The Curse of the Black Adder
Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.
One Fine Fall Day
Aaron Scott watched with pride as his German shorthaired pointer Sadie bulled her way through the switchgrass. Sadie was six, an age when most hunting dogs started to show signs of aging. But Sadie was as heavy in the chest and shoulders as some males, and just as tough.
Then suddenly Sadie was on point, her stub of a tail twitching frenetically. Seconds later, the male bird exploded out of the brush. Aaron swung his grandfather’s over and under Remington up and dropped the bird cleanly. Aaron smiled. It didn’t get any better than this.
Then his phone rang. He had to get it. As the CFO for Pinecrest Food Markets, which had 44 stores in four states, it was part of his job to take calls, all calls.
“This is Aaron,” he said.
“Aaron, it’s Christine.” Christine was Aaron’s older sister and the CEO of the company. Aaron knew that tone in her voice. The news wasn’t good.
“We just got a letter from Spendex that they’ve been hit by malware. It looks like we may have lost credit card numbers for about 600,000 customers.”
Aaron paused and again looked at the scenery and savored the diminishing scent of spent gunpowder. He wished he could turn back the clock to one minute ago, but all that was gone.
“You there?” Christine said.
“I’m here,” Aaron said.
“Can you please get those dogs in the truck and get back to the office? We got work to do.”
Christine preferred jumping horses to bird-hunting. On a fox hunt, she could ride with anyone in the state.
Aaron loved his sister, but he also bore a scar over his right eyebrow where she’d clocked him with a rock when they were preteens.
“I’m comin’. Be there in 30,” Aaron said.
Pinecrest had been founded by Aaron’s grandfather William in an 800-square-foot shop in Johnstown, Pa. It had grown to where it had stores in eastern Ohio, its native western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the Maryland panhandle.
Aaron and Christine ran it now. The phrase “three generations — shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves,” was how old-timers described how quickly an inherited family business could fall apart. Aaron and Christine had vowed they would prove that old saying wrong.
Back at the office, Aaron read the letter from the credit card transaction processing vendor Spendex. Spendex was reporting that as many as 26 of its regional retail customers lost credit card numbers to The Black Adder, a malware that strips names, credit card numbers and expiration dates from the magnetic stripes of credit cards.
“Now what?” said Christine.
“Well, we’ve got to tell every affected customer what happened and we need to do it soon,” Aaron said.
“How much is that going to cost?” Christine said.
“Quite a bit, but we’ve got insurance for it,” Aaron said as calmly as he could as he looked down at his iPhone and started scrolling through his contacts.
Aaron was playing possum with his cool tone. He was the family peacekeeper and he knew that his role at times like these was to keep a lid on the much more volatile Christine.
Christine exhaled, and Aaron kept his eyes on his iPhone.
Part of the Pinecrest brand came from where it was based and who founded it.
Based as it was in a state that was home to almost a million military veterans, Pinecrest aligned itself with traditional values like patriotism, community, faith and family.
There was a picture of a local veteran who had given his life in armed conflict in every Pinecrest store.
So when it came to the data breach notification, Christine Scott — in what she felt was full alignment with the brand — didn’t shrink from responsibility.
In addition to letters and emails sent to Pinecrest’s 600,000 affected customers, Christine called local news stations to broadcast news of the breach and her promises to make good. She didn’t bother to ask Aaron whether he thought that was a good idea.
“Every one of our customers will be reimbursed for their time and trouble, including a year’s worth of multi-bureau credit monitoring services,” Christine said while the TV cameras recorded her.
“Well that’s what the policy says, doesn’t it?” Christine said when Aaron told her later that she probably shouldn’t have said that on television.
The very next day, a phone call from Pinecrest’s insurance broker was the second bad call Aaron got that month.
“Multi-bureau? No. The policy will cover services from a single credit monitoring bureau,” the broker, Robert Franz, told Aaron.
As Aaron spoke with Robert, he was multitasking and monitoring his emails. He saw an email marked “urgent” from Spendex. It was about the data breach.
“Hey Robert, can I call you back in a few minutes? I’ve got something hopping here,” Aaron said.
“Sure,“ Robert said, but in a tone that implied, “What could be more important than this?”
As it turned out, the email from Spendex was plenty important.
The notice from Spendex explained that although it was obligated to inform all of its customers that there had been a breach, in reality, only 14 of its 26 retail customers had been impacted. The clincher? Pinecrest wasn’t one of them.
Aaron pushed back from his desk and ran his hands through his hair.
“What the … ?” he said as loudly as he would say anything.
“What is it?” said Christine, popping her head into his office. She knew from the volume of Aaron’s voice that it was something big.
“We didn’t lose any data. We didn’t lose any data at all,” Aaron said.
“Great,” Christine said.
“No, not great,” Aaron said. “We just told about a million people that we did.”
“Now what do we do?” Christine asked.
Aaron felt that Christine had burned him before by going on television without seeking his counsel. That experience caused him to dig in his heels with Christine over what to do next.
“Slow down, just slow down,” Aaron said when the siblings met to go over strategy.
“I don’t know that we need to come out with an announcement just yet.”
Aaron’s reaction to his sister’s outspokenness had caused him to miscalculate. A full week went by until Pinecrest announced on its website and with another email blast that its customers had, after all, not been impacted by the Black Adder strike.
The company’s pause in making that announcement was as toxic as a rattlesnake bite.
The local media reacted negatively to the company’s week-long silence. News that the company sat on the knowledge that customers hadn’t lost data made the front pages of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and the Wheeling News-Register.
For the first time in its history, Pinecrest was dealing with the full brunt of a hit to its reputation.
The traditional print media was one thing, and no small thing in the markets Pinecrest served. But online commentary, ungoverned by journalistic ethics, pulled no punches. Commentators ridiculed the company for banking on the military sacrifices of previous generations, when it “didn’t have the guts,” in one poster’s vernacular, to tell people the truth.
The company’s broker, Robert Franz, phoned Aaron with even more bad news.
“You’re not covered for any of your breach notification expenses, or for any credit monitoring services,” Robert told Aaron.
“Please tell me why,” Aaron said, keeping his voice low because he was just not in the mood for any spontaneous crisis communications with his older sister.
“Under your policy, you’re only covered for notification and credit monitoring if there was an actual breach,” Robert said.
“No breach, no coverage,” he said.
“So we’re out about a million dollars,” Aaron said flatly. In the regional grocery business, where margins could sometimes be measured in the low single digits, a million dollars was a very big hit.
“I’m afraid so,” Robert said.
Sales at Pinecrest Food Markets were down around 10 percent in all four states that it operated in.
“Might as well shop at Supermart,”a grizzled Korean War veteran told Channel 11 in Charles Town, West Virginia.
With the company down a million out of pocket and with revenue hamstrung, Christine Scott and the rest of the Pinecrest team had some very difficult and expensive decisions to make.
Should they sue Spendex for its shoddy forensics? And what coverage did they have for the costs of that?
Rumors began to circulate in several state capitals that class action lawsuits were being prepared on behalf of the tens of thousands of Pinecrest customers who felt they were caused needless expense and worry because of the bad information Pinecrest put out to begin with.
Grandstanding attorneys general were probably not far behind. Pinecrest was possibly facing legal action on several fronts and it was unclear whether it had the coverage to pay for its defense.
With the world seemingly against them, Christine and Aaron took a day in late November and went to their grandfather’s hunting cabin in Somerset County.
The grouse were out there, but the two of them just sat staring at the fire in the cabin’s stone fireplace, with Aaron’s two bird dogs stretched out in front of the fireplace.
Sadie looked up hopefully as Aaron got up to throw another log on the fire.
“No huntin’ today, Sadie girl. Daddy is not in the mood,” Aaron said as Christine nursed a bottle of local craft-distilled rye.
“May I have some of that, please?” Aaron asked.
“Get your own bottle,” said Christine.
A regional grocery chain gets into hot water after it loses customer financial data. Making matters worse is that the company does not have a good grasp on the language in its cyber coverage policy. The company also suffers reputational damage when it notifies customers based on bad information.
1. Know your partners: Pinecrest sees its problems go from bad to worse because the company it uses to process credit card transactions has shoddy forensics and reports data breaches for customers that in the end had no data breach.
2. Know your coverage: Pinecrest suffers needless losses because key executives don’t understand its insurance policy when it comes to services available under the coverage for data breach notification and credit monitoring.
3. Be as transparent as possible: When it comes to notifying customers of substantial issues that could impact their expenditures, getting out quickly with the best information is extremely important. Pinecrest actually has good news to report midway through this story, but sits on it due to internal friction. The good of the team must clearly win out here.
4. Create realistic expectations: Coverage existed for Pinecrest officials to put together a reasonable response when customer data was lost. But a key executive broadcast inflated statements about what Pinecrest would be able to do, creating equally inflated expectations.
5. Hold vendors accountable: Given the volatile expansion of cyber risk, it makes good sense to require vendors contractually to indemnify you if they lose your crucial customer data.
The issues covered in this scenario center around crisis management and insurance pitfalls associated with loss from a cyber breach. This follow-up webinar focused on specific loss trends and cyber exposures, as well as presented steps to take to strengthen your crisis risk management program.
Stabbed in the Back
Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.
Part One: Opportunity Knocks
Jack Fisk, nice and warm in the comfort of his study in Fort Collins, Colorado, sat and stared at the message in his personal email account inbox. He sat and stared at it for a long time.
Jack took a sip of herbal tea and a nibble of the lemon cookie at his elbow. Then he went back to staring at the message. There it was in black and white, an offer from a Chinese national — an offer he felt he couldn’t refuse.
As a lead engineer with Super Diamond, a manufacturer of mining and drilling equipment, Jack was an integral part of a team that developed one of the most effective drilling bits ever made. The bit, used in gold mining and deep-sea oil extraction, was helping to push Super Diamond into record-breaking revenue territory.
There was only one problem and it was a very big one, for Jack at least. Super Diamond’s top line was breaking records, but Jack Fisk felt left out. Where were his millions, he wondered.
Well here they were. He didn’t know how they found him, but they found him.
The deal was this. Hand over some of Super Diamond’s top-secret product information and receive a seven-figure reward.
As Jack considered the offer, he felt entirely justified in taking it. It was his creativity and knowledge, more than anyone else’s, which led to the product breakthrough. He was sure of it. He knew it in his gut.
Here’s what Jack didn’t know. Another employee of Super Diamond, an IT executive based in Mumbai, was looking at a very similar email. This employee, Vijay Bhakta, enjoyed super-user status within Super Diamond’s computer networks, with access to all of its servers.
The Chinese had done their homework. Jack, married with two children, lived a pretty straight life. The lure of a big paycheck was more than enough for him.
Vijay enjoyed a riskier lifestyle. Money was a good motivator for him, but just as compelling were the offers of drugs and prostitutes the Chinese were dangling in front of him.
In approaching Vijay, the Chinese were after more than product information. They wanted access to Super Diamond’s customer list and information on its entire product line, not just the drilling bits that Jack helped develop.
Both executives, unbeknownst to the other, took the bait.
For the next 18 months, Jack used the time-honored method of downloading proprietary information onto a thumb drive, walking out the door with it, and painstakingly sending it to his Chinese contact using his personal email address in the quiet comfort of his study at home.
The Bitcoin payments from the Chinese, amounting to $2.7 million in 18 months, arrive faithfully. Jack uploads his company’s precious trade secrets just as faithfully.
Vijay is introduced to a hacker who, armed with the IT exec’s user information and passcodes, invades Super Diamond’s system at will over the same time period.
Vijay is also faithfully compensated, with cash drops and services meeting his other needs, under the terms of his agreement with the Chinese.
At the end of 18 months, fully exploiting their two points of entry, the Chinese own the keys to the Super Diamond kingdom. They know how to make a number of Super Diamond’s products and they know exactly who to sell them to and at what price.
Part Two: A Chilling Recognition
Super Diamond’s risk manager, Cathleen Sunbury, is enjoying an invigorating game of tennis with a friend on a sunlit court in San Diego, when she gets an urgent text from the company’s COO.
“Please get to the office, ASAP,” says the message. “Urgent.”
A chill runs through Cathleen.
“Uh oh,” she says, as she and her friend grab a water break courtside.
“What is it?” her friend says.
“I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t look good,” Cathleen says. “I gotta go.”
“Is this because I was winning?” her friend asks.
That would normally be a funny jibe between friends. It’s not today.
At the office, other company executives share with Cathleen what they know. Sales in several of Super Diamond’s key Asian markets have suddenly softened.
There is also an indication that the company suffered an IT breach, but the extent of it is difficult to ascertain. Whoever broke in did a great job of covering their tracks. What was accessed and what was taken appear to be unknowns. The company’s IT department is at a loss.
“I know who to call,” Sunbury says, banking on a conversation she had with a former higher-up in the FBI who now works for a cyber forensics firm in Philadelphia.
The Super Diamond CEO and CFO initially balk at the forensic firm’s price tag.
The vice president of the forensic firm, who led key cyber investigations for the FBI before entering the private sector, snorts in derision.
“Your company is horrible at this,” the forensics VP says.
“Your IT department has no idea what happened and it will take them months to figure it out,” he says.
“It’s looking like you have an internal perpetrator, possibly more than one. How much longer can you afford to wait to determine what’s going on?”
The phrase “possibly more than one” overwhelms any resistance on the part of the CFO and the CEO. They sign on the dotted line with the forensics firm.
The forensic firm gets right to work. To connect the dots they pull records from a number of departments, including Human Resources and Security.
They also have their own cyber security specialist take a look at the Super Diamond network to see who might have compromised it.
It takes the forensics firm two days to come up with two names: Jack Fisk and Vijay Bhakta.
Part Three: Gone, Gone, Gone
Jack Fisk and Vijay Bhakta are dismissed and face criminal charges. As painful as that is for company executives, that’s the easy part.
What comes next for Cathleen Sunbury in her role as risk manager is far more painstaking, and far more painful.
The forensics team is able to match up human resources records, including data on when Vijay Bhakta and Jack Fisk were in the office, against data on computer use, including when an outside device was connected to Jack Fisk’s computer.
That left no doubt that the product information and additional company information that was taken from Super Diamond was the work of inside perpetrators.
The “good” news is that Super Diamond executives now understand what happened. The bad news is that their insurance policies are inadequate to cover the loss.
Determining the value of what was taken, including the cost of lost sales, is difficult, but Super Diamond executives settle on a figure of $200 million.
The company’s cyber breach policy, though, covers an occurrence in the event of a breach from an outside hacker. Bhakta and Fisk are internal perpetrators, and thus the company is not covered, its carrier says.
Compounding the pain, Super Diamond shareholders file suit against Super Diamond executives and board members. The shareholders argue that the board and the C-suites failed to take adequate measures to protect proprietary company information.
The company’s E&O and D&O policies respond to the costs of the lawsuits. But the company faces punishing premium increases for both E&O and D&O coverage going forward.
Sales are depressed, due to the theft of key intellectual property, and getting good cyber coverage at a reasonable price is flat-out impossible.
Super Diamond settles for a premium increase to cover both external and internal hacks that is 400 percent more than it faced the previous year.
Worn out by the process of determining the loss and trying to get coverage for a company that is bleeding money; Cathleen Sunbury resigns.
“I don’t know who we’re going to get to replace you,” the CEO says.
“I don’t know either,” Sunbury says, meaning no disrespect but feeling utterly defeated.
Risk & Insurance® partnered with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions to produce this scenario. Below are Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ recommendations on how to prevent the losses presented in the scenario. This perspective is not an editorial opinion of Risk & Insurance®.
Super Diamond’s Cathleen Sunbury might still have her job and her company would be in much better shape had she partnered with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.
Swiss Re, in addition to offering cyber insurance coverage that would have covered an internal perpetrator incident such as the one detailed in “Stabbed in the Back,” would also advise Sunbury and her fellow executives at Super Diamond on being much better prepared to defend against and respond to it.
Having a forensics team, a crisis (breach) communications partner and the right law firm lined up ahead of time would have saved the company a lot of time and trouble. Swiss Re offers all of that as part of its coverage.
In just one example, imagine the costs that Super Diamond will incur if it has to go after Vijay Bhakta and Jack Fisk in civil court, or what it’s going to spend defending itself against shareholder lawsuits.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions would have paid for Super Diamond’s legal defense, compensated it for lost revenue, and paid for data reconstitution and additional legal costs as part of its CyberSolutions product.
The lost sales in Asia that Super Diamond experiences when Jack Fisk sells its intellectual property to a Chinese national would also be covered under that policy.
On the front end, Swiss Re would work with Super Diamond to identify which of its mining or drilling technologies were most valuable; in other words, naming the “crown jewels” that the company absolutely could not afford to lose control of. That would also involve ascertaining where those “jewels” are stored and who has access to them.
The upfront work would also include the services of experts with IBM who can conduct penetration tests of the company’s IT systems.
In essence, companies everywhere need to understand that any gap in its preparedness or ability to respond creates liability. There is not only the initial liability of a loss or a penetration, there is the multiplying liability of shareholders, or regulators, holding the company responsible for its negligence.
By partnering with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and picking up its CyberSolutions product, Super Diamond would have bolstered its risk mitigation and vastly improved the efficiency of its response.
No company is safe from a cyber penetration; the record is clear on that. But experts say many companies have a lot of ground to make up to become more vigilant and better coordinated to bounce back when an incident occurs.
No entity can do this on its own. Pick the right partner(s).
Hot Hacks That Leave You Cold
Thousands of dollars lost at the blink of an eye, and systems shut down for weeks. It might sound like something out of a movie, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality thanks to modern hackers. As technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, so do the occurrence of cyber breaches.
“The more we rely on technology, the more everything becomes interconnected,” said Jackie Lee, associate vice president, Cyber Liability at Nationwide. “We are in an age where our car is a giant computer, and we can turn on our air conditioners with our phones. Everyone holds data. It’s everywhere.”
Phishing Out Fraud
According to Lee, phishing is on the rise as one of the most common forms of cyber attacks. What used to be easy to identify as fraudulent has become harder to distinguish. Gone are the days of the emails from the Nigerian prince, which have been replaced with much more sophisticated—and tricky—techniques that could extort millions.
“A typical phishing email is much more legitimate and plausible,” Lee said. “It could be an email appearing to be from human resources at annual benefits enrollment or it could be a seemingly authentic message from the CFO asking to release an invoice.”
According to Lee, the root of phishing is behavior and analytics. “Hackers can pick out so much from a person’s behavior, whether it’s a key word in an engagement survey or certain times when they are logging onto VPN.”
On the flip side, behavior also helps determine the best course of action to prevent phishing.
“When we send an exercise email to test how associates respond to phishing, we monitor who has clicked the first round, then a second round,” she said. “We look at repeat offenders and also determine if there is one exercise that is more susceptible. Once we understand that, we can take the right steps to make sure employees are trained to be more aware and recognize a potentially fraudulent email.”
Lee stressed that phishing can affect employees at all levels.
“When the exercise is sent out, we find that 20 percent of the opens are from employees at the executive level,” she said. “It’s just as important they are taking the right steps to ensure they are practicing what they are preaching.”
Locking Down Ransomware
Another hot hacking ploy is ransomware, a type of property-related cyber attack that prevents or limits users from accessing their system unless a ransom is paid. The average ransom request for a business is around $10,000. According to the FBI, there were 2,400 ransomware complaints in 2015, resulting in total estimated losses of more than $24 million. These threats are expected to increase by 300% this year alone.
“These events are happening, and businesses aren’t reporting them,” Lee said.
In the last five years, government entities saw the largest amount of ransomware attacks. Lee added that another popular target is hospitals.
After a recent cyber attack, a hospital in Los Angeles was without its crucial computer programs until it paid the hackers $17,000 to restore its systems.
Lee said there is beginning to be more industry-wide awareness around ransomware, and many healthcare organizations are starting to buy cyber insurance and are taking steps to safeguard their electronic files.
“A hospital holds an enormous amount of data, but there is so much more at stake than just the computer systems,” Lee said. “All their medical systems are technology-based. To lose those would be catastrophic.”
And though not all situations are life-or-death, Lee does emphasize that any kind of property loss could be crippling. “On a granular scale, you look at everything from your car to your security system. All data storage points could be controlled and compromised at some point.”
The Future of Cyber Liability
According to Lee, the Cyber product, which is still in its infancy, is poised to affect every line of business. She foresees underwriting offering more expertise in crime and becoming more segmented into areas of engineering, property, and automotive to address ongoing growing concerns.”
“Cyber coverage will become more than a one-dimensional product,” she said. “I see a large gap in coverage. Consistency is evolving, and as technology evolves, we are beginning to touch other lines. It’s no longer about if a breach will happen. It’s when.”
About Nationwide’s Cyber Solutions
Nationwide’s cyber liability coverage includes a service-based solution that helps mitigate losses. Whether it’s loss prevention resources, breach response and remediation expertise, or an experienced claim team, Nationwide’s comprehensive package of services will complement and enhance an organization’s cyber risk profile.
Nationwide currently offers up to $15 million in limits for Network Security, Data Privacy, Technology E&O, and First Party Business Interruption.
Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Not all Nationwide affiliated companies are mutual companies, and not all Nationwide members are insured by a mutual company. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Home Office: One Nationwide Plaza, Columbus, OH. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and other marks displayed on this page are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, unless otherwise disclosed. © 2016 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Nationwide. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.