As we're finally able to jump off the treadmill that was pegged on level 10 in the run up to July 1, 2022, now is a good time to pause, take a breath and look back at the virtual ground we covered. It's also a good time to look ahead to what's in front of us, as 2022 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the chronology of cyber insurance development.

With each quarterly cyber insurance update, we look at the market from several angles. In keeping with that approach, we'll assess the current environment, checking in on areas such as cyber insurance coverage, pricing, carrier appetites, underwriting trends and the regulatory landscape. We'll also check in on loss trends in RPS's own book of business, gleaning insight from the tens of thousands of U.S. policyholders whose agents place their cyber insurance coverage through RPS.

Cyber Coverage and the Carrier Landscape

We continue to see an increase in the number of carriers employing sublimits in various capacities in an effort to reduce the financial impact of ransomware events on the industry. Agents should pay close attention to exactly how these sublimits are used, as carriers are taking various approaches to limiting their exposure.

For instance, some will sublimit coverage for ransom payments only, while others are applying a sublimit to the entire policy if the cause of loss was a cyber extortion (ransomware) event. These details are very important to point out when advising your clients on their next renewal, because not all insurers are making these changes very clear. Often times, a quick read of the declaration page won't be sufficient; you'll have to dig deeper into the endorsements to understand the full impact. When they experience a claim, this extra effort could determine if your client's coverage is coming from their cyber insurance policy or your errors and omissions (E&O).

Speaking of endorsements, one thing is clear: As cyber insurance has moved from the land-grab that was 2015 to 2020, to the maturing stages we're currently in, carriers are more mindful than ever of their potential exposure to systemic risk.

Among the major concerns is the prospect of a breach of a major cloud services provider (CSP). After giving credit to the information security posture of CSPs, one industry expert noted, "On the other hand, I'd never bet against the bad guys in the long run. There are just so many of them, a lot more than you ever know of. So, would I bet a paycheck that we'd go a whole year without such a major breach happening? No."1

Much like war and terrorism to property insurance policies, systemic risk has traditionally not been priced into the sustainability of cyber insurance. How could it? As a result, we're beginning to see more endorsements designed to limit coverage for zero-day attacks, widespread events and common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs), as well as neglected software. Be sure to look at expanded definitions of "Infrastructure," amending existing exclusions in the policy beyond the traditional satellite/electrical/mechanical variety to now include internet service providers and even cloud providers.

Again, these endorsements can have a significant impact on coverage, so be sure to understand how the policies are changing. What's more, at times these new endorsements can have innocuous titles that don't accurately reflect the fact that coverage has just been reduced significantly.

The dialogue continues around insurers' varying approaches to addressing war and terrorism. The war in Ukraine has cast a light on this variation, as the combination of armed conflict and digital warfare comes more into focus. As a result, we're seeing new exclusions specifying the fact that insurers have no intention of covering acts sponsored by nation-states or in conjunction with a traditional physical war of any kind.

Where Cyber Insurance Premiums Stand

We have found ourselves in a period of necessary retraction, as insurers pull the various levers of rate, sublimits, coverage restrictions and underwriting scrutiny to ensure profitability. And, as cyber insurance demand and rates have both continued to climb, many insurers are seeking more balance to their portfolio, having found themselves "cyber-heavy." As a result, competition is heating up in Professional Liability, Directors and Officers (D&O), Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), Crime — really, all areas of Executive Liability outside of Cyber.

Premium increases are still there, but flattening, and an underwriters' tool of choice is more often scalpel than machete when making decisions on their cyber book of business. Capacity continues to be a concern for many as we enter the second half of 2022. That said, we feel the future is bright for cyber insurance, as loss development further informs the right combination of underwriting standards, coverage terms, limits deployment and rate.

July 1 renewals brought significant premium increases, although, in many cases, not as high as those realized in July of 2021. Interestingly, the predictability of 2021 has given way to a myriad of approaches that can, at times, have little rhyme or reason. The more loss-sensitive classes of manufacturing, public entity, education and construction are either on the do-not-write list for many or often require deep-dive underwriting in order to get terms. Once terms are secured, we're seeing vast differences as well.

Case in point: In the 2021-22 policy period, we had a manufacturing client ($30 million in annual revenues) obtain a $5 million limit and $10,000 retention at a premium of $15,000 — yes, the deal of the century as we look through the lens of today. Fast-forward to this most recent renewal cycle — after an exhaustive look under the hood at relationships between information and operational technologies in their production process, the insured was non-renewed by their incumbent carrier, despite having no claims. Marketing efforts yielded results that generated premiums ranging from $30,000 to $92,000 with retentions ranging from $25K to $100K. This demonstrates the volatility of the market right now, particularly in an industry class that many reports have cited as the most attacked in 2021.2

Conversely, tower excess placements in difficult classes like public entity achieved improved results in isolated instances this cycle. As an example, a large western county that was only able to obtain $10 million in first-party limits last year was able to round out their tower with $30 million in limits for both third- and first-party coverage, effective July 1, 2022. The coverage was costly, but changes, particularly in the U.S. domestic market, yielded additional capacity at the right price that wasn't previously available. Additionally, like many insureds, the county made significant investments in multi-factor authentication (MFA), managed endpoint detection, and response and segmented back-up solutions, all of which helped them earn favor with insurers.

A Personnel Drought and the War for Talent

Many accounts that were previously no-touch are requiring more time, effort and know-how to get the best result for insureds. With more work comes the need for additional staff, and this need for staffing points to a growing concern in the cyber insurance marketplace: personnel.

There's a war for talent, as we have witnessed unprecedented career movement between the insurer and brokerage community. This disruption has led to costly delays and increased frustrations as we approached the July 1 renewal cycle. Fortunately, RPS hasn't experienced this turnover nearly to the extent that others have, leading us to take a different approach with an "I'm Staying..." campaign on LinkedIn that featured employees with no intention of switching firms. The campaign garnered a lot of positive response, and some laughs, as we shined a light on the employment trends around us.

Learn the Cyber Underwriting Language

Today's insurance agents must become more familiar with highly technical elements in the cyber underwriting process or partner with someone who is. As the applications are increasingly loaded with tech jargon, it's important that insureds engage their IT staff or outsourced vendors to ensure that the representations in the policy are accurate. And it's equally important that agents understand what the applications are asking for and communicate the potential consequences of getting it wrong, should a claim occur.

Earlier this month, in a court filing in Illinois, one insurer asked for a ruling to rescind a policy due to the insured's alleged misrepresentation that it had MFA in areas where it did not.3The insured, an electronics manufacturing services company, suffered a ransomware attack, and the investigation revealed inconsistencies between what they represented in their application and what was actually in place on their network. As MFA was the most used and least understood acronym of 2021 in our industry, we suspect this case won't be the last of such disagreements between insurers and their insureds in the months to come.

The Cyber Threat Landscape

From a threat perspective, we continued to see reductions in frequency and severity of ransomware losses in Q2, right up through the end of June. July is showing an uptick that we'll be watching to see if the first half of 2022 was an anomaly.

One research firm points to the significant share of ransomware activity attributed to Russia-linked hacking groups.4 Many speculate that the war in Ukraine has been responsible for the slowdown, as significant players in the region have been more inwardly focused.

We would like to think that a combination of improved information security controls among small and mid-sized businesses — driven largely by more in-depth underwriting requirements to obtain cyber insurance5 — coupled with increased media and government focus on ransomware attacks, has helped stem the tide. Regardless of the causes, these are welcomed trends for insurers and their customers alike. As long as ransomware is a) lucrative and b) anonymous, we believe the frequency and severity trends may ebb and flow over time, but they won't go away.

Hive6 and Vice Society7 are examples of ransomware variants affecting our small to medium enterprise (SME) clients in June. Double and triple extortion have become more and more woven into the fabric of these ransomware claims, as threats of data exfiltration and distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) are leveraged as additional means to get victims to pay.

Among RPS's tens of thousands of SME cyber insurance policyholders, the month of June's most prevalent claims were fraudulent payments (45%), followed by ransomware (20%) and social engineering (15%). Fraudulent payment is an incident where the insured was duped into sending funds (usually through some sort of social engineering scam). Social engineering means phishing scams that didn't result in a loss of funds — it may have been a failed attempt or a non-monetary attack, like credential harvesting. We separate these claims to not double count loss-matter types. We have also witnessed an increase in the number of third-party lawsuits relative to data/privacy.

From an affected industries perspective, the manufacturing sector led the way with 20% of reported matters among our SME policyholders, followed by construction (15%), professional services (10%), education/schools (10%) and charities and nonprofits (10%).

The Cyber Regulatory Environment

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) is a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives designed to give U.S. citizens greater rights over their personal data. The bill "aims to restrict the uses and disclosures of the personal data of citizens without consent, will give consumers a host of new rights over their personal data, and there is also a private right of action, which will allow consumers to take legal action against entities that violate their privacy and misuse their personal data."8

Hearings took place on June 23, and there are still potential stumbling blocks relative to preemption of current state privacy laws and the private right of action, leaving some concerned about a potential wave of lawsuits if the bill is ultimately signed into law. We'll be monitoring the progress of this legislation and the impact it may have on the cyber insurance marketplace.

Looking Ahead

Some key questions will shape the next quarter — and, arguably, the very future of cyber insurance. Will the downward trend in ransomware losses continue? Will the upward trajectory of premiums continue to flatten? Will the infusion of technological capabilities in the underwriting process yield improved loss ratios? Will the wave of exclusions relative to systemic risk, critical vulnerabilities, cyberattacks accompanied by armed conflict and unpatched software become the norm among cyber insurers? Will these exclusions have their desired effect of ensuring future sustainability in the market, and will this dilution of coverage impact buyer behavior? Will there be a major continued service plan (CSP) breach that turns the market on its head?

While we don't have all the answers, we're bullish on the future, as we see signs of progress in a product that is continually maturing.

We have noted before — unlike age-old perils of wind, water and fire, the very essence of cyber risk is continually changing, adapting in real-time to its environment in ways Mother Nature has never shown us. Such a dynamic risk requires the best minds in the business and creates enormous opportunity for the next generation of insurance professionals. Among the constant pace of change, having a trusted partner, with broad access to the marketplace, and deep knowledge of the changing coverage landscape is more important than ever. RPS is happy to be leading the way in this constantly evolving process and we look forward to the innovation and opportunity that lies ahead.

Download This Article

Contributor Information


1Baccio, Mick et al. "Splunk Data Security Predictions 2022," Accessed 21 Jul 2022. PDF file.

2Singleton, Camille et al. "X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022," IBM Security. Feb 2022. PDF file.

3Hemenway. Chad. "Travelers Wants Out of Contract With Insured That Allegedly Misrepresented MFA Use," Insurance Journal, 12 Jul 2022.

4Tidy, Joe. "74% of Ransomware Revenue Goes to Russia-Linked Hackers,", 14 Feb 2022.

5Smith, John Anthony. "Cyber Insurers Are Starting to Require Lateral Movement Defense. Here's Why,", 23 Jun 2022.

6"HC3: Analyst Note — Report 202204181300," HHS Cybersecurity Program, Office of Information Security, 18 Apr 2022. PDF file.

7Toulas, Bill, "Latest Vice Society News," Bleeping Computer, accessed 27 Jun 2022.

8"American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) Formally Introduced," Compliance Junction, 4 July 2022.