How to Lower Your Cyber Risk by Judy Selby

30/09/2014 06:30


Looking at application forms for cyber insurance suggests four basic steps that can reduce exposure to data breaches.

As we approach the close of 2014, virtually no one needs to be reminded that cyber liability is real and here to stay. Data breaches and cyber security incidents are on the rise. New York’s attorney general reported that breaches tripled between 2006 and 2013, and, according to a recent study, 43% of companies experienced a breach last year.

What are some of the key issues accounting for this increase? First, information is the new oil, and it has value. Stolen financial and medical data can be purchased on the “dark web” and used for identity theft and fraudulent billing. Second, computer networks can be attacked relentlessly by hackers thousands of miles away, with little risk to the hackers. Third, entities are creating and storing more data than ever. It is estimated that the volume of data is doubling every two years, and too many entities have adopted a keep-everything approach to information management.

Given this reality, it’s no wonder that sales of cyber insurance are rising. Cyber insurance can fill gaps left by traditional policies and provide a lifeline to entities affected by a breach or security incident. But cyber insurers require prospective insureds to complete detailed applications that address various areas relevant to cyber liability. Among the areas of inquiry are:

  1. Records and Information Management — including identification of the types and volume of sensitive information the company handles. For example, do you handle or store payment card information, intellectual property of others or medical records?
  2. Management of Computer Networks — including security management, intrusion testing, auditing, firewalls, use of third party vendors and encryption.
  3. Corporate Policies — for privacy, information security, use of social media and BYOD (bring your own device), among others. Insurers often ask if the policy was prepared by a qualified attorney and how often it is reviewed and updated. Some insurers require such policies to be attached to the completed application.
  4. Employment Issues — including whether employees go through criminal background checks. Many insurers also ask if the company has a chief privacy officer, chief information officer and chief technology officer.

The following are some basic steps a company can take to better position itself to complete the cyber application and obtain optimal cyber coverage.

Locate Your Data

You can’t manage and secure information if you don’t know what you have or where it is. Creating a map or inventory of all enterprise information is an invaluable step toward getting your data house in order. Paper records and data stored on inactive media and on mobile devices should not be forgotten.

Delete What You Don’t Need

It is estimated that between 60% and 70% of stored information has no business value. Keeping all this useless information is not a sustainable business practice. Disposing of data can reduce storage, e-discovery costs and security risks, and improve employee efficiency. Legally defensible deletion of useless information and adoption of a sound record retention and deletion policy are important parts of a successful information management policy.

Control Access

Entities should permit access to information, particularly sensitive information, on a need-to-know basis. A large number of data breaches result from employee negligence and disgruntled or rogue employees. Restricting access to sensitive data is an important step to mitigating that risk.

Improve Policies and Training

Depending on business activities, entities should consider adoption of policies that relate to cyber liability, including privacy, record retention and deletion, use of passwords, email and use of social media. Policies should be reviewed by a qualified attorney, updated regularly and enforced. Employee training and re-training is an important component of successful policy implementation. Conducting data breach workshops, where the entity can rehearse its response to a breach incident, can pay big dividends in the event of a breach.

Because cyber applications require entities to take a close look at their information management and cyber vulnerabilities, it’s no wonder that a recent Ponemon study found that 62% of surveyed companies report that their ability to deal with security threats improved following the purchase of cyber insurance. Taking the steps outlined above in connection with applying for cyber coverage makes good business sense and can help an entity obtain the best cyber policy to protect itself against growing threats.

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