FFIEC Issues Joint Statement on Cyber Insurance

FFIEC Issues Joint Statement on Cyber Insurance

The statement is here, and is intended to provide additional awareness about the possible use of cyber insurance to off-set financial losses resulting from cyber incidents. Here are a few high-level observations:

  • First of all, we’ve seen several announcements from various organizations stating that “the FFIEC has released new guidance…”. The statement makes it clear in the second sentence that “This statement does not contain any new regulatory expectations.” The statement goes on to reference the existing Information Technology (IT) Examination Handbook booklets for specific regulatory expectations. Again, this statement does not change existing regulatory expectations.
  • Second, this is a joint statement from all members, so we don’t expect any of the individual regulatory bodies to issue separate guidance. This is good, as we will not have to deal with any interpretation deviations. In fact, the FDIC just issued FIL-16-2018, which just links directly to the FFIEC page.
  • Third, the statement makes the same point we’ve already learned from the Incident Response Tests we facilitate with our customers; cyber insurance coverage is all over the map right now (or as the statement points out, “Many aspects of the cyber insurance marketplace…continue to evolve”). In other words, “Buyer Beware”*.

So how does this statement change your current approach to managing cyber risk? Probably not much. The 2015 FFIEC Management Handbook already provides guidance on the general use of insurance policies as a part of your risk mitigation strategy. Regarding cyber, they state that “These policies generally exclude, or may not include, liability for all areas of IT operations and cybersecurity.” Again, that has been our experience as we’ve conducted cyber incident response testing for FI’s, and you can try this for yourself next time you test. Whatever scenario you simulate; whether it’s malware, or customer account takeover, or a third-party breach, bring cyber insurance into the discussion. If you have (or think you have) cyber coverage, check with your agent to see if it would cover the estimated costs of the incident you’re simulating. If you don’t currently have coverage, this is a good opportunity to decide if it’s justified by evaluating costs vs. coverage limitations and exclusions using a real-life scenario.

In summary, if you already have cyber insurance coverage, the statement really doesn’t change anything. Just make sure it will be there for you if and when you need it. If you don’t currently have cyber insurance, the statement makes it clear that it’s not a requirement, but you should make sure any future consideration utilizes the framework they provide for weighing the benefits and costs.

One final thought…risk management is all about reducing risk to acceptable levels, and insurance should be the last control considered. As the Management Handbook states, “Insurance complements, but does not replace, an effective system of controls.” In our opinion, it’s a last resort, and utilized only if avoidance and mitigation efforts aren’t sufficient.

*UPDATE – Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. recently confirmed this, stating “I don’t think we or anybody else really knows what they’re doing when writing cyber insurance. We don’t want to be a pioneer on this… Anyone who claims to know the base case or worst case for losses is kidding themselves”.

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