosecutors argued that students were robbed of the opportunity to learn and other grant money to get tutoring otherwise needed.  Does this provide “damages” that are compensable under the law?  If so, what is the cause of action for these wrongdoings?

Without delving deep, it does not take much imagination to see where federal or state civil RICO claims would be fairly easy to establish in light of the criminal convictions (which are required as predicate acts to such a claim).  To the extent there were students with disabilities that were affected, perhaps IDEA or § 504 claims are ripe for assertion as well.

While what happened here is localized to Atlanta, in light of the pressures that are put on teachers and administrators to succeed, it is not far-fetched to think this could happen anywhere in the United States.  As such, it is imperative for school districts and their insurers everywhere to consider the ramifications.