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Cyber Security and Data Breaches: Why Directors and Officers Should Be Concerned

Following is an excerpt from the leading chapter in Willis London’s Executive Risks: A Boardroom Guide 2012/2013. If you would like to read the entire chapter, please contact me at rbortnick@cpmy.com. A complete copy will be emailed upon request. Cheers. Rick

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Cyber insurance has become a necessity. Every company that maintains, houses or moves sensitive information is at risk of a data breach, primarily due to the growth and increased sophistication of hackers, malicious software and, most recently, ‘hacktavists’. Even mere employee negligence can lead to a data breach. High-profile companies such as Sony can attest that cyber-intrusions can lead to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in legal exposure.

Equally troublesome, our expanding online society has introduced new financial risks and exposures that may not be covered under general and professional liability insurance products, including standard directors’ and officers’ (D&O) policies. As such, corporate directors and officers, and their risk-management professionals, must ensure that they buy appropriately tailored policies that provide protection against the rapidly expanding risks to which they could be vulnerable, both personally and professionally.

The risks and costs of a data breach

It has become known as the Year of the Breach: in 2011, companies of all sizes experienced malicious intrusions or employee negligence that affected their operations and/or businesses. For example, in April 2011, computer hacktavists unlawfully accessed the Sony PlayStation Network (PSN) and obtained the personal and financial information of roughly 77 million PSN users. Since then, Sony and its insurers likely have spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to remedy and mitigate the resulting security and commercial crises — an amount that grows by the day as lawyers prosecute class action lawsuits on behalf of allegedly affected users whose personal and financial information was improperly accessed.

Equally problematic for Sony, it has been sued by its commercial general liability (CGL) insurer, which sought to avoid coverage by arguing that its general liability policies do not and never were intended to cover data breaches.

The TJX Companies also fell victim to a cyber intrusion that security experts predict will have long-term costs of between US$4 billion and US$8 billion in fines, legal fees, notification expenses and brand impairment. In the TJX case, the retail group reported that 45.6 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from one of its systems during the period July 2005 to January 2007. Of critical import, the January 2007 intrusion occurred after TJX already had knowledge of the initial breaches.

Of course, big corporations are not the only entities that are vulnerable to hackers and hacktavisits; indeed, half of all companies that have experienced data breaches have fewer than 1,000 employees.

 

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