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Brian Pennington

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TAKE UP OF CYBER INSURANCE REMAINS LOW

Marsh has undertaken an in-depth study into organisations’ attitudes towards the cyber threat, the management control processes they have in place, and their understanding and use of cyber insurance as a means of risk transfer. The benchmarking data in this report was collected from risk professionals and CFOs from large and medium-sized corporations from across the UK.

Spotlight on cyber risk to UK companies:

  • 18% of organisations have a “complete understanding” of cyber risk, down on last year
  • 4% of UK businesses have board-level oversight of cyber risk
  • 4% of companies do not assess their suppliers and/or customers for cyber risk

Firms across the UK continue to place cyber among their leading risks in terms of the likelihood and severity of impact; however, suggest there is still a lot of work to do to improve understanding and management.

Interestingly, there has been a substantial drop in the percentage of respondents who feel they have a “complete understanding” compared to last year (down from 34% to 18%).

This comes at a time when cyber risk is being elevated as a board agenda item, suggesting that executive-level interrogation has exposed a pre-existing overconfidence in the level of knowledge and understanding within certain organisations.

If this is the case, then it is clear those tasked with creating and delivering critical management information relating to cyber risk need more help and guidance to get them to a position where the level of management information is adequate.

Cyber risk is ranked as a tier one threat according to the UK National Security Strategy, and it is therefore surprising that 26.4% of UK companies surveyed do not consider it to be material enough to even get on the risk register. Just 16.6% of companies place cyber as a Top five risk on the risk register, while the remainder place it outside of the Top 10.

73% of respondents from the manufacturing industry say that cyber risk does not appear in the Top 10 risks on their corporate risk registers, the highest proportion of industry segments we surveyed.

This is perhaps understandable due to a low level of high-profile cyber incidents within the industry; however, as a key target for industrial espionage, and with instances of industrial control technology being compromised recently reported, one could argue that the threat is being underestimated.

The fact that fewer than 31.9% of respondents have identified one or more cyber scenarios that could most affect their organisations suggests that the lack of a complete understanding and absence/low positioning of cyber on the risk register is, for many companies, filtering through to a lack of definition around specific scenarios that might impact their businesses.

Board-level ownership of cyber risk exists in 19.4% of UK organisations. While this figure is broadly in line with last year’s findings (20%), it remains very low. Meanwhile, IT departments continue to take primary responsibility for cyber risk in 55.5% of organisations. Cyber risk is increasingly recognised as a business risk rather than simply a technical control, and, within this context, it is disappointing to note that there is no material upwards movement in risk management and board functions seizing responsibility from IT (the percentage has risen incrementally to 15.3% from 14% in 2014). IT departments might know how to implement cybersecurity; however, the inability of IT to drive value for the organisation or the potential for significant damage to be caused as a result of a security breach, most certainly is a business risk, the consequences of which will be felt at the highest levels of the organisation should it occur.

Boards therefore need to take ownership of cyber risk before a cyber event forces it on to the board agenda, and communicate the identified security priorities to IT departments so that they can align their activity and resources against the business’s risk management agenda.

Lack of data continues to prevent companies from adequately assessing cyber risk

The percentage of firms that have experienced a cyber-attack in the past 12 months has risen to 40.3%, albeit marginally (from 31% in 2014).

However, compared with other statistics (HM Government’s 2015 Information Security Breaches Survey states that 90% of large organisations and 74% of small organisations have suffered a security breach), this figure is still low, indicating that many of the respondents to this year’s survey are either particularly fortunate or (more likely) unaware of breach events within their firms.

Interestingly, 100% of respondents in two industries, communications, media, and technology and energy reported that they had been subject to a cyber-attack in the past 12 months. This most likely reveals a more enlightened position of those organisations rather than any high level of vulnerability.

In terms of organisations that have conducted or estimated the financial impact of a cyber-attack, this year’s survey results are somewhat contradictory to earlier findings. As such, it would be reasonable to question the rigorousness of the financial analysis around those numbers and how many are in fact high-level estimates rather than worst loss values calculated from detailed information and knowledge of cyber risk and individual exposures.

61.1% of organisations have not yet made any attempt to estimate/calculate loss estimates, however, suggesting that they are operating in the dark when it comes to the financial impact upon their businesses.

This puts them in a poor position to transfer the risk or even to appreciate whether a cyber event might threaten the viability of the company. Event modelling, combined with financial stress testing, is required to evaluate both the total financial loss attaching to an event and the shorter-term availability of cash to maintain trading.

The majority of organisations have not planned for sources of funding; however, the 48.9% that have is an encouraging number. Since just 11.1% of companies are buying insurance, it must be the case that companies are bypassing the insurance market and finding alternative methods to fund the risk (from available cash lines or lines of credit or assets that can be disposed of rapidly, for example).

Possessing and rehearsing an incident response plan is recognised as having a very positive effect on the operational, financial, and reputational impact of a cyber- attack upon an organisation.

The effect for breaches of personal data was quantified in the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study, which reveals that those companies with an incident response team in place typically make a GBP £9.50 saving on the per capita cost of a data breach, compared with the mean per capita cost.

Lack of control over suppliers/third parties a major concern

It is both a surprise and a huge concern that 69.4% of respondents to this year’s survey do not assess the suppliers and/or customers they trade with for cyber risk.

Suppliers and external organisations with whom system links are shared present one of the key vulnerabilities to UK companies. Businesses have done a lot to improve cybersecurity in the past 12 months; however, their exposure to third parties, whether service providers, product suppliers, customers, or, in the case of banks, borrowers, presents significant risks to companies’ networks. In addition to this, 51.4% are not asked to demonstrate a competent standard of IT security practices to their own bank and/or customers in order to do business with them.

While organisations can control their own networks, they have much less control over those of the suppliers/third parties that they might be linked to. Without the appropriate checks, this leaves them exposed and lacking control over standards of IT security in systems where hackers might find a “back door” into their organisation.

There therefore needs to be an improvement in supply-chain resilience to cyber-attack if organisations are going to reduce the threat arising from this key vulnerability. This is especially true for large organisations with a profile that attracts highly motivated and sophisticated hackers who might identify smaller business partners that are typically less well protected. For example, a recent report published by Marsh and the UK Government highlighted that 22% of small businesses admit they “don’t know where to start” with cybersecurity.

One of the most well-publicised cyber breaches in recent years occurred at a large US retail company after hackers stole network credentials from a third-party heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor that had an IT link with the victim’s corporate systems. Incidents like these are likely to rise in frequency until organisations place greater focus on setting out the basic technical controls that all suppliers/ contractors should have in place.

More than half of respondents are not asked to demonstrate a competent standard of IT security practices to their own banks and/or customers.

Take up of cyber insurance remains low

52.8% of respondents’ organisations are engaged with the insurance market in one way or another. 

Marsh’s experience and earlier findings in this survey suggest that the remainder are not yet ready to approach the market as they have an incomplete understanding of the risk, as opposed to them making a conscious decision not to purchase insurance following a value-based judgment.

This latter explanation would tie in with the earlier finding that 68.1% of organisations have not identified one or more cyber scenarios that could most affect their organisations. Organisations such as these, because they have not carried out the financial assessment required are in a poor position to approach the insurance market and place a value on transferring the risk. The survey data therefore suggests that more work needs to be done by organisations and their professional advisers, including their insurance brokers, to help improve their understanding of cyber risk and their cyber exposures and demonstrate what value insurance can bring.

The insurance market continues to address the issues that represent organisations’ greatest concerns a standard cyber insurance policy can deliver cover against breach of customer information (31.9%) and business interruption (22.2%), while computer crime/fraud (12.5%) can be insured against via a comprehensive crime insurance policy. The insurance market is also making inroads to deliver meaningful cover for reputational loss (8.4%).

Of particular interest is that none of the respondents from the industrial sectors identified physical property damage as a priority risk, despite a lot of recent attention being given to the threat that exists to critical infrastructure and the potential for tampering with industrial control technology.

The findings suggest that companies recognise that cyber insurance is not a holistic solution in dealing with cyber exposure and that, in fact, it covers only certain specific events and outcomes.

Cyber exposure might attach itself to a number of different insurance policies that need to maintain an effective response when the loss or liability outcomes are created by cyber events. 48.6% of respondents admit to having “insufficient knowledge” in order to assess the insurances available, which may suggest a lack of insight into what can be insured by a cyber insurance policy. However, in view of the earlier findings, this figure might also indicate that a lack of understanding of their firm’s own risk profile places many respondents in a position where they are unable to make an informed judgment as to whether the cover is appropriate.

Cyber insurance is not a holistic solution in dealing with cyber exposure and covers only certain specific events and outcomes.

Marsh’s conclusion

Clearly, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done by UK organisations in order to improve their understanding and management of cyber risk. Achieving a high level of understanding is essential as it serves as the foundation stone upon which all other cyber risk transfer and mitigation decisions need to be made.

The solution to this lies in the boardroom, and it is still a great concern that the board takes primary responsibility for cyber risk in 19.4% of organisations surveyed. Only with board-level buy-in can companies take the big strides needed to advance their knowledge and perform the financial modelling required. Proper assessment and quantification of the risk will lead to better targeted mitigation, practical improvements in risk management, and the ability to judge the value of the risk transfer options available on the market.

One particularly interesting, and somewhat remarkable, finding to emerge from this year’s survey is 69.4% of respondents’ organisations do not assess the suppliers they trade with for cyber risk. Supply chains are proven to be a critical vulnerability in corporate IT networks, yet there appears to be too little work being done to ensure that the entities with which companies share system links are following basic good security practices.

This has to improve as, for all the proactive steps taken and money invested to harden corporate networks against cyber-attacks, a security breach at a contractor or service provider, for example, could potentially allow hackers to circumnavigate all of that.

The insurance industry can play and is already playing a role in that assurance process; however, more work needs to be done in order to move the security focus away from the edge of the corporate network and to the heart of strategic decision making.

The full report with the references can be found here.

Cyber Attacks on U.S. Companies in 2014

The spate of recent data breaches at big-name companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, and Target raises questions about the effectiveness of the private sector’s information security.

According to FBI Director James Comey

There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked…and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked

A recent survey by the Ponemon Institute showed the average cost of cyber crime for U.S. retail stores more than doubled from 2013 to an annual average of $8.6 million per company in 2014. The annual average cost per company of successful cyber attacks increased to $20.8 million in financial services, $14.5 million in the technology sector, and $12.7 million in communications industries.

This paper lists known cyber attacks on private U.S. companies since the beginning of 2014. (A companion paper discussed cyber breaches in the federal government.) By its very nature, a list of this sort is incomplete. The scope of many attacks is not fully known. For example, in July, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an advisory that more than 1,000 U.S. businesses have been affected by the Backoff malware, which targets point-of-sale (POS) systems used by most retail industries. These attacks targeted administrative and customer data and, in some cases, financial data.

This list includes only cyber attacks that have been made known to the public. Most companies encounter multiple cyber attacks every day, many unknown to the public and many unknown to the companies themselves.

The data breaches below are listed chronologically by month of public notice.

January

  • Target (retail). In January, Target announced an additional 70 million individuals’ contact information was taken during the December 2013 breach, in which 40 million customer’s credit and debit card information was stolen.
  • Neiman Marcus (retail). Between July and October 2013, the credit card information of 350,000 individuals was stolen, and more than 9,000 of the credit cards have been used fraudulently since the attack. Sophisticated code written by the hackers allowed them to move through company computers, undetected by company employees for months.
  • Michaels (retail). Between May 2013 and January 2014, the payment cards of 2.6 million Michaels customers were affected. Attackers targeted the Michaels POS system to gain access to their systems.
  • Yahoo! Mail (communications). The e-mail service for 273 million users was reportedly hacked in January, although the specific number of accounts affected was not released.

April

  • Aaron Brothers (retail). The credit and debit card information for roughly 400,000 customers of Aaron Brothers, a subsidiary of Michaels, was compromised by the same POS system malware.
  • AT&T (communications). For two weeks AT&T was hacked from the inside by personnel who accessed user information, including social security information.

May

  • eBay (retail). Cyber attacks in late February and early March led to the compromise of eBay employee log-ins, allowing access to the contact and log-in information for 233 million eBay customers. eBay issued a statement asking all users to change their passwords.
  • Five Chinese hackers indicted. Five Chinese nationals were indicted for computer hacking and economic espionage of U.S. companies between 2006 and 2014. The targeted companies included Westinghouse Electric (energy and utilities), U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG (industrial), United States Steel (industrial), Allegheny Technologies (technology), United Steel Workers Union (services), and Alcoa (industrial).
  • Unnamed public works (energy and utilities). According to the Department of Homeland Security, an unnamed public utility’s control systems were accessed by hackers through a brute-force attack on employee’s log-in passwords.

June

  • Feedly (communications). Feedly’s 15 million users were temporarily affected by three distributed denial-of-service attacks.
  • Evernote (technology). In the same week as the Feedly cyber attack, Evernote and its 100 million users faced a similar denial-of-service attack.
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (restaurant). Between September 2013 and June 2014, credit and debit card information from 33 P.F. Chang’s restaurants was compromised and reportedly sold online.

August

  • U.S. Investigations Services (services). U.S. Investigations Services, a subcontractor for federal employee background checks, suffered a data breach in August, which led to the theft of employee personnel information. Although no specific origin of attack was reported, the company believes the attack was state-sponsored.
  • Community Health Services (health care). At Community Health Service (CHS), the personal data for 4.5 million patients were compromised between April and June. CHS warns that any patient who visited any of its 206 hospital locations over the past five years may have had his or her data compromised. The sophisticated malware used in the attack reportedly originated in China. The FBI warns that other health care firms may also have been attacked.
  • UPS (services). Between January and August, customer information from more than 60 UPS stores was compromised, including financial data, reportedly as a result of the Backoff malware attacks.
  • Defense Industries (defense). Su Bin, a 49-year-old Chinese national, was indicted for hacking defense companies such as Boeing. Between 2009 and 2013, Bin reportedly worked with two other hackers in an attempt to steal manufacturing plans for defense programs, such as the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets.

September

  • Home Depot (retail). Cyber criminals reportedly used malware to compromise the credit card information for roughly 56 million shoppers in Home Depot’s 2,000 U.S. and Canadian outlets.
  • Google (communications). Reportedly, 5 million Gmail usernames and passwords were compromised. About 100,000 were released on a Russian forum site.
  • Apple iCloud (technology). Hackers reportedly used passwords hacked with brute-force tactics and third-party applications to access Apple user’s online data storage, leading to the subsequent posting of celebrities’ private photos online. It is uncertain whether users or Apple were at fault for the attack.
  • Goodwill Industries International (retail). Between February 2013 and August 2014, information for roughly 868,000 credit and debit cards was reportedly stolen from 330 Goodwill stores. Malware infected the chain store through infected third-party vendors.
  • SuperValu (retail). SuperValu was attacked between June and July, and suffered another malware attack between late August and September. The first theft included customer and payment card information from some of its Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Shop ‘n Save, and Shoppers stores. The second attack reportedly involved only payment card data.
  • Bartell Hotels (hotel). The information for up to 55,000 customers was reportedly stolen between February and May.
  • U.S. Transportation Command contractors (transportation). A Senate report revealed that networks of the U.S. Transportation Command’s contractors were successfully breached 50 times between June 2012 and May 2013. At least 20 of the breaches were attributed to attacks originating from China.

October

  • J.P. Morgan Chase (financial). An attack in June was not noticed until August. The contact information for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses was compromised. The hackers may have originated in Russia and may have ties to the Russian government.
  • Dairy Queen International (restaurant). Credit and debit card information from 395 Dairy Queen and Orange Julius stores was compromised by the Backoff malware.
  • Snapsave (communications). Reportedly, the photos of 200,000 users were hacked from Snapsave, a third-party app for saving photos from Snapchat, an instant photo-sharing app.

Securing Information

As cyber attacks on retail, technology, and industrial companies increase so does the importance of cybersecurity. From brute-force attacks on networks to malware compromising credit card information to disgruntled employees sabotaging their companies’ networks from the inside, companies and their customers need to secure their data. To improve the private sector’s ability to defend itself, Congress should:

  • Create a safe legal environment for sharing information. As the leaders of technological growth, private companies are in most ways at the forefront of cyber security. Much like government agencies, companies must share information that concerns cyber threats and attack among themselves and with appropriate private-public organizations. Congress needs to create a safe environment in which companies can voluntarily share information without fear of legal or regulatory backlash.
  • Work with international partners. As with the Backoff malware attacks, attacks can affect hundreds if not thousands of individual networks. These infected networks can then infect companies outside the U.S. and vice versa. U.S. and foreign companies and governments need to work together to increase overall cybersecurity and to enable action against individual cyber criminals and known state-sponsored cyber aggressors.
  • Encourage cyber insurance. Successful cyber attacks are inevitable because no security is perfect. With the number of breaches growing daily, a cybersecurity insurance market is developing to mitigate the cost of breaches. Congress and the Administration should encourage the proper allocation of liability and the establishment of a cyber insurance system to mitigate faulty cyber practices and human error.

Conclusion

The recent increases in the rate and the severity of cyber attacks on U.S. companies indicate a clear threat to businesses and customers. As businesses come to terms with the increasing threat of hackers, instituting the right policies is critical to harnessing the power of the private sector. In a cyber environment with ever-changing risks and threats, the government needs to do more to support the private sector in establishing sound cybersecurity while not creating regulations that hinder businesses more than help them.

Riley Walters is a Research Assistant in the Asian Studies Center, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

The original research article can be found here.

Target breach was watershed event for Debit Card Security

The 2014 Debit Issuer Study, commissioned by PULSE, found sustained growth in both consumer and business debit in 2013. Financial institutions weathered the Target data breach and are looking for solutions to enhance security, with many issuers now planning to implement EMV debit, the study shows. Debit program performance continues to improve, as active cardholders increase their usage of debit.

Key findings include:

  • Consumers continue to shift to electronic payments, with transactions per active card increasing to 20.1 per month from 19.4 a year earlier.
  • 84% of financial institutions reissued all exposed cards in response to Target, compared to only 29% that typically reissue all exposed cards as a standard response to breaches.
  • 86% of financial institutions stated that they plan to begin issuing EMV cards in the next two years, a significant increase from 50% in 2012.

In the wake of several high-profile data breaches, the industry has come together to look for solutions to increase security and advance EMV implementation,” said Steve Sievert, executive vice president of marketing and communications for PULSE. “While PIN debit remains the most secure payment method in the market, this year’s study confirms the industry is reaching a tipping point toward EMV. The majority of financial institutions plan to issue EMV debit cards starting in 2015 

Target breach was watershed event

The Target breach impacted every financial institution that participated in the study, causing fraud loss rates to increase in 2013 and compelling issuers to re-evaluate their strategies for improving card security in 2014, the study found.

Overall, 14% of all debit cards were exposed in data breaches in 2013, compared to 5% in 2012. The resulting 2013 fraud losses to financial institutions amounted to 5.7 basis points for signature debit and 0.7 basis points for PIN debit. Compared with the prior year, PIN debit fraud loss rates remained constant at 0.3 cents per transaction, on average, while signature debit loss rates increased to 2.2 cents per transaction, up from 2.0 cents.

Issuers also reported on fraud loss rates by payment usage point. International transactions caused loss rates of 51 basis points, compared to 8 basis points for domestic card-not-present transactions and 2 basis points for domestic card-present transactions.

Data breaches heightened attention to issues of debit card security. Prior to the Target incident, many financial institutions were hesitant to commit to EMV because of uncertainty around retailer adoption of chip card point-of-sale terminals, questions about the viability of the business case for migrating from magnetic stripe cards to chip cards, as well as unresolved issues related to regulation and support for merchant routing choice. In many ways, the Target breach served as a catalyst for the resolution of these issues.

The most common strategy among financial institutions is to provide account holders with an EMV debit card as part of their regular card reissuance cycle. Migration to EMV debit cards will begin in earnest in early 2015 and will span approximately three years, with many issuers attempting to provide chip cards to their international travellers and heavy debit users in advance of the liability shift in October 2015.

We were quite surprised by the across-the-board embrace of EMV by debit issuers,” said Tony Hayes, a partner at Oliver Wyman who co-led the study. “There has been a dramatic shift from issuers’ tepid interest last year to their active plans to implement EMV beginning in 2015 

Debit continues to grow, as issuers focus on growth strategies

Outside of the challenges caused by data breaches, debit continued its growth trajectory in 2013. On the consumer side, the primary performance improvement was in transactions per active card per month, which rose to 20.1 in 2013 from 19.4 in 2012. Other metrics, such as penetration, active rate and ticket size, remained consistent year-over-year. There was an uptick in usage of business debit cards: transactions per active card per month grew to 14.5 from 13.5.

Continuing historical trends, signature debit declined in share of total transactions between 2012 and 2013, falling to 62% from 64% for consumer cards, and to 70% from 72% for business cards. As regulated issuers (those with more than $10 billion in global assets) receive equivalent interchange for signature and PIN transactions but incur lower costs on PIN transactions, large debit issuers now tend to prefer PIN transactions.

As issuers continue to promote the migration of cash payments to cards, PULSE expects overall ATM use to naturally decline. In 2013, ATM withdrawals reached a study-wide low of 2.3 per active card per month. Large banks expect ATM transactions to continue to decline, but community banks and credit unions project increased ATM transaction volume as they seek to drive traffic from the branch to the ATM.

The original press release can be found here

EMV – The perspective of a QSA who has worked on both sides of the Atlantic

With the spate of cyber attackers on US retailers recently Coalfire’s European MD, Andrew Barratt considers how the attacks on retailers differ outside the US and what the potential impact of similar attacks is in a world where Chip and Pin technology is more widely deployed.

Working in both the US and Europe gives us a good perspective on the payment security landscape.  The US has a much higher rate of credit card usage than most European countries, loyalty schemes and reward incentives are much more mature and embedded in consumer culture.  In Europe card usage is increasing but the type of card varies by country.  In the UK credit card use is moving in a similar direction to the US and includes a high rate of debit card usage; cards are quickly replacing cash. The UK now has lots of innovative mobile tech trying to disrupt the card market as well.   Germany is very different, credit card usage is very low (consumer culture is quite averse to borrowing) and the debit scheme is a closed system.  However both of Europe’s large economies moved away from using the magnetic stripe years ago.

EMV or Chip and Pin as it is more commonly referred to in the UK has been in heavy use since 2006 which has helped lower the impact of brick and mortar retail breaches significantly.  It doesn’t rely on sending the full track information to the payment processor meaning that the data is easier to secure.

With retailers adopting more of the security controls detailed in the Payment card industry data security standard and with widespread adoption of Chip and Pin for authenticating customers huge losses from face to face retailers are less common.

Large US retailers are being targeted for smash and grab style payment card data breaches because the data is easier to use fraudulently.  If a cyber-attack steals a lot of magnetic stripe data, this can be used to clone cards, which can then be used in stores to make fraudulent purchases.

Where transactions are authenticated using EMV’s Chip and Pin verification method less data is transmitted to the processor.  If this data is stolen it is harder to be used fraudulently.  It’s not impossible but a lot harder.  EMV is not without its flaws and a number of attacks have been demonstrated by Professor Ross Anderson’s research team at Cambridge University.  These typically attack the card reader and try to grab the Pin as it is sent to the smart card on the Chip for verification.

For US retailers minimizing exfiltration possibilities should be a high priority, lock down and monitor the outbound connections.

The fraud bubble has been squeezed attackers focus on e-commerce operations in the UK, service providers and other businesses that handle lots of cardholder not present transactions.  As the cost of implementing attacks against the smart card declines Europe serves to be a good learning ground for the US.  If the US adopts a future EMV model adoption can be considered with lessons learned overseas for more consumer protection.

Article written by Andrew Barratt

Twitter:     @Andrew_barratt

LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbarratt

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