March 24th, 2023

Cyber Insurance Presentation – Understanding the Risks

On February 22, 2023, Gross McGinley Managing Partner and Business Services Attorney Jack Gross participated in a panel discussion along with Apogee Insurance Group and EZ Micro Solutions. The event was geared toward educating business owners on the risks, liability, and requirements for Cyber Insurance. In his portion of the presentation, Attorney Gross spoke to the risks that businesses take on in the digital age and how they need to legally protect themselves from ransomware attacks.

The following are the key points from Jack’s presentation as well as a video of his talk. You can also find more insights on the linked videos and presentations below from the other presenters of the day.

Recognizing the Risk


  • Based on a penetration test by an IT consultant, 93% of business networks were susceptible to penetration
  •  In excess of 99% of US businesses are small businesses (up to $40 million annual revenue)
  • Most mid to large-size businesses are taking at least some of the required steps to prevent penetration.
  • Small businesses are starting to understand the risk


  • First 6 months of 2022 – an estimated 236.1 million ransomware attacks globally.
  • There were 623.3 million ransomware attacks globally in 2021.
  • Ransomware accounted for around 20% of all cyber-crimes in 2022.
  • 20% of ransomware costs are attributed to reputation damage.
  • 93% of ransomware are Windows-based executables.
  • The most common entry point for ransomware is email phishing.

Example One

  • Law Firm/Title Agency in central Pennsylvania.
  • $900,000 sale of a personal residence.
  • Involved paying off a $600,000 mortgage to Wells Fargo.
  • Day before closing, Sellers’ realtor emailed wiring instructions for the mortgage payoff to Title Agent.
  • After closing, Law Office wired $600,000 to Wells Fargo based on wiring instructions.
  • 45 days after closing, Sellers get a notice from Wells Fargo that their mortgage is in default.
  • Sometime in the month before the closing, the realtor’s network was compromised, likely through a phishing attack
  • Criminal did nothing in the account but monitor it.
  • Day before closing, the criminal took control of the realtor’s email to send an email to the Title Agent with payoff wiring instructions for a Wells Fargo account
  • Title Agent did not verify the wiring instructions, no one noticed anything because the payoff amount was correct, and the sale closed
  • $600,000 wire was sent to what appeared to be a Wells Fargo account. In reality the wire information was false, and the money was sent to the Cyber Criminals, who then emptied the account and transferred money to overseas accounts.
  • By the time incident was discovered, the money was gone and could not be recovered.
  • Lawyer/Title Agent spoke to his title insurance company and E&O company – both explained that they would either refuse coverage or pay the claim and sue him to recover their loss.
  • Lawyer was threatened by Sellers because he was a fiduciary and agreed to use sale proceeds to payoff the mortgage.
  • Total loses from incident was approximately $650,000.
  • Decision – close the business or pay the $650,000 (lost money plus expenses) from personal funds.
  • Lawyer/Title Agent mortgaged his home and business property to pay the amounts and stay in business.

Legal Basics

  • Personally identifiable information (PII), is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual.
  • In the U.S., no single federal law regulates the protection of PII. Instead:
    • federal and state laws 
    • sector-specific regulations
    • common law principles
    • industry self-regulatory programs
    • Pennsylvania definition of PII – first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following when not encrypted or redacted
      • (1) Social Security number;
      • (2) driver’s license number or state ID card number
      • (3) financial account number, credit card number, or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account;
      • (4) medical information;
      • (5) health insurance information;
      • (6) a username or email address, in combination with a password or security question and answer that would permit access to an online account.
  • Alphabet Soup of federal government agencies and laws – Partial list of Federal laws that could apply – Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA); Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM); Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA); Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
  • Protected Health Information (PHI) – part of the HIPAA Privacy Rule – DHHS has rules.
  • Financial Information that is PII – SEC has rules
  • If there is an incident that involves actual or potential disclosure of PII, including PHI, the legal consequences are significant, and requirements complicated.

Example Two

  • Healthcare provider within excess of 100,000 patients in its 30+ years in operation (not Lehigh Valley or Eastern PA based company)
  • Implemented multi-factor ID for login but made exceptions for certain individuals
  • Phishing or spearing phishing attack targeted an individual who logged in without using multi-factor ID
  • Ransomware shut down the entire system for 2 weeks. Doctors returned to paper charts and calendars to see patients
  • No billing for services during lock-out; Claim was insured and ultimately a ransom in excess of $1 million was paid
  • FBI was notified and has a unit dedicated to investigating these cases, but you should not expect they will be able to recover your data
  • Although often no evidence of improper use in ransomware attacks, the unauthorized access to the PHI requires notice to patients and the Office of Civil Rights of DHHS
  • Notifications had to be sent to all 100,000 patients
  • DHHS is conducting its own investigation of the provider
  • Potentially of all other related business associates.
  • The patient notice process in this case cost in excess of $200,000.
  • It is impossible to measure reputation damage.
  • Growing trend of class action litigation involving data breaches.
  • Despite recovering data, the entire computer system needed to be rebuilt and, a year later, data integrity issues continue.

Enforcement – What happens if you don’t follow the Law

  • Criminal Penalties
    • October 2022 – Former CSO of Uber was convicted of federal crimes for covering up a data breach
    • CSO was responsible to supervise response to the breach and to the FTC investigation of the breach
    • Judge found that CSO’s actions were designed to prevent disclosure of breach
      • Uber paid ransom to hackers
      • Uber obtained NDAs from the hackers
      • Hackers were caught and are also facing federal prison

Civil Penalties – SEC

    • SEC investigated Cetera Advisors related to an unauthorized access to approximately 4500 customer accounts involving disclosure of PII.
    • Cetera had not followed its own policies regarding protecting customer accounts.
    • Cetera sent notifications to customers, but they were misleading about the incident.
    • Cetera agreed to a $300,000 SEC fine and agreed to additional SEC requirements.

Civil Penalties – FTC

  • CafePress
    • Online Retailer
    • The FTC alleged that it failed to implement reasonable security measures before an incident
    • After an incident, FTC discovered its systems contained plain text Social
    • Security numbers, inadequately encrypted passwords, and answers to password reset questions.
    • FTC seeking an order requiring it to bolster its data security and require its former owner to pay $500,000 in compensation

International Issues

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – EU DAT Protection Regulation
  • UK Data Protection Act of 2018

Other resources

EZ Micro Solutions Video Presentation – Click Here

EZ Micro Solutions PDF Presentation – Click Here

Apogee Insurance Group Video Presentation – Click Here

Apogee Insurance Group PDF Presentation – Click Here

Attorney Jack Gross is the Managing Partner of Gross McGinley, LLP practicing in the Business Services Group as well as they Municipal and Real Estate Groups. With over 20 years of service, Jack has honed knowledge and expertise in the industries of Insurance, Banking, Manufacturing, Media and Publishing, and more.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.