In the modern digital age, the specter of ransomware looms large over businesses, governments, and individuals alike. The pervasive threat has led to a new question about an old (by technology standards, anyway) tool: Should cyber insurance coverage cover ransomware attacks?

Cyber insurance has gained prominence in recent years due to the rise in cyber attacks and data breaches. It’s a vital tool for businesses, providing a financial safety net in the wake of costly cyber incidents. 

All that said, ransomware can be particularly expensive, because a ransomware attack can hold your entire business hostage. Insurers don’t relish the idea of covering such potentially huge costs. So it’s essential for businesses to understand the terms and limitations of their policies, as well as to invest in preventive cybersecurity measures that can keep insurance costs low.

What is cyber insurance?

Cyber insurance, also known as cyber risk insurance or cyber liability insurance coverage (CLIC), is a specialized insurance product designed to protect businesses and individuals against internet-based risks and risks related to IT infrastructure and activities. These policies are crafted to support and protect the policyholder from potential financial losses resulting from breaches of data security, cyber attacks, or other cyber-related events.

The cyber insurance market is a rapidly evolving sector within the broader insurance industry, specifically tailored to address the risks and challenges posed by the digital age. When comparing policies, pay close attention to details such as exclusions, policy terms, and conditions. Also, be prepared to meet certain cybersecurity standards or practices set by the insurer, as these often serve as prerequisites for coverage. By being thorough in your approach and leveraging expert guidance, you can secure a cyber insurance policy tailored to your organization’s unique needs.

What does cyber insurance cover?

Cyber insurance can cover many different types of attacks and vulnerabilities, but there are common coverages of cyber insurance to protect against cybercrime:

Data breach coverage. This helps cover the costs associated with a data breach or hacking, including notification costs, public relations, legal and forensic services, and more.

Business interruption costs. In the event of a cyber attack, a business might face operational interruptions. This coverage can compensate for lost income during these periods.

Cyber extortion. This covers the costs if a hacker holds a company’s data for ransom, a situation commonly seen with ransomware attacks. The insurance can help cover ransom demands.

Forensic support. This covers the expenses related to identifying the cause and extent of a cyber incident, such as when you hire IT forensic analysts.

Legal and regulatory costs. This coverage helps with the legal costs associated with defending lawsuits related to the breach, regulatory fines, and penalties.

Network security liability. This covers third-party damages resulting from denial-of-service attacks, unauthorized access, or the spread of malware to third parties.

Crisis management. You may want coverage for resources for PR efforts to manage and mitigate reputational damage post-incident.

Notification costs. Covers the expenses related to informing stakeholders of a security or privacy breach.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is an especially malicious and severe threat in cybersecurity. It is malware that holds a user’s data hostage, effectively locking you out of your own files or systems until you pay the attacker a ransom.

Malware works by encrypting the victim’s data. This encryption uses complex algorithms to make the user’s files unreadable and inaccessible. Without the specific decryption key (which the attackers hold) the victim cannot regain access to their data.

After the successful encryption of the user’s data, the malware then presents a ransom note. Typically displayed on the user’s screen, this note demands payment in exchange for the decryption key. The payment is typically demanded in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, due to its anonymous and non-traceable nature. The note often comes with a threat: pay up within a certain timeframe, or risk having the data deleted or leaked.

Unfortunately, victims of ransomware face a dilemma. Paying the ransom may lead to regaining access to their data, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Moreover, giving into the demands incentivizes cybercriminals to continue and expand their malicious activities. 

On the other hand, refusing to pay might result in permanent data loss, especially if no recent backup exists or if the ransomware has also compromised backup systems.

The rise of ransomware attacks underscores the critical importance of robust cybersecurity measures, including regular data backups, software updates, and user education on avoiding suspicious links and downloads.

Is there insurance for ransomware?

Yes, insurance that covers ransomware incidents is a component of the broader category of cyber insurance. The increasing frequency and severity of ransomware attacks have amplified the demand for such insurance products, considering the potentially devastating financial and operational harm these attacks can cause.

Cyber insurance policies often include coverage specifically tailored for ransomware incidents. This coverage can help defray various costs associated with a ransomware attack. For instance, it may cover the ransom payment itself — although this is a contentious point, with some experts arguing that insurance-covered payments can inadvertently fuel the ransomware economy. Beyond the ransom, the insurance can also cover costs related to forensic investigation, data recovery, legal consultation, public relations efforts, and business interruption losses stemming from the attack.

Obtaining ransomware-specific coverage is not as straightforward as just purchasing a policy. Insurers typically require policyholders to maintain specific cybersecurity standards and practices to qualify for coverage. This might include regular system backups, up-to-date security patches, employee training, and more. The idea is to strike a balance: while insurance provides a safety net, organizations should also prioritize measures to reduce the likelihood of a successful ransomware attack.

Do you need ransomware protection?

The landscape of cyber insurance, especially regarding ransomware, is evolving. As ransomware tactics grow in sophistication and frequency, insurers are continuously reassessing premiums, coverage limits, and policy stipulations. Organizations interested in such coverage should thoroughly understand the terms, conditions, and any exclusions of their policies, and engage in regular discussions with insurance providers to assure that you have the most appropriate protection in place.

Ransomware protection is essential for individuals and organizations alike, given the increasing prevalence and evolving sophistication of ransomware attacks. Such protection is not just about avoiding the financial cost of a ransom but also about safeguarding data, maintaining operational continuity, and upholding an entity’s reputation. Here are some reasons and contexts that underscore the importance of ransomware protection:

Data security and integrity. Ransomware can encrypt or even delete critical data. For businesses, this might mean losing customer information, financial records, or proprietary data. For individuals, it could mean losing personal photos, documents, and other irreplaceable files.

Operational disruption. For organizations, a ransomware attack can halt operations. If critical systems or files are encrypted, it can prevent a business from providing its services or products, leading to financial losses and damaged customer trust.

Financial impact. Beyond the potential ransom payment, ransomware attacks can result in other direct costs, including those related to system recovery, external consultancy, and potential legal implications.

Reputation. Falling victim to a ransomware attack can harm an entity’s reputation. Customers and partners might question the security practices of a compromised organization, leading to lost business opportunities and trust.

Moral implications. Paying a ransom, which might seem like the quickest solution, funds criminal activities and perpetuates the ransomware business model. There’s also no guarantee that payment will result in data recovery.

Regulatory and legal consequences. Many regions have data protection regulations (such as the GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California). A ransomware attack that compromises personal data can lead to hefty fines and legal consequences for non-compliance.

Given these factors, it’s clear that taking steps to avoid ransomware is crucial. Such measures include maintaining updated backups, employing reliable security solutions, patching software vulnerabilities promptly, and educating users about potential threats and safe practices.

What is the average ransomware payout?

The average ransomware payout has fluctuated over the years based on various factors, including the evolution of ransomware strains, the targeted industries, the size and importance of the compromised entities, and the prevailing socio-economic conditions. It’s also essential to understand that while there are average reported payouts, many cases go unreported, so the actual average might differ.

As of 2021, several cybersecurity firms and research entities have observed an increase in the average ransomware payment. For instance, some reports suggested that the average ransom payment in 2020 was $100,000 to $200,000, a significant increase from previous years. Then again, there were notable outliers, with some high-profile attacks demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms.

Several factors can influence the average payout:

Target profile. Attacks on larger corporations, government entities, or critical infrastructure can command higher ransoms given the perceived ability to pay and the higher stakes involved.

Ransomware strain. Some ransomware variants or groups are known to demand higher ransoms than others.

Data sensitivity. If the compromised data is highly sensitive or valuable, the ransom might be higher.

Negotiation. Some victims negotiate the demanded ransom down, while others might pay the full amount quickly to expedite data recovery.

Insurance. Businesses with cyber insurance that covers ransom payments might be more likely to pay, potentially influencing the average payout.

Economic conditions. Factors such as cryptocurrency valuation (since ransoms are often demanded in cryptocurrencies) can also influence the amount.

Given the rapidly evolving nature of the threat landscape and the differing methodologies used in various studies, it’s essential to consult current research or cybersecurity reports to obtain the most up-to-date information on average ransomware payouts.

Common threats that cyber insurance covers

Cyber insurance is tailored to address the myriad of threats in the digital world. Among the most common threats listed earlier in this blog, the top two cyber threats covered are:

Data breaches. One of the most common threats covered by cyber insurance, data breaches involve unauthorized access, acquisition, or loss of sensitive and confidential information. This could pertain to customer data, financial records, intellectual property, employee details, and more. Costs related to a data breach can be substantial, including notification costs, credit monitoring services, public relations efforts, legal fees, and regulatory fines.

Ransomware attacks. With a significant rise in frequency and severity in recent years, ransomware attacks are now a prominent concern for many organizations. Ransomware encrypts the victim’s data, rendering it inaccessible, and demands a ransom to decrypt and release it. Cyber insurance can cover the associated costs, which might include the ransom payment itself (though this is a point of debate in the industry), expenses related to data recovery, business interruption, and fees for consultants and experts who assist in managing and mitigating the attack.

Both of these threats underscore the crucial role of cyber insurance in today’s interconnected environment. Organizations seek coverage to mitigate the financial and operational impacts of these and other cyber incidents.

Protect your data with ZenGRC

In an era where data breaches and cyber threats are becoming increasingly prevalent, safeguarding your organization’s sensitive information has never been more critical. ZenGRC offers a holistic approach to cybersecurity, ensuring that your data remains in safe hands. 

With its robust governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) capabilities, ZenGRC streamlines processes, identifies vulnerabilities, and fortifies your organization’s defense mechanisms. Beyond security, it provides clear oversight, automating workflows, and generating real-time reports, enabling you to maintain a strong stance against potential threats. 

With ZenGRC, you’re not just securing your data; you’re investing in a resilient digital future for your organization. Schedule a demo to learn more about ZenGRC.