Policy mistakes to avoid when choosing cyber insurance

Part three in our cyber insurance series highlights red flags and common mistakes to avoid when shopping for a cyber policy.
By Jessica Davis
03:37 PM
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It’s every healthcare organization’s nightmare to get the call that their data has been breached or hacked. As a result, many have turned to cyber insurance to protect assets and business operations.

As cyber policies and carriers lack a universal policy, there’s an even greater worst case scenario: An organization is breached, and the policy doesn’t cover what the leaders thought it did. Now, not only is the healthcare provider strapped with the burden of the breach, it wasted money on a useless cyber insurance policy.

To get a better grasp on how to choose the right policy, Healthcare IT News asked attorney Matthew Fisher, partner with Mirick O’Connell, and Jane Harper, Henry Ford Health System’s director of privacy and security risk management, to outline the biggest policy mistakes -- and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Rushing the process

When buying a policy, a carrier will provide a questionnaire that will evaluate your organization’s security posture, program, tools and policies. The biggest mistake is to rush the pre-policy process to see the rates and what the carrier will cover, explained Fisher.

Organizations need to be conservative with how they answer the questions, as “it could be a ground for denial, if you don’t have the policies you said you have in place,” said Fisher. “You have to make sure you’re not unintentionally misleading the insurance company when it comes to coverage.”

Often these questionnaires attempt to create a black and white policy and “it can be tough to answer correctly,” explained Fisher.

“Your ability to be as transparent and truthful upfront is critical to the nonpayment discussion,” said Harper. “If you tell the insurance company that you have everything in place and are compliant, if you tell them that and then you have an issue, and you weren’t truthful, it ends up being a legal battle.”

“When you submit your checklist that they have you fill out, meet with the underwriter to make sure you understand what you’ve documented,” she added. “You also need the copy that was provided to the insurance company because it will come back into play when you submit the final documents.”

For example, if you say you have a specific control in place, and you actually don’t, Harper explained that can create a situation where “they thought they had an understanding of something, but they didn’t.”

“Be honest, transparent and accurate -- because they can deny your policy if you were inaccurate or misleading in your responses,” she said.

Mistake #2: Lax, incomplete risk assessment

It’s easier to prevent a misleading or false statement to an underwriter, when an organization has a strong assessment and inventory of the processes and tools on the system. But far too often, hospitals “don’t know everything about the control environment,” explained Harper.

“When you talk about protecting an system and preventing a cyber incident, you have to have a good understanding of the organization’s overall control environment,” Harper said. “It’s key, as the longer it takes you to identify that you’ve had an incident, it leads to more exposure and the longer it takes to recover.”

But it’s also important to remember to update this inventory or assessment when buying new tools, merging with other organizations, hiring new staff and the like, Harper explained.

“Think about all of the activities and operations that happen,” she said. “And every three years, you’re updating a cybersecurity checklist -- that may not be frequent enough.”

For example, Harper explained that an organization filling out the policy questionnaire may have all of the right elements in place. But if another tool was purchased and the controls weren’t updated or the control was removed and the underwriter was not notified, there could be a problem.

“If those controls played into how the underwriter rated you: that can be key,” said Harper. “Think about your own home: you get additional discounts when you have a burglar alarm. So if you get one, and let them know, you may get a lower rate…  But if you no longer have that control, you have to tell the carrier.”

“It’s the same kind of practice that we want to get into when we get into cyber insurance for our organization,” she added.

Mistake #3: Failing to involve the right people

Many organizations understand that security needs to exist outside of the IT team. In the same vein, it’s crucial when buying a cyber insurance policy that the same mentality is applied to make sure all of your bases are covered.

“Make sure you are talking to the right individuals,” Harper said. “The appropriate key stakeholders are not only involved with the evaluation process - how many patients, how much data, etc. -- but also the responses to the questions the policy is going to ask.”

“Risk folks typically talk about it as it relates to patients,” she continued. “Those folks are key, but in addition, you need your privacy and security risk professionals, security officers, IT leader, your key business leaders/owners and those driving the data. It’s key.”

Also crucial? Making sure the facilities team is involved, as there can sometimes be a cyber incident based on a physical issue. Harper explained that “often people tend to focus on things like electronic PHI, but there’s physical PHI. If there’s a break in at a warehouse and data is stolen, OCR considers that a breach.”

Mistake #4: Failing to understand coverage

Far too often organizations make large assumptions as to just what cyber insurance will cover. Fisher explained that these leaders are often shocked to learn that they did not receive the full spectrum of coverage they wanted.

“Relying on blind faith on those terms, or what the broker or agent is telling you is a major mistake,” said Fisher. “It’s always up to up to you to go into something with eyes fully wide open to make sure you know what you’re actually buying.”

Harper took it a step further and laid to rest a common misconception when it comes to coverage: “Insurance will not cover fines and penalties associated with noncompliance. If you’re not complaint, and you didn’t do risk assessments, cyber insurance won’t protect you from that, so don’t expect it.”

Focus on Cybersecurity

In October, we take a deep dive into security strategy and pressing threats.

Twitter: @JF_Davis_
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com