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Taking the Fear Out of Cyber

Resources are available to help insureds assess and manage their cyber exposures.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 7 min read

Cyber risk is everywhere. Embedded in the hardware of every computer system, in the cloud, in the headlines of national newspapers, and in the worries of risk managers across every sector.

It’s not a new risk, but its constantly evolving nature makes it tough for companies to stay up to speed on exposures, and to know how best to mitigate and transfer the risk.

“While the market for cyber coverage is maturing rapidly, it’s still less developed than other lines,” said Tim Marlin, Head of Cyber Underwriting, The Hartford.

“We hear a lot of clients say they want cyber coverage, but often they aren’t really sure what that means.”

“There’s no uniformity of cyber products on the market,” said Marlin. “That complicates conversations about exposures and cyber coverage.”

Oftentimes insureds may not understand the full extent of their exposure, so they don’t know what kind of coverage to ask for.

Without industry-wide standards, it’s a real challenge for brokers to advise clients on what good cyber coverage should look like. Just because a coverage is available in the market doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for the client. A lack of understanding makes insureds more likely to buy improper coverage, or buy nothing at all.

“As an industry, we need to do a better job of talking with our clients about cyber in a clear and concise way. We have to remove the fear around the risk,” Marlin said.

Demystifying Cyber

Cyber becomes less scary when it’s broken down into the exposures and coverages that insureds already are familiar with.

“The coverage is much simpler than many people realize.  Do you understand coverage for third-party liability? Do you understand coverage for the first-party costs related to notification and credit monitoring in the event of a breach? If you have a firm grasp of those, then you already have a basic understanding of cyber coverage,” Marlin said.

“It’s the cryptic term ‘cyber’ that throws people off. It conjures up images of bad guys in black hats, doing nefarious things over the internet, but the exposure is much older and broader than that.”

Cyber risk connotes computer and network-related exposures. But good “cyber” coverage and advice addresses a much broader range of information risk.

“It has to do with the use and exchange of information; how we move it around; how we process it; and how we store it,” Marlin said.

Digital Era Drives Risk

Tim Marlin, Head of Cyber Underwriting

The dominance of digital media, a richly connected society, distributed processing, and the speed at which information moves amplifies risk.

Compound that with controls that lag behind both technology and threats, a bit of regulatory uncertainty, and you have a rather intimidating risk landscape. It’s our job to help simplify that for clients.

Core business functions are carried out electronically. Paper-based processes, where they still exist, are surely on the way out.

The information housed in digital processes, however, is much harder to protect when buried in an internet server or floating around in the cloud. A locked filing cabinet was a simpler, more easily-understood solution.

Some industries, like health care, financial services and education, are better-versed in the protection of private information in the digital era, simply because they bear greater scrutiny from regulators.  Often, they’re also better resourced, and more focused on the issue making them more likely to buy cyber coverage.

However, other industries have been slower to understand their cyber risk exposure.

In life sciences, for example, the drug discovery process and protection of intellectual property has changed dramatically.

“Generations ago, drug discovery was done more or less in the lab and documented in lab notebooks,” said Mark Silvestri, Sr. Managing Director, Products & Innovation, The Hartford Specialty Commercial.

“Now, it’s often enabled computationally through bioinformatics or computational biology. Molecular models for drug compounds can be built online and scientists can simulate their effect on biological systems on a computer,” Silvestri said.

An early stage life sciences company’s value is primarily its intellectual property. That IP is now stored on a computer system, making it more susceptible to theft or ransomware attacks. There’s a market for that stolen IP too.

Manufacturing faces similar challenges.

“They are relying on information in a number of ways that are critical to their ability to make money and service their clients,” Silvestri said. “Just-in-time inventory supply management, for example, is all done on a computer. Any sort of cyber outage could disrupt the delivery of crucial materials.”

Supply chain or network disruption could disrupt income or delay production and delivery. Manufacturers generally understand these risks in the physical world. Connecting them back to a cyber incident as the underlying cause is a step many just haven’t taken yet —  and where some fall short on protecting themselves.

These are just two examples of industries that may not necessarily think they are in the crosshairs of cyber risk, but they have just as much exposure as any other sector.

“We hear a lot of clients say they want cyber coverage, but often they aren’t really sure what that means.”
-Tim Marlin, Head of Cyber Underwriting, The Hartford

Coverage and Services

In the move to a digital environment, access to data at any given moment is critical.

Third party liability, business interruption and IP risks may be covered under other policies, but forgoing cyber coverage could leave companies in a lurch if they cannot quickly get to their data or begin the remediation process after a breach.

Partnering with the right carrier means more than getting the right coverage. It means access to the expertise and guidance to help companies actually understand what cyber risk means for them, and what they can do to mitigate their exposure.

At The Hartford, a panel of experts dubbed The Hartford First RespondersSM is available to help insureds assess their information security practices, review contracts with third parties, and get a better understanding of the full breadth of their cyber exposure.

“We negotiated below-market rates with a number of risk service providers and security vendors that our customers can take advantage of to remediate any pre-existing weaknesses they have in their system security,” Marlin said. “They are also there to help companies react quickly in the event of a breach or other cyber incident.

“In addition, we provide a cyber risk services fund, which is rather unique in the industry,” Marlin said.  In the event that an insured has a covered loss, The Hartford provides insureds with a fund, in addition to incident related expenses and costs to help remediate the issues that resulted in the incident in the first place.

“The better off our customers are, the better off we are,” Marlin said. “The bottom line is, we’re here to help you become a better risk before, during and after a loss.”

To learn more about The Hartford’s cyber coverage, visit www.thehartford.com/cyber.

FOR PRODUCERS ONLY. CyberChoice First Response is offered on a SURPLUS LINES* basis. This material is not to be used for solicitation purposes. The Hartford has arranged for data risk management services for our policyholders at a discount from some third-party service providers. Such service providers are independent contractors and not agents of The Hartford. The Hartford does not warrant the performance of third-party service providers even if paid for as part of the policy coverage, and disclaims all liability with respect to use of or reliance on such third-party service providers.

*Eligibility for surplus insurance coverage is subject to state regulation and requires the use of a licensed surplus line broker. Surplus lines insurance policies are generally not protected by state guaranty funds. Policies should be examined carefully for suitability and to identify all exclusions, limitations, and other terms and conditions. Surplus lines coverage is underwritten by Pacific Ins. Co. Ltd (except in CT and HI) and The Hartford Ins. Co. of Illinois in CT and HI. The Hartford® is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries. Its headquarters is in Hartford, CT. All rights reserved.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with The Hartford. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




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More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]