That is the message that I took away from last week’s annual conference of the ABA’s Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee in Tucson, Arizona.  Gone was the “gee whiz” discussion of the technology and its risks, and most presenters avoided the scare tactics all too commonly used in the industry to drum up sales.  (Not that there isn’t reason to be scared – but the horror stories are so widely reported it hardly seems necessary to dwell on them at a conference of insurance coverage pros).

One particularly useful panel  took a deep dive into problematic policy language and the limitations of the products currently offered.  This is critically important because although cyber coverage is no longer new, the language of the policies is not yet standardized.  A few of the many things to look out for are:

long “waiting periods” for business interruption coverage.  Business interruption coverage is “time loss” cover in that the loss amount is calculated (generally speaking) as average sales per hour multiplied by the number of hours of downtime due the covered event.  However, some chunk of time (the “waiting period”) is routinely excluded as a kind of deductible.  Some cyber insurers default to a 24 hour waiting period (an eternity for an many businesses and particularly online retailers) putting the burden on the policyholder to ask for a more reasonable period.  According to the panel (and my own experience has shown this to be true) carriers will agree to 12 hours or less – sometimes 8 hours.  If your business relies on closing sales around the clock, cutting down the waiting period could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars more in business interruption coverage.

–  liability coverage limited to liability for the insured’s own wrongful acts. Because so much electronic data is now routinely hosted, handled or safeguarded in some manner by vendors, any kind of strict limitation with regard to who made the “oops” may result in no coverage, even though the insured may be held liable as the owner of the data. The panel discussed several recent data breach incidents in which the error that allowed confidential data to be stolen was committed by one entity, but liability was imposed on another entity (e.g. the Target hack, where intruders gained access through a “phishing” scam on Target’s HVAC contractor).  Companies need to pay careful attention to the language of their policies and candidly assess their risks associated with vendors and consultants, particularly in the retail and healthcare sectors.

coverage for fines and penalties.  The number of regulatory bodies (state and federal) that are being given authority to issues fines and penalties for data breach violations is growing at a fast clip.  Some policies strictly exclude coverage for any kind of fine or penalty, while some do not.  Policyholders should examine their current coverage and evaluate whether their current and future coverage needs are being met, depending on the regulatory environment in which they operate.

The upside of the fact that cyber coverage is still issued largely on a “manuscript” basis (that is, without relying on industry-wide forms) is that insurers are sometimes willing to negotiate on policy language even for relatively small accounts, and oftentimes mid-period if circumstances have changed.  Careful attention to  evolving risks from “cyber” events combined with close examination of your policy language  can lead to productive conversations with your broker and carrier and needn’t wait until renewal.

* Update: This morning Apple is experiencing a major outage in its iTunes store, among other services.  Some are estimating that the six-hour outage has cost Apple $7 million – now that’s a serious cyber-business interruption loss (if covered).