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These Five Emerging Cyber Threats May Be Creating Gaps in Your Coverage

As cyber risks intertwine with property, fidelity, professional liability and reputation exposures, comprehensive insurance coverage and services become paramount.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 7 min read

Cyber risk continues to be the amorphous and seemingly indefensible threat facing businesses of all types and sizes, and insurers are continually tailoring their policies to respond to the changing environment. Making the challenge more difficult is the fact that cyber no longer is constrained to breaches of network security that imperil private information.

Cyber threats now intermingle with other types of exposure, like employee theft and professional liability, and can cause a broader spectrum of loss including property and reputation damage.

“We’re seeing a change now where the malicious actors aren’t just hacking networks to steal information; they’re reaching out from the digital world to cause different types of damage,” said Elissa Doroff, vice president, underwriting and product manager, AXA XL, a division of AXA.

As cyber becomes the root case of various types of tangible damage, it raises questions around what policies will be triggered by an event involving both digital and physical damage, and raises the potential for both gaps and overlaps in coverage.

Here are the top five ways cyber risk is evolving to create gray areas in existing insurance coverages:

1. Infiltration of Industrial Systems Leads to Property Damage

Hackers’ ability to breach a corporate network through various channels is nothing new. But when the intent is to cause physical harm rather than steal data, they can find their way into the industrial controls that operate a facility and wreak havoc.

In 2014, cyber criminals sent a German steel mill up in flames by speeding up the machinery until it became too hot and eventually exploded. The following year, bad actors brought down the Ukrainian power grid through similar methods.

A property policy responds to the resulting physical damages from such an incident, regardless of the cause. But the physical damages are just one piece of the attack.

The targeted organization will also have to investigate how the hackers gained access to their systems and whether they stole or altered any data in the process. The costs of a forensic investigation, restoration of data, notification and any other third-party liability exposures would not be covered under a property policy.

“A cyber policy would respond to network issues like theft of PII or use of transient malware that causes damage to a third party,” Doroff said. “And it would include the first-party coverages to remediate the network breach itself.”

Without a cyber policy, any incident of physical property damage caused by a cyber event would only be partially covered.

2. IoT and Bitcoin Amplify Ransom Risk

Elissa Doroff Vice President, Underwriting and Product Manager, AXA XL, a division of AXA.

When ransomware attacks first emerged, they weren’t significant enough to warrant large-limit cyber liability policies.

“On average, the claims didn’t exceed $50,000. You paid the ransom if you needed to. More sophisticated organizations with good backups knew that they would be safe without paying, so they could just wait for the hacker to go away,” Doroff said.

But the problem is no longer that easy to solve. The explosion of devices connected via the Internet of Things has created more access points to corporate networks.

“When workers connect with their phones outside of a VPN, it may not be bifurcated from the corporate network that has a higher level of security,” she said. “It opens the door for new strains of malware.”

The rise of bitcoin also drives up the ransom amounts sought by hackers. More thieves are asking for their payment in cryptocurrency, which continues to rise in value. This is why having a cyber insurance policy with access to the right breach response vendors is critical.

Since bitcoin is not readily ascertainable on the open market, insureds need access to forensics vendors that maintain a bitcoin wallet. When a ransom is demanded in bitcoin, the vendor can quickly respond to facilitate the transaction and the insured back to business as soon as possible.

“Cyber extortion claims are not $50,000 anymore. With the increase in bitcoin’s ubiquity and value, the cost of a ransomware attacks today can double or triple that amount,” Doroff said.

Where coverage for cyber extortion was once considered a throw-on to a cyber policy, it’s now a critical must-have. Cyber liability insurance without coverage for extortion could leave targets with insurmountable losses after an attack.

3. Social Engineering Expands Definition of Theft

Hackers have become adept at mimicking professional emails to request fraudulent transfers of funds, posing as a client or vendor, or sometimes as a senior manager making a request of a subordinate. Often, the employee tricked into sending the cash doesn’t realize the mistake until it’s too late, and both the thief and the money are long gone.

“That type of theft has created a gap in the insurance market when it comes to treatment of financial fraud,” Doroff said.

A fidelity and crime policy typically would not cover a loss stemming from a social engineering scheme because the funds ultimately were willingly transferred away, even if the employee that did so was deceived. Crime policies may only extend coverage to outright theft of money or securities.

“There has been a push in the marketplace to offer coverage for social engineering fraud within cyber policies, but most of the coverage that exists now is offered on a sub-limited basis,” Doroff said.

As cyber thieves find new ways to bilk businesses, a cyber policy with coverage for social engineering fraud in combination with a crime and fidelity policy closes the coverage gap for emerging types of theft.

4. Data Breaches Threaten Company Reputations

Plenty of high-profile breaches demonstrate how a cyber attack can cause the public to lose faith in an organization they trusted with their personal information. Target, Equifax, Yahoo and Uber are just a few examples.

“Adverse publicity will cause a loss of brand trust that negatively impacts sales, but measuring that impact is the difficult part of designing coverage,” Doroff said. Quantifying exposure is the barrier to developing coverages that adequately address the reputation risk of cyber breaches — but a few methods are emerging.

“We’ll look at a company’s sales over a six-month period after an incident and compare that to the previous year, which provides a snapshot of how much revenue they’ve lost that’s likely attributable to the cyber event,” Doroff said.

But, she added, quantifying the loss is not an exact science. Along with a comparison of sales and revenue, a more thorough financial audit conducted by forensic accountants may be needed. Each carrier will have their own preferred method for measuring reputation exposure.

Because most cyber policies on the market today don’t address this exposure at all, it’s best to work directly with underwriters up front to determine whether there is coverage for financial losses from reputation damage, and how those losses will be accounted for.

5. Storage of Sensitive Data Increases Professional Liability Risk

While theft of PII has always posed a significant threat to financial institutions, hospitals, and other organizations that house large amounts of customers’ private data, some firms previously less concerned with cyber risk are finding that they may have targets on their backs as well.

“This comes up often with professional services firms like attorneys’ offices or financial consultants,” Doroff said. “They have a duty to keep clients’ sensitive information secure. If there’s some third-party incident whereby their clients’ information gets out, they could face costly lawsuits.”

While a professional liability policy likely covers those legal expenses, it won’t cover the first-party losses related to the breach itself, including the investigation, notification and remediation expenses. For more and more firms, “It’s not sufficient to rely on your E&O coverage,” Doroff said.

Staying Ahead of the Coverage Curve

As cyber risks and responding coverages continue to evolve, companies are best served by working with a carrier at the forefront of cyber underwriting. AXA XL’s cyber and technology liability policy addresses the varying ways in which malicious hackers can infiltrate systems or otherwise cause harm.

“We built this policy based on all the endorsement requests we received from brokers, which meant changing some definitions, removing certain exclusions or broadening some insuring agreements,” Doroff said. “The result is a policy with very broad terms and conditions that is a market leader in terms of what brokers and insureds are looking for.”

Along with the policy, companies gain access to AXA XL’s breach preparedness services and vendor response panel.

“Our services include everything from training articles and videos to tabletop exercises, testing of employees’ response to phishing emails, and an 800-number manned by our claims team,” Doroff said. “Our broad vendor panel also offers several options for law, public relations and forensic firms, to help insureds recover quickly from a cyber incident — whatever shape it takes.”

To learn more, visit https://axaxl.com/insurance/insurance-coverage/professional-insurance/cyber-and-technology



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


AXA XL, the property & casualty and specialty risk division of AXA, provides insurance and risk management products and services for mid-sized companies through to large multinationals, and reinsurance solutions to insurance companies globally. We partner with those who move the world forward. To learn more, visit www.axaxl.com.

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]