Data Breach Laws in Virginia
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What are the data breach notification laws in Virginia?

Businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia that experience a data breach must notify affected residents and the Office of the Attorney General if the breach is likely to result in identity theft or another type of fraud.

What is a data 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 an online account. 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.

What is personally identifiable information?

Virginia state law defines personal information as an individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with their:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver's license number or state identification card number
  • Passport number
  • Military identification number
  • Financial account number, credit card number, or debit card number in combination with a password or other means of access

Any business that handles PII should invest in cyber liability insurance to mitigate costs in the event of a breach.

Businesses must report a breach "without unreasonable delay" to the Office of the Attorney General and any residents whose personal information was compromised.

What are Virginia's data breach notification requirements?

Virginia businesses that experience a data breach must respond if the breach causes, or there is reasonable belief it may cause, identity theft or fraud to a resident.

Businesses must report a breach "without unreasonable delay" to the Office of the Attorney General and any residents whose personal information was compromised.

Notification may be delayed while the business determines the scope of the breach and restores its systems, or if a law enforcement agency determines that notification will impede its investigation of the breach.

For data breaches that affect more than 1,000 Virginia residents, businesses must also notify consumer reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, etc.).

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What do business owners need to include in a data breach notice?

Notices to Virginia residents affected by a data breach can be sent via phone, email, or mail. They must include:

  • A description of the incident in general terms
  • The type of personal information that was exposed
  • Actions taken by the business to protect the information
  • A telephone number they can call for further information, if possible
  • Advice to review account statements and free credit reports to watch for fraud

Consumer reporting agencies and the Office of the Attorney General must be informed of the timing, distribution, and content of the notice provided to residents.

Breaches of health information are regulated on the federal level

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:

  • Affected individuals
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • The media, if over 500 residents of a state or jurisdiction were affected

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.

Additionally, Virginia law requires businesses to notify the Commissioner of Health of any breaches of medical information.

Protect your business with cyber liability insurance

The cost of a data breach can be significant, which is why cyber liability 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.

Small businesses most often need first-party cyber liability insurance. Also called data breach insurance, this policy provides financial protection against data breaches at your business.

You can often add this coverage to your general liability insurance or business owner’s policy (BOP), which combines general liability coverage with commercial property insurance at a discount.

Businesses that recommend software need additional protection

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.

Because most tech businesses need this coverage, it's usually included with their errors and omissions insurance (E&O) in a bundle called tech E&O.

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 breach of security, 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.

How much does cyber liability insurance cost?

Businessperson calculating the cost of cyber liability insurance.

Cyber liability insurance can be an affordable option for small businesses looking for data breach protection. Several factors affect the cost of a cyber liability policy, including:

  • Amount of sensitive data handled
  • Your industry
  • Coverage limits
  • Number of employees

All of these factors will be instrumental in determining how much cyber liability insurance your small business needs.

What are the penalties for not giving notice of a data breach?

Virginia businesses that fail to comply with the state's data breach notification laws could face a maximum civil penalty of $150,000 for each data breach, or for a series of breaches of a similar nature uncovered by a single investigation.

How can businesses prevent data breaches?

For businesses that store data, it's crucial to take appropriate steps to prevent data breaches. In fact, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) requires reasonable data security practices for businesses that store personal data.

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 data protection for your business and any service providers who access this information, reducing the chance of an unauthorized acquisition.

Compare quotes from trusted carriers with Insureon

Complete Insureon’s easy online application today to compare insurance quotes from top-rated insurance carriers for cyber policies. Our licensed agents will help you find coverage that fulfills Virginia'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.

Updated: June 24, 2022
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