Unraveling the Risks of Cybersecurity Insurance Policies

Unraveling the Risks of Cybersecurity Insurance Policies

In an era where cyber threats are omnipresent, businesses and individuals are investing heavily in cybersecurity insurance to safeguard against potential financial losses. However, cybersecurity insurance policies are not a foolproof method for transferring risk. Cyber threats change continuously, and cyber liability policies differ in coverage, leaving some organizations exposed to cybersecurity’s potential pitfalls and risks. This article will highlight cybersecurity insurance policies’ potential pitfalls and dangers.

What Is Cybersecurity Insurance?

Cybersecurity insurance, or cyber liability insurance, is a type of insurance policy that helps businesses protect themselves from the financial losses associated with cyber attacks. Cybersecurity insurance is becoming increasingly important as cyber attacks become more frequent and sophisticated. Cybersecurity insurance can cover a wide range of costs, including:

  • Data breach notification and remediation: This includes the costs of notifying affected customers of a data breach and the costs of investigating and remediating the breach.
  • Regulatory fines and penalties: Cybersecurity insurance can help cover the costs of fines and penalties imposed by government regulators for violating data privacy laws or other regulations.
  • Ransomware payments: If a business pays a ransom to regain control of its systems or data, cybersecurity insurance can help cover those costs.
  • Business interruption losses: If a cyber attack disrupts a business’s operations, cybersecurity insurance can help cover lost revenue and other expenses incurred due to the disruption.
  • Legal defense costs: Cybersecurity insurance can help cover the costs of defending against lawsuits filed by customers, employees, or other third parties concerning a cyber attack.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from cybersecurity insurance, but it is especially vital for businesses that store or process sensitive customer data. Cybersecurity insurance policies vary significantly in what they cover, so it is essential to consider what the policy includes, which breaches are covered, and what is expected of you as a customer. 

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What Are the Risks Associated With Cybersecurity Insurance Policies?

As cybersecurity threats diversify, the policies to shield against them also become complex. Two main areas you should consider when obtaining or reviewing cybersecurity insurance are gaps in policy coverage and effective dates. In terms of coverage, most policies have specific inclusions and exclusions. For instance, some policies cover ransomware attacks but not social engineering fraud. Other policies cover direct losses but not ancillary costs such as court fees and lost employee productivity. I have seen firsthand when organizations have to deal with a cyberattack, and the policy does not include coverage for the event. 

Another factor is the effective date of the policy. Some policies specify a retroactive date. Incidents occurring before this date, even if discovered after the policy is in place, are not covered. If a hacker managed to gain access to your system and sat dormant for an extended period, the organization would not notice the breach until there was a financial impact. Understanding the specifics of the policy is crucial in choosing and reviewing cybersecurity insurance so the organization can appropriately measure the residual risk that cannot be transferred to the insurer.

What Are General Challenges With Cybersecurity Insurance?

Beyond the coverage specifics, there are overarching challenges and considerations to consider. The most significant challenge is that the cybersecurity risk landscape is constantly changing. Threats considered  high-risk today might change in a year, rendering some policy aspects obsolete. At the same time, a policy drafted even a few months ago may not cover new and emerging cyber risks. To keep up with the changes, companies should review policies regularly with the option to make updates as needed. This challenge works both ways, as the insurance companies want to ensure you, as the client, are doing your part to maintain a robust security posture. It is important to maintain agreed-upon control processes to ensure the policy is valid. Regular security audits that consider insurance requirements are essential to maintain insurance validity. Staying current on cyber threats and policy updates can be the difference between being covered or left vulnerable. 

Pay Attention to the Details

Ultimately, cybersecurity insurance is a valuable element of the organization’s risk management program, but one must be diligent in understanding its scope and limitations. Policyholders should actively understand their coverage, conduct regular policy and security reviews, and make policy updates when needed. As auditors review cybersecurity controls and potential disclosures, they should pay close attention to the details of the policies and consider the possible scenarios I described. When we understand and act upon the limitations of our protective measures, we fortify our defenses and contribute to a safer digital world. 


Faisal Shafiullah is the CEO of AuditPartners which is an IT Audit and Risk advisory firm headquartered in Florida. Faisal has over 20 years of experience with the Big 4 and industry including time at Deloitte, RSM, Fannie Mae and Hilton. Connect with Faisal on LinkedIn.