Under Georgia state law, businesses must notify residents about security breaches that expose their personal information. The notices can be written or electronic, and must be submitted as soon as possible after discovery of the breach.
A data breach is the unauthorized access or release of someone's personally identifiable information (PII), which is any data that could reveal an individual's identity.
Data breaches can happen if an employee clicks on a link in a phishing email, if a laptop or thumb drive is stolen, or if hackers break into a computer network. Accidental security breaches are another cause, such as misconfigured software that leaves data unprotected.
Every small business that handles credit cards or stores customer information is vulnerable to data breaches. IT consultants, healthcare providers, and financial institutions are among the industries with the highest risk.
Georgia's Data Breach Notification Statute [PDF] defines personal information as knowing an individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following:
Even if not accompanied by a first and last name or first initial and last name, any of the above items qualify as personal information if they provide sufficient information to perform or attempt identity theft against the person whose information was compromised.
Any business that handles PII should invest in cyber liability insurance to mitigate costs in the event of a data breach.
Businesses should notify Georgia residents of a security breach "in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay."
Georgia's Data Breach Notification Statute outlines when and how businesses and other data collectors need to respond to a breach of security.
Businesses in Georgia that experience a data breach must respond when the personal information of a state resident was accessed, or believed to have been accessed, by an unauthorized person.
Businesses must report a breach "in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay." Delays are permitted when law enforcement requests more time for a criminal investigation.
Permitted notification methods include written notices, notification by telephone, and electronic notices.
If more than 10,000 Georgia residents were affected, then the business must also notify the nationwide consumer reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, etc.).
Notices to affected residents must include a description of the information that was compromised, along with the business's contact information.
For businesses that store or maintain personal information that they don't own, the owner of the data must be notified within 24 hours following the discovery of a breach. These notifications should include the date of the breach, the scope of the breach, and any steps that the business has taken.
Data breaches that impact healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals are regulated by federal laws. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) includes a Breach Notification Rule that requires notification after a breach of unsecured protected health information. Businesses must notify:
Individuals must be notified by first-class mail, or by email if they've agreed to electronic communication, within 60 days of the discovery of a breach.
The cost of a data breach can be significant, which is why cyber insurance is so important for businesses that handle personal data.
Notifying those affected and paying for credit monitoring can be expensive. You’ll have to investigate and fix your security weaknesses while suffering a possible loss of income, and government fines can also be costly. You might even face a ransomware attack, where hackers shut down your computer systems and demand payment.
If you're responsible for another company's data security, then you may need third-party cyber liability insurance. This policy covers legal expenses when a client blames your business for failing to prevent a data breach at their company.
E&O insurance, also called professional liability insurance, covers your legal costs in the event that a client sues you for making a mistake or failing to deliver on a contract. Tech E&O extends that coverage to include lawsuits related to data breaches and cyberattacks.
While any business could be at risk of a lawsuit after a data breach, this coverage is especially important for information technology businesses, especially IT consultants, network security companies, and cybersecurity businesses that recommend software or are responsible for information security.
Violations of Georgia's Data Breach Notification Statute are deemed an unlawful practice under the state's Fair Business Practices Act.
Businesses that fail to provide notification of the breach could face civil penalties of up to $100 for each offense against a particular consumer, among other penalties.
For businesses that store data, it's crucial to take appropriate steps to prevent data breaches. Businesses are advised to safeguard private information through a variety of methods, such as designating one or more employees to coordinate a security program.
It’s a good idea to conduct a security audit of the various types of personal information, unique identifiers, and other data elements you might have in your data systems.
Requiring strong passwords, security questions, two-step authentication, and access codes can provide reasonable protection for your business and any service providers who access this information, thereby reducing the chance of an unauthorized acquisition of data.
Complete Insureon’s easy online application today to compare quotes from top-rated insurance carriers for cyber policies. Our licensed agents will help you find coverage that fulfills Georgia's insurance requirements and protects your business. Once you find the right policy for your small business, you can begin coverage in less than 24 hours.