July 23, 2019

Cyber Insurance: An Efficient Way to Manage Security and Privacy Risk

Practically every company in our modern economy has information security and privacy risk. There is no way to completely eliminate it. Whether it is your firm or your client, most companies of all shapes, sizes, and wealth profiles use information technology and handle sensitive information including personal information and credit card numbers. That means organizations face potential direct losses, lawsuits, and liability due to data, security, and privacy breaches.

The frequency and magnitude of data breaches by hackers has only been increasing. We read about security and privacy breaches practically every day in the newspaper. As the world continues to change at seemingly light-speed and cyber risks increase, the need for risk transfer with cyber insurance is also growing. Relying on a general liability or property policy to provide the coverage is no longer a wise choice (if it ever was), and companies could be well-served to get peace of mind and relative predictability by learning more about cyber policies that are actually designed to address the risk.

CBA-CLE will be hold a program on Thursday, March 29 to address the impact of data breaches and the trend toward cyber insurance. The program presenter, David Navetta, Esq., has written several articles about data security and cyber insurance. Read some of his insights below, and then join us to learn more about protecting sensitive information with cyber insurance, an option that may be of great importance to your clients or law firm.

In the early 2000s, just around the “DotCom Bust,” some insurers began developing a product designed to address the financial loss that might arise out of a data breach. This was a time where most “brick and mortar” companies were just beginning to leverage the economic potential of the Internet. At that time, insurers wanted to target the big “dotcom” companies like Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, Google, etc., and other companies pioneering e-commerce and online retailing. At some point, somebody dubbed this type of insurance “cyber insurance.”

The early cyber policies included liability and property components. The liability coverages addressed claim expenses and liability arising out of a security breach of the insured’s computer systems (some early policies only covered “technical” security breaches, as opposed to policy violation-based security breaches). The property-related components covered business interruption and data asset loss/damage arising out of a data breach (during the holiday season many online retailers suddenly developed a tasted for business interruption coverage after realizing just how negatively their business would be impacted by a denial of service attack).  Additional first party coverages included cyber-extortion coverage and crisis management/PR coverage.

Unfortunately for the carriers, it was not easy to get people to understand the need for this coverage (and that is still a challenge today, but certainly a lesser challenge with all of the security and privacy news constantly streaming). Early on there were very few lawsuits and regulators were just beginning to consider enforcement of relatively new statutes like GLB and HIPAA.

Two things changed that made cyber insurance much more relevant. One was a rather sudden event, and the other more gradual.

First, in 2003, California passed SB1386, the world’s first breach notification law. The reality then (as now) is that companies suffer security breaches each and every day. Prior to SB1386, however, breaches of personal information simply went unreported. With SB1386 and the subsequent passage of breach notice laws in 45 other states (and now coming internationally), the risk profile changed for data breaches. Instead of burying the breaches, companies were required to incur significant direct expenses to investigate security breaches and comply with applicable breach notice laws, including the offering of credit monitoring to affected individuals (which is not legally required by existing breach notice laws, but is optionally provided by many companies or “suggested” by state regulators). As a result, the plaintiffs’ bar now had notice of security breaches and began filing class action lawsuits after big breaches (usually involving high-profile brand name organizations). As such, cyber insurance coverage went from coverage addressing a hypothetical risk of future lawsuits, to a coverage addressing real-life risk (and now we have lawsuits getting deeper into litigation and public settlements of these types of cases). Moreover, shortly after the passage of SB 1386 many cyber insurance policies began covering the direct costs associated with complying with breach notification laws, including attorney fees, forensic investigation expenses, printing and mailing costs, credit monitoring expenses and call center expenses.  Breach notification costs are direct and almost unavoidable after a personal information breach.  Regardless of lawsuit activity, a direct financial rationale for cyber insurance coverage now existed.

The other change that occurred more gradually over time, but which has had a significant impact concerning the frequency and magnitude of data breaches, was organized crime. In the early 2000s, hacking was more of an exercise in annoyance or a used for bragging purposes. Hackers at that time wanted their exploits talked about and know. They wanted credit for hacking into or bringing down a sophisticated company (or better yet a division of the Federal Government or military). As such, when an attack happened it was discovered and remediated, and that would be the end of it.

True criminals, of course, are less interested in such notoriety. In fact, when trying to steal thousands/millions of records to commit identity theft or credit card fraud it is much better to NOT be detected. Lingering on a company’s network taking information for months or years is a much more profitable endeavor. Recognizing that this type of crime is low risk (it can be performed from thousands of miles away in Eastern Europe with almost no chance of getting caught) and high reward, organized crime flooded into the space. And in this context the word “organized” is truly appropriate – these enterprises retain very smart IT-oriented people that use every tool possible to scale and automate their crimes. They leverage the communication tools on the Internet to fence their “goods” creating, for example, wholesale and retail markets for credit cards, or “eBay”-like auction sites to hawk their illicit wares (e.g. valuable information). The change in orientation described above has essentially resulted in a 24/7/365 relentless crime machine constantly attacking and looking for new ways to attack, and always seeming to be one step ahead of those seeking to stop them. That is why we read about security and privacy breaches practically every day in the newspaper.

Fast-forward to present time. Cyber insurance is a much more established market with more carriers entering on a regular basis. There are primary and excess markets available for big risks, and companies of all sizes are looking at cyber more as a mandatory purchase rather than discretionary. As the world continues to change at seemingly light-speed and cyber risks increase (with the advent of hacktivism, social media and the consumerization of IT/BYOD ) the need for cyber is also growing. With competition pushing cyber insurance prices down, and significant security and privacy risk being retained by organizations, risk transfer is becoming very attractive (and from an overall big picture systemic point of view, spreading risk is also attractive). The price may be right, and the peace of mind priceless.

Click here to read the full article. Program registration information below.

CLE Program: Is Your Sensitive Data Secure? Cyber Insurance for Your Firm and Your Clients

This CLE presentation will take place on Thursday, March 29. Participants may attend live in our classroom or watch the live webcast.

If you can’t make the live program or webcast, the program will also be available as a homestudy in two formats: video on-demand and mp3 download.

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