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Cyber Risks

Preparing a Data Breach Plan

Putting together -- and practicing -- a data breach preparedness agreement can help save costs and reputation.
By: | August 19, 2014 • 5 min read

With the constant threat of cyber security issues, organizations need to create an effective data breach preparedness agreement that has two overriding strategies.

First, establish a comprehensive, coordinated team approach. Having a breach preparedness team can help an organization act quickly when a data breach occurs.

Michael Bruemmer, vice president, Experian Data Breach Resolution

Michael Bruemmer, vice president, Experian Data Breach Resolution

“Acting quickly can help to prevent further data loss, significant fines and costly customer backlash,” said Michael Bruemmer, Austin, Texas-based vice president of Experian Data Breach Resolution, a data breach resolution firm, which is part of the Experian credit bureau.

Second, select an outside counsel as the team leader, he and others recommended.

“Eighty-five percent of the clients we work with have engaged outside counsel because they have the specific expertise in responding to data breaches,” Bruemmer said. “They understand the federal laws; they understand the 47 state laws for notification.”

Another reason to engage outside counsel is to create confidentiality under an attorney-client privilege for the fact-gathering, documentation and communications that occur after a breach, said Daren Orzechowski, New York-based partner at White & Case LLP international law firm.

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“The reason that is important — particularly in a situation where a class-action may arise in response to an actual breach, or a governmental investigation — is that the conversation between the outside counsel and the rest of the team can be protected by privilege,” Orzechowski said.

The C-suite should be involved in creating and overseeing a company’s pre-breach agreement, said Bo Holland, founder and CEO of AllClear ID, an Austin, Texas-based data breach response organization.

“Given the high stakes and challenging decisions a breach response calls for, it is imperative to have active engagement from the CEO and other C-level executives to drive a comprehensive response plan across business units from the start,” Holland said.

And, said Bruemmer , when you have a CEO or a chairman second-guessing decisions during a live response event, it always creates problems for the team that’s operationalizing the response.

Costly Mistakes

The stakes in creating effective data-breach preparedness plans are growing higher by the year.

Throughout the world, companies are finding that data breaches have become as common as a cold, but far more expensive to treat, according to the Ponemon Institute in its May 2014 “Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis,” sponsored by IBM.

“Mistakes increase direct response costs, lost sales and significantly inflate the legal and regulatory expenses that follow a poorly executed response.” –Bo Holland, founder and CEO of AllClear ID

The study revealed that the average cost to a company per breach was $3.5 million dollars, which was 15 percent more than the previous year.

Bo Holland, founder and CEO, AllClear ID

Bo Holland, founder and CEO, AllClear ID

Unprepared companies make mistakes that increase breach costs by a factor of three to four times, said Holland.

“Mistakes increase direct response costs, lost sales and significantly inflate the legal and regulatory expenses that follow a poorly executed response,” he said.

“We’ve seen companies with the best intentions make costly mistakes in the first 72 hours of a breach response due to lack of planning and not calling the right partners early enough for help, resulting in uncoordinated decision-making, confusion and higher costs,” he said.

A Team Approach

“There are a lot of components in a pre-breach agreement and given the complexity of what a cyber security event could cover, it’s not just one person or one department that should be involved,” said Bruemmer.

“You have to have executive oversight, the C-suite, IT, HR, the chief information officer, PR, legal compliance, just to name a few that need to be involved and have input not only to the agreement itself but also the plan and the execution of the plan because each has an important role,” he said.

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Organizations should also work with data breach partners that have relationships on Capitol Hill to help communicate with and manage regulators, he said.

Orzechowski added: “When you do those projects, and I do a lot of them in my practice, looking proactively, you should get input from the IT professionals, the lawyers, the technologists and the privacy experts,” he said. “And it only makes sense that the same team that builds the plan helps prepare for a problem.”

Another important member of a data breach team is outside public relations counsel, Bruemmer said.

“One of the nice things in working with an outside public relations firm pre-breach is that they’re going to have thought out, ‘What are the eventualities that we need to cover?’ so we’re not reacting to events real time but you have different plans to be able to call on if those circumstances come up,’” he said.

The best thing about these pre-set media plans is that they’ve already been rehearsed, he added. “You find that the good public relations firms not only have good media advice but they have good pre-breach business advice, as well,” he said.

Transferring the Risk

Cyber insurance also plays an important role in pre-breach agreements.

Daren Orzechowski, partner, White & Case

Daren Orzechowski, partner, White & Case

“I think that more organizations have cyber security insurance these days,” said Orzechowski. “So in terms of some of the breach risk that exists, I think the insurance products that are out there are looking to give some kind of control over the liability.”

And, Bruemmer said, most companies (65 percent) that explore cyber insurance are better prepared to create a breach agreement. In addition, companies that have cyber insurance have generally practiced their plan on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, which makes plan execution go more smoothly.

The Ponemon report had a related conclusion: While it has been suggested that having insurance encourages companies to slack off on security, the report noted, “our research suggests the opposite. Those companies with good security practices are more likely to purchase insurance.”

AllClear ID’s Holland noted that while covering the financial risk through cyber policies is important, insurance “does not address the operational risks associated with executing a successful response. Unfortunately, you can’t just buy response competency — you have to prepare your organization.”

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“Customer service is the other critical element,” he said. “Poor customer service compounds the damage, whereas good customer service rebuilds the trust.”

The bottom line, the experts said, is that practice makes perfect.

“It’s not just good enough to have an agreement in place, but you need to have practiced that plan,” said Bruemmer.

Steve Yahn was a freelance writer based in New York. He had more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. Comments can be directed to [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Focus: Workers' Comp

Do You Have Employees or Gig Workers?

The number of gig economy workers is growing in the U.S. But their classification as contractors leaves many without workers’ comp, unemployment protection or other benefits.
By: and | July 30, 2018 • 5 min read

A growing number of Americans earn their living in the gig economy without employer-provided benefits and protections such as workers’ compensation.

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With the proliferation of on-demand services powered by digital platforms, questions surrounding who does and does not actually work in the gig economy continue to vex stakeholders. Courts and legislators are being asked to decide what constitutes an employee and what constitutes an independent contractor, or gig worker.

The issues are how the worker is paid and who controls the work process, said Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney specializing in workers’ compensation law with a client roster in the trucking industry.

The common law test, he said, the same one the IRS uses, considers “whose tools and whose materials are used. Whether the employer is telling the worker how to do the job on a minute-to-minute basis. Whether the worker is paid by the hour or by the job. Whether he’s free to work for someone else.”

Legal challenges have occurred, starting with lawsuits against transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. Several court cases in recent years have come down on the side of allowing such companies to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors.

Those decisions are significant for TNCs, because the gig model relies on the lower labor cost of independent contractors. Classification as an employee adds at least 30 percent to labor costs.

The issues lie with how a worker is paid and who controls the work process. — Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney

However, a March 2018 California Supreme Court ruling in a case involving delivery drivers for Dynamex went the other way. The Dynamex decision places heavy emphasis on whether the worker is performing a core function of the business.

Under the Dynamex court’s standard, an electrician called to fix a wiring problem at an Uber office would be considered a general contractor. But a driver providing rides to customers would be part of the company’s central mission and therefore an employee.

Despite the California ruling, a Philadelphia court a month later declined to follow suit, ruling that Uber’s limousine drivers are independent contractors, not employees. So a definitive answer remains elusive.

A Legislative Movement

Misclassification of workers as independent contractors introduces risks to both employers and workers, said Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust.

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered.”

Misclassifying workers opens a “Pandora’s box” for employers, said Richard R. Meneghello, partner, Fisher Phillips.

Issues include tax liabilities, claims for minimum wage and overtime violations, workers’ comp benefits, civil labor law rights and wrongful termination suits.

The motive for companies seeking the contractor definition is clear: They don’t have to pay for benefits, said Meneghello. “But from a legal perspective, it’s not so easy to turn the workforce into contractors.”

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered in the eyes of the state.” — Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

It’s about to get easier, however. In 2016, Handy — which is being sued in five states for misclassification of workers — drafted a N.Y. bill to establish a program where gig-economy companies would pay 2.5 percent of workers’ income into individual health savings accounts, yet would classify them as independent contractors.

Unions and worker advocacy groups argue the program would rob workers of rights and protections. So Handy moved on to eight other states where it would be more likely to win.

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So far, the Handy bills have passed one house of the legislature in Georgia and Colorado; passed both houses in Iowa and Tennessee; and been signed into law in Kentucky, Utah and Indiana. A similar bill was also introduced in Alabama.

The bills’ language says all workers who find jobs through a website or mobile app are independent contractors, as long as the company running the digital platform does not control schedules, prohibit them from working elsewhere and meets other criteria. Two bills exclude transportation network companies such as Uber.

These laws could have far-reaching consequences. Traditional service companies will struggle to compete with start-ups paying minimal labor costs.

Opponents warn that the Handy bills are so broad that a service company need only launch an app for customers to contract services, and they’d be free to re-classify their employees as independent contractors — leaving workers without social security, health insurance or the protections of unemployment insurance or workers’ comp.

That could destabilize social safety nets as well as shrink available workers’ comp premiums.

A New Classification

Independent contractors need to buy their own insurance, including workers’ compensation. But many don’t, said Hart Brown, executive vice president, COO, Firestorm. They may not realize that in the case of an accident, their personal car and health insurance won’t engage, Brown said.

Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

Workers’ compensation for gig workers can be hard to find. Some state-sponsored funds provide self-employed contractors’ coverage.  Policies can be expensive though in some high-risk occupations, such as roofing, said Bollinger.

The gig system, where a worker does several different jobs for several different companies, breaks down without portable benefits, said Brown. Portable benefits would follow workers from one workplace engagement to another.

What a portable benefits program would look like is unclear, he said, but some combination of employers, independent contractors and intermediaries (such as a digital platform business or staffing agency) would contribute to the program based on a percentage of each transaction.

There is movement toward portable benefits legislation. The Aspen Institute proposed portable benefits where companies contribute to workers’ benefits based on how much an employee works for them. Uber and SEI together proposed a portable benefits bill to the Washington State Legislature.

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Senator Mark Warner (D. VA) introduced the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act for the study of portable benefits, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D. WA) introduced a House companion bill.

Meneghello is skeptical of portable benefits as a long-term solution. “They’re a good first step,” he said, “but they paper over the problem. We need a new category of workers.”

A portable benefits model would open opportunities for the growing Insurtech market. Brad Smith, CEO, Intuit, estimates the gig economy to be about 34 percent of the workforce in 2018, growing to 43 percent by 2020.

The insurance industry reinvented itself from a risk transfer mechanism to a risk management mechanism, Brown said, and now it’s reinventing itself again as risk educator to a new hybrid market. &

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected] Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]