Cyber Risks

Fueling Cybersecurity

The Feds designate critical infrastructure and shine a light on perils within and without.
By: | September 1, 2013 • 8 min read

With cybercrime now top of mind for many, the executive branch of the federal government is laying the groundwork to address cybersecurity at a national level. Under a series of target dates set in an executive order signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 12, several departments and agencies are compiling lists of “critical infrastructure at greatest risk,” and enlisting the private sector’s help.

While the energy sector is not named specifically in the order, risk-management professionals said the sector — from oil and gas wells through pipelines and processing plants to refineries, fuel distribution, and petrochemicals — is at the top of the draft lists of critical infrastructure to be protected.

And there is much to be done to defend energy resources from hackers, said industry experts.

05_Jody Westby

Jody Westby, CEO, Global Cyber Risk

It might seem that a refinery or pipeline would be a self-contained, secure operation, but in reality “most of the energy complex is connected to the Internet,” said Jody Westby, CEO of Global Cyber Risk.

“That includes data systems and control systems,” she said. “Refineries manage their crude-oil inputs, their processing and their shipments through distribution systems that are on the Internet. They do not operate anymore on stand-alone dedicated systems.”

Westby said that “there is always the risk that some exposure can come through those connections and involve critical data or operations. The risk profile of the energy sector has changed substantially in recent years. At the same time, the sophistication of these threats has risen exponentially.”

Social Media Risk

The threats and exposures are many and varied. They range from a single rogue employee to organized crime to terrorists to spying by other nations. The threats can be theft of confidential personal data or proprietary competitive information, to malicious acts causing loss of data or actual disruption of operations. For the energy industry, which handles hazardous materials, a hacking event that leads to a spill becomes more than just a bad day at the office.


Use of the web by employees for personal recreation is an area where energy risk managers concerned about cyberrisk should also be paying attention.

“Energy companies do not think of themselves as big users of social media,” said Westby, “but their employees are, and they tend to have employees in some very sensitive areas of the world.”

Security breaches can happen by accident or ignorance, she added, not just by deliberate attacks.

“I have one energy client that conducted an online search as part of an exposure assessment and found critical plans for some of its facilities out there on the Internet.”

So far, energy companies do not have a good reputation for their ability to defend against cyberattacks.

GCR conducts a corporate cybersecurity governance report every other year, in collaboration with the CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Westby noted that “in every area, energy and utility companies rank last or near last.”

According to the latest report, from 2012, “Energy/utilities respondents also ranked the lowest in establishing board risk committees separate from the audit committee, but indicated that when they do form a risk committee, they assign it responsibility for privacy and security. Only half of the energy/utilities and infrastructure sectors indicated that they have cross-organizational committees.”

Research toward the next report is already underway. That report will be issued in May 2014.

In addition to the report, GCR collaborates with Dempsey Partners, just recently acquired by Aon, in cyber evaluation and risk quantification (CERQ).

Dempsey is an accounting firm that specializes in pre-loss quantification to be used in planning, such as for business continuity, contingency and risk transfer.

“Energy companies have quite compelling cyberrisk exposures,” said John D. Dempsey, the firm’s managing director and practice leader for Property Claims and Valuation at Aon Global Risk Consulting.

“The risks are changing and the threats are multiplying. Energy companies do have vulnerabilities and lapses in security. They know this,” he said. “What they don’t know is what the actual damages of a breach or loss could be. We try to figure that in advance, so they can better determine which exposures to address in what order.”

The most obvious ones may not be the most damaging ones, and the potential costlier ones may not be the most difficult to rectify.

“Insureds are out there buying limits and they don’t really know if that is enough or too little or too much,” said Dempsey. “One thing for sure is that the more any system is dependent on process, the more they represent a vulnerability.


“For example, an oil company selling fuel may not think of itself as such, but it is a consumer products company gathering personal and financial information. It has an obligation to keep that data secure,” he said.

Beyond the material threats and responses, there is also a meta-risk in the fluid nature of the existing insurance coverage, warned Greg Gamble, director with Crystal & Co., with responsibility for management and professional risk.

“When coverage of cyberrisks was first introduced, all the carriers had different names and terms and conditions,” he said, “but that is now rapidly being standardized. The key insuring clauses often had sublimits, and we are seeing those increased every quarter or six months.”

Personal Injury a Gray Area

That said, there are still gray areas.

“The market has been slow to extend bodily injury coverage to those caused by electronic perils. If a pipeline or refinery gets hacked, and that causes a spill or fire, there will have to be some sorting out,” he said. “Property causes are very specific and are only triggered by covered perils such as wind or fire.

“If the proximate cause is software failure or a network breach, at this moment we are definitely talking about litigation to resolve. Property insurers will have to recognize that those should be covered, but they are moving very slowly. At this point no one has wrestled with this in the real world,” he said.

Currently Crystal’s work with customers has been more tactical.

“We have spent a lot of time focused on contracting practices with outside vendors and third parties,” said Gamble.

“We review contracts as they pertain to data hosting and cloud-based software to evaluate indemnification and hold-harmless agreements. We try to make sure all parties are holding up their responsibilities.”

Part of the challenge, Gamble noted, is that “risk-transfer tools, policies and practices have been around for a very long time. The risk management professionals at insureds know their coverages, but they need to know how the coverages they have will protect them from these new perils. That is why we involve those risk management officials in the process early.

“There has to be a healthy dialogue,” he explained, because sometimes the risks are from the outside in, others from the inside out.

In an effort to get a handle on the many different manifestations of cyberrisk to the energy industry, ACE divides them into two groups, said Michael Tanenbaum, senior vice president of ACE Professional Risk.

“The first is very similar to retail. It is uniquely identifiable information and other customer records. There are state laws mandating notification if a breach occurs, and consequences for making whole those affected by the breach.” The other group involves energy companies seeking coverage for business interruption coverage for extra expense and lost revenue arising out of a network attack.

For data breaches, ACE has response resources for insureds, Tanenbaum said.

“We have a data-breach team that is led by a coach, which is an independent law firm. The first step in any breach is to contact counsel, so the attorney-client privilege resides with them. The second is a team of service providers with specific areas of expertise: call centers, data monitoring, forensics, ID restoration and public relations among them. We really try to avoid one-stop shops. Not every firm skilled in forensics is also an expert in setting up a call center.”

Tanenbaum stressed that the selection process for the service providers is robust, including financial solvency and performance history.

For all that emergency-response capability, the best risk management is risk prevention.


“We work with a firm to conduct risk assessments with our clients to determine their vulnerabilities and what possible mitigations there may be,” said Tanenbaum.

“We also insist that there is a dedicated team within the client company that can assess risks and handle breaches. That includes a member of the C-suite, as well as legal, information technology, communications and operations.”

Circling back to the president’s executive order, Toby Merrill, a vice president with ACE Professional Risk, noted that once critical infrastructure is designated, and the threats are assessed, a standard similar to the “reasonable standard of care,” in health care is likely to result.

“That will raise the bar for cyberrisks in energy and other critical industries,” he said. “The playbook is being written as we speak. There will be more defined responsibilities, and failure to deliver on those standards will affect liability.”

Summarizing, Merrill noted that the grouping of risks into retail and operational is overlaid with insurance conventions of first- and third-party exposures. “There is a trend within the traditional lines of insurance to insert more privacy and network security exclusions in those policies. So insureds and brokers need to determine what perils are listed and if they address cyber issues with a stand-alone policy. If there is an infrastructure exclusion, that would need to be modified or addressed, both first-party and third-party, to cover an instance where a hacker were to access a network and disrupt data or operations.”


Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.


Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.

R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.


We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?


Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.


Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.


More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]