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Melissa K. Ventrone is on the cutting edge of data security and privacy, helping clients navigate emerging challenges related to today’s digital economy. As leader of the Cybersecurity, Data Protection and Privacy Business Unit, Melissa directs her skilled, multidisciplinary team of first responders to minimize security risks, ensure regulatory compliance, and curtail damage in the event of a data incident.

Understanding technology and the related legal issues and complex challenges, Melissa helps clients manage data to minimize risks and ensure compliance with changing regulatory requirements. Melissa is proficient in data security regulations including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR,) the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), among others. Leveraging her extensive knowledge, Melissa helps clients collect, use, monetize, and protect data (including intellectual property and customer, financial, medical, and employee records) in a secure and compliant manner.

As a Marine Corps veteran, Melissa understands the best defense is a strong offense especially when it comes to risk mitigation, resiliency, and protection. Melissa reviews data security policies, procedures, and incident response plans and works with clients to create a tactical action plan to establish compliance with state, federal and international laws and regulations and minimize cyber risks. This action plan includes creating and facilitating executive training and simulation exercises to improve clients’ cyber resiliency and ensure they are prepared to respond effectively and efficiently to data security incidents.

When a damaging data breach or cybersecurity attack occurs, Melissa and her team are available 24/7 to manage the end-to-end process from containment to recovery, minimizing operational disruption, negative repercussions and costs. Melissa has managed thousands of data security incidents across all industries, ranging from lost devices at small companies to high-profile cyberattacks impacting millions of customers’ data. Melissa’s vast experience in cybersecurity preparedness and response allows her to swiftly identify the best strategies to protect clients’ most critical assets.

Melissa is also a zealous advocate and has developed a winning reputation for defending companies facing data security and privacy regulatory investigations before both state and federal agencies.

Melissa is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US).

Education

J.D., Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, 2003
B.S., Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois, 2000
CIPP/US Certification

Recognitions

Named among Crain’s Chicago Business 2020 Notable Women in Law

Memberships

International Association of Defense Counsel

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

Illinois State Bar Association

International Association of Privacy Professionals

State Bar Licenses

Illinois

Court Admissions

U.S. District Ct., N.D. of Illinois
  • Mobilized to file a temporary restraining order preventing an Internet service provider (ISP) from permitting an unauthorized individual, who had changed the access codes for the account, from gaining further access to the account or data within the account.
  • Assisted a company with domain names that had been hacked and transferred to a different ISP. Mobilized in the appropriate jurisdictions and filed documents with the court to be heard on an emergency basis, requesting the domains be transferred back to the appropriate ISP. The court granted the request, preventing the company from suffering any further harm.
  • Successfully defended a health care performance improvement company in class action litigation resulting from a stolen hard drive that contained personally identifiable information. Plaintiff alleged that client was negligent and violated consumer fraud statutes because it failed to properly protect the information on the hard drive, resulting in emotional distress, lost wages, lost time for researching identity theft and risk of identity theft.
  • Represented an educational institution when one of its vendors disclosed personal health information of the institution’s employees and dependents to the wrong employees. Coordinated with the vendor to determine the scale of the breach and that the error had been remediated, provided a communication plan that enabled the employer to notify the employees in person, and arranged for an identity restoration resolution with an outside vendor. Based on this response, the employees expressed satisfaction with the institution’s actions.
  • Assisted a health care facility in responding to a breach that involved a stolen hard drive. Obtained identity restoration services for the impacted individuals and helped ensure compliance with breach notification laws, while working with the HIPAA compliance team to address HIPAA issues and coordinate with local regulators. Impacted individuals and their unions were pleased with the facility’s response, as were regulators. Press accounts noted that the facility’s response to its breach was an example of how a breach should be handled.
  • Successfully represented several merchants that had suffered a credit card breach, working with forensic investigators who specialize in payment card breaches as well as the processor, banks and the credit card companies to reduce any potential fines or assessments. Reduced the overall liability of the company based on in-depth knowledge of the payment card industry’s processes.