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MBIS provides insurance for banks by people who know banks

By Daryll J. Lund

For over 10 years, Midwest Bankers Insurance Services (MBIS) has saved bankers throughout the Midwest time, money, and the headache that comes with disasters of all kinds.

MBIS is co-owned by the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) and the Minnesota Bankers Association and is endorsed by the North Dakota Bankers Association. As our independent insurance agency focused exclusively on serving and educating community banks in the Midwest, our team of dedicated individuals is equipped with three distinct lines of coverage that will help prepare your bank for the unexpected.

Professional Lines

MBIS offers banks three professional lines of coverage including financial institution bond, directors and officers liability (D&O), and cyber/privacy liability. Whether your bank is seeking policies that will protect the bank from losses arising out of electronic theft of customer information; protection against dishonest fraudulent acts committed by employees, customers, or third parties; or a combination of all of these — MBIS has your best interest in mind.

Property and Casualty Lines

It is important to ensure the safety of what makes up your bank. MBIS’ five lines of coverage including property coverage, general liability, business auto, umbrella liability, and workers’ compensation offer flexibility and peace of mind for every aspect of your bank.

Property coverage protects bank buildings and business personal property from physical damage; general liability protects the bank from customer or third-party personal injury claims on premise; business auto coverage, includes physical damage and liability of owned autos, repo autos, non-owned autos, and hired autos; umbrella liability, provides excess liability over general liability and business auto liability limits; and workers’ compensation is for employment-related injury or illness and covers lost wages and medical expenses.

Lending-Related Lines

Finally, MBIS understands that every bank approaches lending from a unique perspective. With that, our team will tailor your plan to the specific needs of your bank. To protect your loan assets, MBIS has four types of policies for banks to consider. Mortgage protection/errors and omissions (E&O), which covers physical damage losses to the bank’s real estate portfolio if the borrower doesn’t have insurance and property goes into foreclosure. Lenders Single Interest covers the bank’s auto, truck, boat, snowmobile, ATV, etc. for losses if the borrower doesn’t have insurance and chattel is repossessed with physical damage. Force placed hazard and flood provides coverage to borrower, and MBIS’ Flood Compliance Solutions program incorporates flood certifications, borrower purchased flood insurance, lender force place flood insurance, and notification to all real estate borrowers that flood insurance is available.

Rest assured that your bank will be covered no matter what life throws at you, and save yourself the headache later by investing now in competitively priced, top-of-the-line policies offered by MBIS.

Contact Jeff Otteson at 608-217-5219 or jeffo@mbisllc.com to learn more about what MBIS has to offer for your bank.

EBC and MBIS offer flexible security for WBA-member banks

By Daryll J. Lund

As National Insurance Awareness Day approaches on June 28, all WBA-member banks should take a moment this month to review their insurance policies. While this is good practice in preventing certain aspects of the bank from going underinsured, it is also important to verify your bank and employees are getting the best offers for the best price.

The Wisconsin Bankers Association – Employee Benefits Corporation (WBA EBC) offers WBA-member banks competitively priced plans covering life and disability, dental, medical, prescription drug, and vision insurance. Our flexible plans allow Wisconsin community bankers the purchasing power usually only offered to larger groups and access to an online insurance portal. Contact Brian Siegenthaler at 608-441-1211 or bsiegenthaler@wisbank.com to learn more.

Additionally, Midwest Bankers Insurance Services (MBIS), co-owned by WBA, offers banks throughout Wisconsin security with three distinct lines of coverage — professional lines (FI bond, D&O liability, and cyber liability), property casualty lines (building, liability, business auto, workers compensation, and umbrella liability), and lending-related lines (mortgage protection/E&O, lenders single interest, force placed hazard, and flood). These coverage lines protect banks across the Midwest and allow them to stay ahead of the unexpected. MBIS offers solutions and protection from the best carriers in the insurance industry. Contact Jeff Otteson at 608-217-5219 or jeffo@mbisllc.com to learn more about enrollment.

As uncertainty in our daily lives remain — be certain that WBA EBC and MBIS are here to offer the best, competitively priced policies for both your bank and employees. Take the first step in strengthening your employee benefits package or bank coverage lines this June by enrolling with WBA Insurance Services!

By Paul Gores

With cyberattacks on U.S. businesses a possibility as Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on, financial institutions need to make sure their cybersecurity measures are first-rate and up to date, experts say.

The White House has warned that Russia could try to disrupt digital operations and damage the U.S. economy in retaliation for sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Ransomware attacks on U.S. businesses, some based in Russia, already have been growing in recent years, and recently, the FBI said it discovered and secretly removed malware that hackers from Russia had placed in computer systems worldwide. Some American leaders think Russian President Vladimir Putin still has plans to try to inflict a major cyberattack.

If he does, banks that have been diligent and proactive about protecting their systems from hackers should be less vulnerable to the chaos a cyberattack could cause, experts say.

Banks need to make sure they’ve taken inventory of all of their technology assets and are doing what they can to keep them safe from attackers.

“Know what those assets are — all your software, hardware — and then from there follow your basic cyber hygiene,” said Scott Noles, assistant vice president and information security officer for Mukwonago-based Citizens Bank. “Are they up to date? Have you patched them? Do you have end-of-life software? Do you have anything that’s in your environment that shouldn’t be? Those I think are really mission critical.”

While many assume the Russian government would want to target the biggest banks and core processors to cause the most disruption to the financial system, infiltrating a bank of any size would be a win for attackers, experts say. That’s why it’s important for community banks to ensure techniques cyber crooks often use to bust into an institution’s system, including phishing emails that can be the gateway to a system takeover, will run into a tough defense. Training employees not to respond to infecting emails, whether in the office or working remotely, is one important step.

“Everyone’s digital life, whether it’s at work or at home, is intertwined now,” said Ian McShane, vice president of strategy for the cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf Networks. “You can get compromised at home and have that lead into your work life as well. Just because you close the door on your laptop at work doesn’t mean you don’t need to remain vigilant. It can be a risk to businesses wherever you are.”

McShane and others stressed that multifactor authentication is crucial. With multifactor identification, users must submit two or more pieces of evidence to verify their identity in order to gain access to a digital resource. An organization must at least make sure that all of its information technology workers are using multifactor authentication.

In addition, McShane said, a bank’s IT pros or security officers should take stock of which machines in the system are accessible from the internet.

“And make sure there is a good reason for those machines to be accessible from the internet as well, because they are going to be the first bastion of adversarial activity,” he said.

Jeff Otteson, vice president of sales for Midwest Bankers Insurance Services, said specialty insurance carriers considering coverage applications from banks are requiring multifactor authentication.

“What the carriers are looking for amongst other internal controls, the big key is multifactor authentication,” he said. “And that multifactor authentication expands to all users, but most important are privileged users which are those users that can access critical systems, install software, and change security settings.”

Otteson said insurers also need to know that critical patches and updates are implemented and deployed, and they want servers and back-ups to be encrypted. Without those measures, “They put themselves at risk,” he said.

Banks must always be diligent and vigilant — and that was expected even before the Russian threat in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.

“There is no institution that’s immune from a potential cyberattack,” Otteson said.

The security measures of vendors that have access to bank data also have to be airtight, said Jeff Kurek, vice president, information services and cyber security for Park Bank in Madison. He said vendors ranging from those managing IT all the way down to the bank’s HVAC company could put a bank at risk if they have access to the internal system.

“We are heavily regulated, we’ve always had information security programs in place, we’ve always been audited,” Kurek said. “But what about our third-party vendors — the vendors that we utilize to provide us our critical services?”

If Russia were to mount a large cyberattack on the U.S., major infrastructure could be key targets, many believe. But cyberattacks could produce side victims like smaller banks. McShane said most incidents are opportunistic.

“They happen because someone clicks on something that they weren’t aware was weaponized, or it was part of another kind of attack or breach or ransomware campaign, and someone has noticed, ‘Hey, we’ve got access to a bank here,’” he said.

While the main goal of a Russian cyberattack would be to disrupt and damage the U.S. and its economy, extortion could be another result. Ransomware thieves normally try to break into an organization that has the insurance coverage and wherewithal to pay a multi-million ransom — an organization like a bank.

Big banks have the money to beef up their defenses in ways that a community bank might not, perhaps leaving the smaller bank more at risk if, say, the bank has let its software age and it no longer is receiving vendor patches to fix vulnerabilities.

“I think the smaller regional banks or city-based institutions don’t have that same luxury of being able to throw money at it,” McShane said.

But experts said no matter what size the bank is, it has to make cyber security a priority and be willing to spend the money to do it. The downside of a breach or extortion is too brutal, they said.

“I believe that any nation states that they’ll (Russia) be attacking, they will go after the biggest targets possible, but they also realize the biggest targets are the ones that are hardest to get into,” said Noles. “So what they’ll be doing is looking at anybody they can get into.”

The No. 1 method of attack still is phishing.

“They are trying to send you a link to see if they can get somebody to click on it, because then they can get credentials, they can get inside environments, they can install malware,” Noles said.

The cost of cybersecurity is increasing, but that’s just reality in today’s increasingly tech-driven world, experts say.

Otteson cited a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) report showing that during the first half of 2021, financial institutions reported 635 suspicious ransomware-related activities, or 30% more than all reported activity in 2020. FinCEN said more than $590 million in payments tied to ransomware attacks occurred in the first six months of 2021, up from $416 million in all of 2020.

“(Insurance) rates are going up on these lines because the claims have been going up,” Otteson said.

Noles said vendors also can drive up the cost of cybersecurity by pushing new products. Many banks would be better off making sure they are effectively using capabilities of tools they already have purchased, he said.

“What do vendors have to do? They have to sell a new product. They have to sell a new blinky box or a new tool,” Noles said. “So they’re using what I call FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt — to get you to spend more money on their products.”

There’s no question cybersecurity costs will continue to rise.

“Probably eight years ago I saw an article of some sort that said ‘bringing IT from the backroom to the board room.’ That sort of stuck with me,” Kurek said. “And what that really means is that cybersecurity should be a strategy to the organization. It’s not just a keep-the-lights-on thing anymore. Cybersecurity is huge. It’s an inherent risk at this point to any company, and it should really be part of your overall company strategy in my opinion.”

If an incident takes place, banks also need to have a solid communication plan for reacting to it, making sure their lawyers, regulators, law enforcement, and customers are informed as promptly as possible.

“They should have a business continuity plan, and they should have an instant response plan, and they should be updating those regularly and they should be testing them regularly,” Kurek said. “And what a better time to test than now.”

Said McShane: “Nothing is more important in security than understanding you’re going to have an incident at some point, and it’s better to be prepared to know what to do when it happens.

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years.

Midwest Bankers Insurance Services is a WBA Gold Associate Member.

Arctic Wolf Networks is a WBA Bronze Associate Member.

Midwest Bankers Insurance Services (MBIS) will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary in December. Following several years of financial downturn throughout the U.S. and an increasing need for state association-run insurance agencies that could defend and advocate for the banking industry, MBIS was founded in 2011. What started as a purchase of BancInsure’s “Book of Business” flourished into policies that span multiple insurance carriers and specialization of offerings that better help protect local, Midwestern banks.

“Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) is a co-owner of MBIS along with the Minnesota Bankers Association (MBA). MBIS is an independent insurance agency focused exclusively on community banks” says Daryll Lund, MBIS president as well as WBA executive vice president and chief of staff. “As an association owned company, ultimately revenue we receive from our success in MBIS supports the overall mission of WBA. MBIS now serves over 225 bank clients in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.”

MBIS prides itself on their understanding of community banks, emerging claim trends, best practices, internal control guidance, and policy placement which provides safety and security to banks. “Insurance for banks by people who know banks” has allowed each of MBIS product offerings to be customized for insurance protection and a high level of policy education to meet the needs of member banks.

MBIS is comprised of a team of dedicated professionals who understand insurance and community banks. Along with Jeff Otteson, vice president of sales, the Wisconsin MBIS team members include Melissa Noonan, account manager, and Becky Gatzke, insurance assistant.

As well as providing professional insight and education, keeping up on industry trends that effect community banks is a priority for MBIS. “In my 32 years working with financial institutions, I haven’t seen a market harden [like] I’ve seen the cyber liability market” said Otteson. “This is primarily due to the huge increase in ransomware claim payments. The insurance carriers are requiring various internal controls, getting ahead of these internal control requirements before renewal date will be key to securing terms and to soften the premium increase.”

By proving the highest quality service and education, MBIS has helped community banks protect their earnings and capital in times of uncertainty while providing guidance ahead of emerging trends.

By Hannah Flanders

Cybersecurity graphic

By Cassandra Krause 

With a recent uptick in activity, ransomware attacks are a form of cyberattack that has been prevalent in recent news — and for good reason. The effects can be detrimental in terms of monetary loss and reputational damage to the victim. Ransomware is a type of malicious software (a.k.a. malware) that usually encrypts a victim’s files, and the bad actors have upped their game to steal the data first, then threaten to also publish the data to the public. Criminals set their sights on businesses with the goal of extorting money, making community banks prime targets. 

Organized crime networks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In general, the risk of getting caught for cybercrimes is much lower than for traditional crimes like robbery, and the financial gains are far higher. Ransomware developers write and sell the software to other bad actors for a cut of the profits when they deploy it and collect ransom payment, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, which is hard to trace. Compromised data may also be used to open fraudulent lines of credit. 

“The U.S. is in a ransomware crisis right now,” said Jeff Otteson, vice president of sales at Midwest Bankers Insurance Services (MBIS), a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. He explained that it has created a hard insurance market with carriers tightening up on internal control requirements such as multifactor authentication (MFA) for privileged users (users with the ability to install software or change security settings on critical systems) and encryption of backups. 

In their 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute calculate that the average total cost of a data breach is $4.24 million, a 10% increase from 2020–2021. The per-record cost of personally identifiable information averaged $180. 

Prevention 

With the incredibly high stakes in mind, banks are dedicating significant resources to preventing malicious cyberactivity, both in terms of staff and money. Respondents to a 2020 Deloitte survey of financial institutions reported spending about 10.9% of their IT budget on cybersecurity on average, up from 10.1% in 2019. In terms of spending per employee, respondents spent about $2,700 on average per full-time employee (FTE) on cybersecurity in 2020, up from about $2,300 the prior year. 

“There is an industry-standard framework for ransomware prevention and all cybersecurity,” explained FIPCO’s Director InfoSec and Audit Ken Shaurette. FIPCO is also a WBA subsidiary. A good consultant will walk the bank through a comprehensive review of their network security, improving endpoint protection to replace traditional antivirus and endpoint detection solutions, including adding authentication improvements such as MFA, improved password strength, and protecting backups. As more and more of the digital tools that bankers utilize require users to download and install software and updates, depending on signature-based solutions for malware detection is not acceptable — it has become critical to safeguard user, file, network, and device-level activities. 

A bad actor gaining access to a bank’s data may encrypt the data and demand payment in exchange for granting access back to the bank. In this situation, having a data backup is essential.  

“The rule of thumb for data backups is 3-2-1,” said FIPCO Information Security and IT Audit Advisor Rob Foxx. “There should be three copies of all data stored on two different mediums. One of the copies should be stored off site.” 

Ransomware prevention is only one part of a complete cybersecurity system. Experts agree that early detection of unusual activity within a system can help keep a minor incident from quickly escalating into a major incident like a ransomware threat. 

“Ransomware isn’t the first attack,” said Wolf & Company, P.C. Manager of the I.T. Assurance Group Sean Goodwin, who recently presented at WBA’s Secur-I.T. Conference. “Ultimately, it’s on I.T. to put controls in place because an employee will inevitably fall for a phishing email. It becomes a question of whether we can catch that quickly.” 

Social engineering remains the greatest concern; it’s easier for bad actors to trick an employee rather than break through a firewall. Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report found that almost half of the breaches in the financial services industry involved internal actors committing various types of errors. The report stated that the financial sector frequently faces credential and ransomware attacks from external actors, 96% of which are financially motivated (followed by small percentages of motives of espionage, grudge, fun, and ideology). 

Goodwin emphasized that I.T. must be able to act quickly when there’s an indication that someone is accessing something they don’t normally access. “Prevention is ideal. If we can prevent it, that’s best-case scenario, but if not, early detection becomes critical,” he said. This area of solution, known as endpoint detection and response, is rapidly becoming a key point of protection from ransomware and all other malicious events. 

Establishing an incident response program within a bank is an important part of the overall cybersecurity program. 

Preparation 

Creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness throughout the bank is important, so that bank employees are prepared for an incident. Employee training on what to do in the event of an attack should be standard practice. Making security part of the organization’s DNA is a best practice. 

“Every bank needs an incident response plan, and that needs to be approved all the way up through the board. Part of this plan is notification of incidents to the insurance carrier,” said MBIS’s Otteson. 

FIPCO’s Foxx emphasized that the roles and responsibilities in the incident response plan must be clearly defined, and banks should revisit their plan regularly.  

“As the insurance agent, I’m the first call a bank makes when there’s an incident,” said Otteson. “It’s important that banks choose to work with an agency that understands cyber insurance.”  

MBIS insures about 220 banks and has access to a large number of carriers that provide the right coverage for their customers. Otteson recommends reporting all incidents as even a minor incident could result in a claim down the line and having reported that incident when it occurred is key to a successful claim. He says to keep in mind that the owner of the data is liable for it whether the incident occurred in house or with a vendor the bank shared customer data with. 

Mitigation 

It’s important to work with the insurance carrier to ensure that all the bases are covered and that the vendors who participate in the response are approved. Not using the cyber insurance carrier’s approved vendors may result in expenses not being covered under the insurance policy. In the event of a ransomware attack, the insurance agent or bank will immediately notify the insurance carrier. Beazley, a carrier partner of MBIS, maintains a 24/7 helpline, which has become common with other carriers as well. Knowing how to report incidents, when to report, and what to expect is key. 

Holidays and weekends are prime times for ransomware attacks: employees who are in a rush to leave may be more likely to click on a bad link, and with employees away from work, it’s easier for the bad actors to get into the network. Even if a problem is detected, it’s more likely that staff who could help put a stop to the attack may be on vacation or unavailable, buying the criminals more time to take over. 

As soon as a cyber liability claim is made, the insurance carrier’s pre-approved vendors come into play.  

“Nobody has the resources in house to effectively manage ransomware attacks,” said Foxx, who has experience working both within a bank and as an external auditor and consultant. The specialization of skills and the amount of people needed to perform adequate analysis and remediation are so significant that even large banks will not have all the players they need on staff. 

If a bank’s data becomes encrypted and made inaccessible, a vendor such as Tetra Defense would be engaged on forensics. Managed endpoint detection and response vendors such as Cynet can help from detection and prevention to response, including providing digital evidence for a vendor performing forensics. Meanwhile, a vendor such as Coveware would handle ransom negotiations with the criminals. Wolf & Company, P.C.’s Goodwin said that you don’t really know who’s on the other side of the transaction — some criminals may be willing to negotiate and others not. He referred to ransomware as a “niche space in cybersecurity that is now getting more attention.” The criminal organizations involved in these types of attacks in some ways act like a legitimate business in that they rely on their reputation and may even have customer service departments — if they fail, it will hurt their chances of getting more business in the future.  

Typically, in the event of a ransomware attack, a legal firm will handle communications and PR for the bank — putting a statement on the bank’s website, assisting staff with customer phone calls, and determining whom to notify. Getting legal involved early protects all communications and discovery with attorney-client privilege. The requirements for notification vary from state to state, and a bank may have customers in multiple states or even other countries, making the expertise of a legal team invaluable. The language used in communications matters, as the term “breach,” for example, can have different legal implications and potentially create larger issues than terms like “incident,” “situation,” or “event.” Education of staff far in advance using regular testing of the plan is a key factor in mitigating an incident. Inappropriate statements made by employees on social media or even at informal social gatherings can have severe ramifications for the bank. 

Follow Up 

While anyone who experiences a ransomware attack may be eager to breathe a sigh of relief and move on when it is over, it is essential to review the incident and revise the bank’s incidence response plan. Assessing what went well and what needs to be improved are critical steps.  

Goodwin also warns that victims of ransomware are commonly re-targeted. A Cybereason study found that 80% of organizations that previously paid ransom demands confirmed they were exposed to a second attack. He said that once a company has paid a ransom it is known that (1) you were compromised, (2) you do not have proper backups of your files, and (3) you were willing to pay. 

Summary 

Cyberattacks are the biggest risk to a financial institution — even surpassing the risk of past-due loans. The cost of a ransomware attack can be astronomical, with many factors contributing to the price tag, including vendor fees and staff hours to resolve the issue; the cost to inform customers and offer identity or other protections; the loss of destructed data; and the down time of the business. All of this, followed by the loss of customers’ trust (and subsequent loss of their business), has the potential to put a community bank out of business.  

There are safeguards banks can put in place, including a sound incident response plan, improved monitoring with better endpoint detection and response, cyber liability coverage, and employee education. FIPCOMBIS, and a wide range of WBA Associate Members are ready to support banks in keeping their data and that of their customers safe.