Massachusetts Amends Data Breach Law — What to Know for Your Incident Response Strategy

On Jan. 10, 2019, the governor of Massachusetts finalized the legislative changes to the state data breach law by placing his signature on HB 4806. The amended law, which includes several new requirements and raises the bar for businesses collecting data on Massachusetts residents, is driving organizations to review and update their data breach notification-related policies and procedures, as well as their incident response processes.

This update can be seen as part of a wider trend in data privacy regulations where guidelines on breach reporting and incident response documentation are becoming more specific. This can be seen in Europe with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Network Information Security (NIS) Directive, as well as in North America with Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), among others.

What Are the Significant Changes to Massachusetts’ Data Breach Law?

The amendment changes the timeline for reporting a breach to affected individuals, adds additional requirements for any report to the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General (AG) or the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR), and changes the content of any notice to affected individuals. Your legal counsel and privacy experts can provide you with specific information regarding how these changes will impact your organization and what you need to do to comply.

The Importance of an Incident Response Plan

The update to the Massachusetts law highlights the importance of having a documented process around all aspects of security and risk management, as was already required under the law with the need to maintain a comprehensive written information security program (WISP). This requirement has now been updated as part of the notification process.

Findings from a recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by IBM Security showed that 77 percent of organizations surveyed do not have an enterprisewide cybersecurity incident response plan, a key part of a wider information security program. As a growing number of global privacy regulations expect more documentation and rigor around the incident response process, organizations need to focus on ensuring that their plans are up to date and appropriate to the threats they face.

You can find more information on the changes to the Massachusetts breach law here, and more findings from the recent Ponemon study here.

Helpful links and references:

Link to 93H MA Breach Law

Link to regulation 201 CMR 17.03