Risk Insider: Carol Zacharias

Cyber Directors: Greater Expertise, Greater Liabilities?

By: | October 17, 2016 • 2 min read
Carol Zacharias is underwriting counsel to QBE North America, a multinational insurer. She has a master's degree in corporate law from New York University School of Law. She can be reached at [email protected]

The World Economic Forum places cyber security ahead of terrorism as one of the top 10 economic threats to 140 countries. Cyber security risk in the corporate arena is the responsibility of the board.

As noted by the commissioner of the SEC, “board oversight of cyber-risk management is critical to ensuring that companies are taking adequate steps to prevent, and prepare for, the harms that can result from such attacks.”

Boards have taken up the charge. Cyber security has moved from 11th place to third place on board agendas according to the Lloyd’s of London “Biennial Risk Index” of 2011 and 2013.  The increased spending on cyber security protection by companies further supports this trend.

Will the cyber expert-director be held to a higher standard of care regarding cyber risk management?

According to Gartner Inc., companies spent $86 billion on protection efforts in 2015, which reflects an 18 percent increase from the prior year, and are expected to spend $94 billion in 2016.

Expertise

The issue becomes, how can a board address cyber risk complexities and meet its duty of care?

Congress proposes mandating cyber experience on boards. The Cybersecurity Disclosure Act of 2015 requires that public companies disclose whether the company has a director with cyber security experience or expertise, or disclose what cyber security steps it has taken that mitigate against acquiring board expertise.

At the same time, boards today are addressing cyber risk in one of several different ways.

Some address cyber security as a plenary board, receiving reports, engaging in discussions and making critical decisions as a whole. This can prove challenging due to the paucity of time at a board meeting and lack of board level cyber expertise.

Alternatively, boards may delegate cyber risk management to established audit committees. A committee forum provides greater time for analysis and expert consultation. However, audit committees are more likely to have financial rather than cyber expertise, and are more attuned to financial rather than technology and innovation issues.

Other boards create a cyber security committee or seek to add a cyber expert to the board itself. Either way, the board is seeking greater cyber expertise and experience at the board level.

Liability 

The issue becomes whether the cyber expert director has a higher risk of liability than fellow directors. Will the cyber expert-director be held to a higher standard of care regarding cyber risk management?

All corporate directors owe a fiduciary duty of care to the company and its shareholders. In executing their duty of care, the director must act in a manner that a reasonably prudent person would act under the circumstances.  A reasonable person means one with the expertise of the director in question. If a director has a particular expertise, skill or experience, they are expected to apply it.

Accordingly, the cyber expert-director could be held to a higher standard of care and diligence in reviewing cyber-related matters than a director without cyber expertise.

While no director can turn a blind eye to negligence, and while all directors must act with diligence and care in addressing cyber matters, the cyber expert-director will tenably be expected to act in a manner that a reasonably prudent cyber expert would act under the circumstances, conducting a diligent technical review and evaluation of cyber matters that a director without cyber expertise could not undertake.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

Resilience in Face of Cyber

New cyber model platforms will help insurers better manage aggregation risk within their books of business.
By: | April 26, 2017 • 3 min read

As insurers become increasingly concerned about the aggregation of cyber risk exposures in their portfolios, new tools are being developed to help them better assess and manage those exposures.

 One of those tools, a comprehensive cyber risk modeling application for the insurance and reinsurance markets, was announced on April 24 by AIR Worldwide.

Scott Stransky, assistant vice president and principal scientist, AIR Worldwide

Last year at RIMS, AIR announced the release of the industry’s first open source deterministic cyber risk scenario, subsequently releasing a series of scenarios throughout the year, and offering the service to insurers on a consulting basis.

Its latest release, ARC– Analytics of Risk from Cyber — continues that work by offering the modeling platform for license to insurance clients for internal use rather than on a consulting basis. ARC is separate from AIR’s Touchstone platform, allowing for more flexibility in the rapidly changing cyber environment.

ARC allows insurers to get a better picture of their exposures across an entire book of business, with the help of a comprehensive industry exposure database that combines data from multiple public and commercial sources.

The recent attacks on Dyn and Amazon Web Services (AWS) provide perfect examples of how the ARC platform can be used to enhance the industry’s resilience, said Scott Stransky, assistant vice president and principal scientist for AIR Worldwide.

Stransky noted that insurers don’t necessarily have visibility into which of their insureds use Dyn, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, or other common internet services providers.

In the Dyn and AWS events, there was little insured loss because the downtime fell largely just under policy waiting periods.

But,” said Stransky, “it got our clients thinking, well it happened for a few hours – could it happen for longer? And what does that do to us if it does? … This is really where our model can be very helpful.”

The purpose of having this model is to make the world more resilient … that’s really the goal.”Scott Stransky, assistant vice president and principal scientist, AIR Worldwide

AIR has run the Dyn incident through its model, with the parameters of a single day of downtime impacting the Fortune 1000. Then it did the same with the AWS event.

When we run Fortune 1000 for Dyn for one day, we get a half a billion dollars of loss,” said Stransky. “Taking it one step further – we’ve run the same exercise for AWS for one day, through the Fortune 1000 only, and the losses are about $3 billion.”

So once you expand it out to millions of businesses, the losses would be much higher,” he added.

The ARC platform allows insurers to assess cyber exposures including “silent cyber,” across the spectrum of business, be it D&O, E&O, general liability or property. There are 18 scenarios that can be modeled, with the capability to adjust variables broadly for a better handle on events of varying severity and scope.

Looking ahead, AIR is taking a closer look at what Stransky calls “silent silent cyber,” the complex indirect and difficult to assess or insure potential impacts of any given cyber event.

Stransky cites the 2014 hack of the National Weather Service website as an example. For several days after the hack, no satellite weather imagery was available to be fed into weather models.

Imagine there was a hurricane happening during the time there was no weather service imagery,” he said. “[So] the models wouldn’t have been as accurate; people wouldn’t have had as much advance warning; they wouldn’t have evacuated as quickly or boarded up their homes.”

It’s possible that the losses would be significantly higher in such a scenario, but there would be no way to quantify how much of it could be attributed to the cyber attack and how much was strictly the result of the hurricane itself.

It’s very, very indirect,” said Stransky, citing the recent hack of the Dallas tornado sirens as another example. Not only did the situation jam up the 911 system, potentially exacerbating any number of crisis events, but such a false alarm could lead to increased losses in the future.

The next time if there’s a real tornado, people make think, ‘Oh, its just some hack,’ ” he said. “So if there’s a real tornado, who knows what’s going to happen.”

Modeling for “silent silent cyber” remains elusive. But platforms like ARC are a step in the right direction for ensuring the continued health and strength of the insurance industry in the face of the ever-changing specter of cyber exposure.

Because we have this model, insurers are now able to manage the risks better, to be more resilient against cyber attacks, to really understand their portfolios,” said Stransky. “So when it does happen, they’ll be able to respond, they’ll be able to pay out the claims properly, they’ll be prepared.

The purpose of having this model is to make the world more resilient … that’s really the goal.”

Additional stories from RIMS 2017:

Blockchain Pros and Cons

If barriers to implementation are brought down, blockchain offers potential for financial institutions.

Embrace the Internet of Things

Risk managers can use IoT for data analytics and other risk mitigation needs, but connected devices also offer a multitude of exposures.

Feeling Unprepared to Deal With Risks

Damage to brand and reputation ranked as the top risk concern of risk managers throughout the world.

Reviewing Medical Marijuana Claims

Liberty Mutual appears to be the first carrier to create a workflow process for evaluating medical marijuana expense reimbursement requests.

Cyber Threat Will Get More Difficult

Companies should focus on response, resiliency and recovery when it comes to cyber risks.

RIMS Conference Held in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]