Tag Archives: privacy policy

How to Start Managing Cyber Risk

Hardly a day goes by without a news flash about another cyber breach. Since security breaches have become a daily occurrence, I sat down with Jeremy Henley at ID Experts to discuss the most common ways that companies are being breached and how companies can start to assess their cyber risk profile.

Question: Jeremy, what are the most common ways that you are seeing small to mid-size companies being breached?

Answer: One of the common ways that companies are being breached by hackers is that the hackers exploit vulnerabilities in the company’s security network. This includes the company’s failure to update software or upgrade their systems, as well as the failure to have the appropriate checks and balances in place. Small to mid-sized businesses are particularly vulnerable as they often don’t have the IT staff or budget to continually upgrade and update their systems as their organizations change and grow.

The second most common way companies are breached is through simple employee negligence. This would include a company’s failure to train and educate their employees on basic cyber security. For example, the failure to educate employees on the risks of downloading private data onto a portable device that is not encrypted as well as the failure to educate employees as to how to identify scams that ask them to open suspect emails or attachments. Companies need to educate their employees about the dangers of connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi connections at the airport or Starbucks when they are doing work that includes logging in to sensitive company systems. If someone is spoofing the airport Wi-Fi, you are essentially sharing everything you are doing online with that attacker.

Question: Once clients realize the security risks they face in today’s world, clients often ask where they should start with respect to updating their network security. Do you have any guidance for them?

Answer: I advise our clients to start by asking themselves three questions: 1) What data are we collecting? This is important as it will help them determine what regulations they may need to comply with (HIPAA /HITECH, PCI and 47 state breach notification laws, etc.), 2) How are they managing the data that they have? This includes examining what technology the company is using, if it is creating multiple layers to its security with firewalls and antivirus and if it is creating policies and procedures and training employees as to security safeguards and 3) I would ask the company to examine who they are sharing the data with. Specifically, which vendors or clients have access to its systems, and ask those vendors what security and privacy policies they have in place (if any)? You might consider requiring your vendors to provide proof of a security audit or insurance in the event they are the cause of a breach of info that you were trusted with.

Question: What role does cyber insurance play with your clients?

Answer: Cyber insurance has been invaluable to many of our clients, as most cyber policies include pre-breach education tools and employee training information as well as sample security policies or an incident response plan. Some carriers also work with us to provide risk assessment and penetration testing so that weaknesses can be identified and corrected prior to a breach incident. In my experience, the most valuable part that insurance plays is that the insured is able to fund an appropriate response in the wake of a breach. Clients that do not have cyber insurance usually do not have a budget set aside to deal with this unfortunate event, and after a breach do not have the funding to adequately fund the most appropriate response, therefore limiting their ability to respond to the significant reputational, financial and legal ramifications that such an incident can cause to their organization.

Big Brother Is Watching What You Eat and Buy

This is a scary story about massive invasions of privacy in the U.S. This is a travesty in my opinion and one that needs exposure.

According to a story in Bloomberg, doctors and hospitals are watching what you eat, buy, wear and more. Why? To better manage your health, of course. If you buy a donut somewhere, whether for yourself or as a treat for a grandchild, a company like Acxiom or LexisNexis may be recording that buy and selling that information to your insurer but only for “marketing.”

The Carolinas HealthCare System for one…”is placing its data, which include purchases a patient has made using a credit card or store loyalty card, into predictive models that give a risk score to patients.”

“University of Pittsburgh, which operates more than 20 hospitals in Pennsylvania and a health insurance plan, is using demographic and household information to try to improve patients’ health.” Remember the Penn State wellness scandal? Is there something bad in the water in Pennsylvania?

Okay let me get this straight.  If you buy one of the following, your doctor and your health system really should know about it, and it should become a part of your medical record?

  • a dozen donuts
  • a cigar for your grandfather
  • a pack of condoms
  • a burger at McDonalds
  • a half pound of deli salami
  • a steak dinner
  • a milk shake
  • a martini after work
  • a case of diet soda

How about too many/much:

  • pounds of coffee (even if it is for your club)?
  •  packages of hot dogs (they won’t know you’re feeding your kid’s entire soccer team)?
  • popcorn?

Or not enough:

  • fresh fruit?
  • veggies (even if you grow your own)?
  • skim milk?

How about if your teenage son buys a package of condoms? That needs to be in his medical record for your health system/insurer to peruse?

This is nuts…plain nuts, but, alas, the predicable result of the nation’s and employers’ obsession with collecting your personal heath information. I guess if your want privacy you’d best pay cash. But maybe face recognition tools will thwart that, too.

For the record, I can’t think of anything I buy that should be kept secret, but the idea that my health systems can access my purchase is utterly repugnant to me.

Here is the understatement of the week: Jorjanne Murry, an accountant in Charlotte, NC, who has Type 1 diabetes, says: ‘I think it is intrusive.’ “

BTW:  I’m not a privacy nut, but these kinds of data will create an abundance of “false positives” and rabbit trails.  I see no real value in this nonsense.

Cyber Risk

Understanding your exposure to technology and implementing baseline controls should always come before you consider insuring those risks.

What is a firewall? What would I do with a privacy policy? What is encryption and why would my company need to encrypt any of our data? How would I implement an incident response plan? How many personal health records do we have in our database? Do we do background checks? Who has access to our server room? Why do I need to answer so many questions just to get a proposal for insurance?

These are the types of questions that come up during the cyber insurance application process, and this is often the first time someone outside of the IT department has had to answer them. With the growth of the cyber insurance industry, now estimated to be almost $1,000,000,000 in gross written premium for 20111, risk managers, insurance agents and boards of directors are wondering why they now also have to talk to the IT department when discussing risk management and their insurance renewal.

A vendor mistake, administrator's misconfigured firewall or even an improperly negotiated cloud contract can pose a systemic risk to your corporation.

As regulatory expectations continue to be set higher (due to increased enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, attention of 46 different state notification laws that are enforced by State Attorney Generals, Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act) and consumer opinion is constantly being expressed in the form of class action suits, these situations continue to get more difficult to mine through.

Plaintiff attorneys' allegations addressing monetary damages as a result of privacy or security breaches are consistently being brought. Not having adequate controls is the common focus of such suits that follow a breach. Additionally, the bad actors that are trying to improperly gain access to your information will consistently focus on firms who lack simple/intermediate controls.

According to Verizon, 96% of attacks were not highly difficult and 97% of breaches were avoidable through simple or intermediate controls.2 Your own data (account lists, legal documents, vendor agreements, price lists, R&D information, trade secrets) and client/patient information (personally identifiable information/health records) are what the hackers want.

Implementing baseline controls is the first element of fixing your cyber problems.

Several states have enacted laws that expect these baseline controls to be in place to protect their consumers. In Massachusetts, for example, there is a regulation (WISP3) that expects a legal entity holding personal information about a Massachusetts resident, to develop and implement a written information security program to protect that personal information. If this standard is not met, on top of $5,000 civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, the corporation could also encounter negligence based on litigation.

Like every state notification law that exists today, the law is based on the location of the consumer, not the corporation's place of domicile. In Nevada, since 2008, businesses have been required to use encryption when transmitting a customer's personal information externally(aside from fax)4. Additionally, PCI (Payment Card Industry) has required all corporations involved in a credit-card transaction to be compliant with varying degree of requirements based on size. For additional information, refer to https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/merchants/how_to_be_compliant.php.

This is an important step for those companies dealing with credit cards. The 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report also found that 96% of victims subject to PCI Data Security Standards had not achieved compliance. This statistic shows the important of security controls being taken seriously.

Once your organization takes cyber security controls seriously and understands even the best controls don't isolate them from the exposures that exist, you should than take the time to discuss the insurance implications. Your insurance agent or broker can provide input on how current insurance coverage(s) could respond but also can get you in touch with over 30 insurance markets' underwriters who have dedicated cyber products and submission processes and are able to design coverage specific to your company. Additionally, most markets can help with loss control and ensure that you stay abreast of the current threat environment.

With adequate controls, a general understanding of the regulatory implications of a privacy breach and knowing the insurance consequences, you will be much better prepared if a problem with your company's technology does happen.

1 Cyber Betterley Report 2012

2 Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report

3 Massachusetts 201 CMR 17

4 Nev Revised Stat 597.970(1)2005