Cyber Risk Hits Home: 4 (true) Stories

by P. Andersen

I wanted to share 4 Cyber stories – these are actual stories that have happened in the past year or so, most caught before the problem escalated.  Each story represents a core problem businesses and individuals face every day in this fast paced world, and no company is immune from the dangers.  What do we recommend for our business clients?


Education: Educate your staff, and have policies and procedures to prevent opening or sending/forwarding of potentially corrupt emails/attachments/web-links.   There are now services available that can send your employees fake emails to test how well they avoid clicking on potential viruses.

Invest: Invest in technology and expert staff or consultants, to ensure you have effective and up-to-date protection (firewalls, email scanning software, etc.)

Insure: Purchase a cyber-liability and data-breach insurance policy, which can help pay for expenses your company incurs as a result of a cyber/data breach event, and/or expenses for which your company is liable, if you accidentally cause a cyber/data-breach event affecting others.   Annual premiums can range from around $1,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on your company’s size, operations, number of personnel/client files, and amount and type of coverages… perhaps well worth it, given the increasing threat of cyber/data-breach events for companies of all sizes.


Story 1: Small Business Beware

First, we discuss a firm that was nearly tricked into a substantial wire transfer, why they didn’t fall for the scam, and what coverage would have responded had they sent the money…  A small business client of ours nearly fell victim to a “spear phishing” campaign, a targeted email request based on intimate knowledge of the key players in the business.  The wife and bookkeeper received an email that appeared to be from her husband, asking her to wire money to a seemingly known recipient.  The instructions were not unusual – the wiring of funds and how the email was received were both “normal”, and the recipient was familiar.  The wife took the extra step of calling her husband to verify that the wire transfer request was real, and was grateful she did.  The husband verified that he had made no such request.

As in this case, your firm should ALWAYS double check any financial email request, BY PHONE, before acting.  Note that if an email has been compromised, replying to the email may get you a response from the hacker, telling you that the bogus payment is acceptable.  Always get a verbal response before proceeding.  This “spear phishing” scam has been responsible for countless millions of dollars being sent to cyber criminals.  In the heat of the moment, when time is short, a seemingly accurate email may be acted upon without any verification, and money sent to untraceable sources.  If you do not have proper cyber coverage, the money is lost and there is no recourse.

What Cyber Coverage Applies?  Social Engineering

“Spear Phishing” is considered “Social Engineering”, because cyber criminals invest time to learn about an individual before approaching them.  “Social Engineering” coverage is an available option on certain cyber liability policies – see your Cyber Liability quotation or policy for details.


Story 2: The Inadvertent Infection

It is said that the greatest cyber risk to a company is not a hole in a firewall, server, or anti-virus program, but employees sitting at their computers.  When you mix technological holes with human error, the risks rise considerably.

A Levitt-Fuirst client, through an unknown series of events, received a virus on an employee’s workstation.  When that employee inadvertently sent an email containing the virus to another company, and the virus infected that business partner’s network, a potential liability was created.  At the very least, a company whose employee sends a virus to another company may be expected to pay to correct the cyber damage caused.  Experts agree – if you send a virus to another individual or firm, even if you have no idea you are doing it, you can be held liable for the damages incurred by your mistake.

What Cyber Coverage Applies?  Security & Privacy Liability

Security & Privacy Liability protects your company from liability resulting from a security and privacy wrongful act, including failure to safeguard electronic or non-electronic confidential information, failure to prevent virus attacks, denial of service attacks or the transmission of malicious code from your computer system to the computer system of another party.


Story 3: Sharing Private Information

In today’s fast paced world of deadlines, we sometimes do things too fast, without double checking the details.  A financial services client, under deadline, emailed payroll accounts to the wrong client.  These payroll reports contained extensive “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII) including names and social security numbers.  Federal law requires any entity that shares PII, or has files containing stolen PII, to identify those impacted by the breach, notify all impacted individuals or parties, and an offer credit monitoring to those impacted individuals or parties.

In this case, the list of individuals was clear, but forensic expense to find out if data was stolen and who is impacted, could have run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – simply to understand who the impacted individuals or groups were!

What Cyber Coverage Applies?  Breach Event Costs

Breach Event Costs is coverage for reasonable mitigationcosts and expenses incurred as a result of a privacy breach, security breach or adverse media report, including legal expenses, public relations expenses, advertising and IT forensic expenses, postage, and the cost to provide call centers, credit monitoring and identity theft assistance.  The coverage also includes coverage for Proactive Privacy Breach Response Costs – public relations expenses incurred in response to a privacy breach, but prior to the publication of an adverse media report, in an effort to avert or mitigate the potential impact of such an adverse media report on the insured’s reputation. Coverage also includes Voluntary Notification Expenses – expenses incurred in notifying affected parties of a privacy breach where there is no requirement by law to do so.


Story 4: The Non-Profit and The Board

Recently, a non-profit client of Levitt-Fuirst suffered a spear phishing, or social engineering, attack that almost bore fruit.  We have all seen emails that appear to be from someone we know, but realize (by good sense or a note of warning) that it is a scam.  Most often, these are “Spoofed” email addresses – the user wasn’t hacked, but their email address was faked to entice you into clicking.

The board president of our non-profit client had his email address spoofed, and an email was sent to other board members “from” the board president.  The note asked each board member to pay some vendors this month because the non-profit didn’t have the cash available.  The email said the board members would be reimbursed once dues were collected.   One board member, knowing the financial challenges the non-profit sometimes faced, surmised that the request was not unreasonable, and sent a check via overnight delivery.  Luckily, this board member realized her mistake and quickly put a stop payment on her check and called the overnight company to stop delivery of the check…  Crisis (barely) averted.

What Cyber Coverage Applies?  Social Engineering

“Spear Phishing” is considered “Social Engineering”, because cyber criminals invest time to learn about an individual before approaching them.  “Social Engineering” coverage is an available option on certain cyber liability policies – see your Cyber Liability quotation or policy for details.

Visit Levitt-Fuirst at the 2017 Vendor Showcase Presented By The Building & Realty Institute

Visit Levitt-Fuirst at the BRI of Westchester at the Mid-Hudson Valley’s 2017 Vendor Showcase.

On Thursday, October 5th, we invite you to visit Levitt-Fuirst at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains for the 2017 Vendor Showcase.  The annual event is presented by the Building & Realty Institute of Westchester and includes some of the regions finest contractors, service firms, properties, and property managers.

Admission is free, but you must first register with Maggie Collins at  View the promotional flier by clicking this link.


Storm Preparedness and You


Today, we have a guest blogger from EducatorLabs, Jasmine Dyoco.  Jasmine came to us with the thought of giving our clients and readers some great information on storm preparedness.  The best way to lower claim costs is to stop the claims from happening in the first place, and storm preparation is a great first step.  These great tips will help protect you, your family and your property from loss during storms of all types.

Thank you, Jasmine, for this valuable information.  You are welcome to join us as a guest blogger any time!

P. Andersen


by Jasmine Dyoco

Although summer is coming to a close, hurricane season is still in full swing. These storms’ strong winds and torrential downpours cause millions of dollars in damage each year, often due to tornado-strength winds, and most especially, flooding. In fact, around 75 percent of Presidential declared weather emergencies are flood related. While we can’t control the weather and the many natural disasters it causes, we can be prepared for them to help ensure the safety of our loved ones, homes and communities!

But how many people really know what measures to take to protect themselves in the event of an emergency?

That’s why I created the following list on preparedness for floods, hurricanes and other weather phenomena.

Thank you for taking action to create a more well-informed community on staying safe and healthy in the eye of a storm!

Why Fear Insurance?

by P. Andersen, 10/9/14

CAI Tradeshow

This Saturday, October 11th, Levitt-Fuirst will have a booth at the Community Associations Institute Conference and Trade Show at the Ramada Inn in Fishkill, NY.  In addition, Jason Schiciano, President of Levitt-Fuirst, will be a part of the 9:00 a.m. panel “Can We Do This?”, discussing the legal, accounting, and insurance ramifications of what a property board can and cannot do.  We are a proud member of the CAI, and many of our clients are members as well – we are truly happy to be a part of the show.

The Levitt-Fuirst booth was recently created, and is intended to initiate conversation – “Why Fear Insurance?” is the slogan we decided on.  It seems some people think of insurance like they do the dentist, and we feel it shouldn’t be viewed with fear or avoidance.  Insurance is one of the good things in life, protecting our families and businesses from catastrophic loss, and keeping our world comfortable in the face of adversity.  It is Levitt-Fuirst’s goal to make insurance as pain free as possible – why fear insurance indeed?

Niche Markets

Levitt-Fuirst writes insurance for just about anyone, from the new homeowner to the multi-national manufacturer, but one of our specialties is condo and coop, or “habitational” insurance.  This is the insurance that the condo or coop has to have to protect the building and property from losses or claims.  If you live in a condo or a coop the New York/Westchester/Lower Hudson Valley region, or are a part of a community association in that area, there is a chance that we write the property and liability insurance for your building or association.  It is one of our specialties, along with construction, bonding, and high net worth personal insurance.

Insurance is an interesting business, with your success tied to many factors.  Clearly, there is the experience and knowledge of the area of expertise – having worked in real estate and construction for going on 50 years, it is understandable that we have that skillset.  As we have grown, we have broadened our reach as well, covering new industries from restaurants and food trucks, to manufacturing and technology firms.  With experience comes experience, and each year we find a new niche to broaden our reach and expand our business.  With each new experienced employee we hire, we have a broader, deeper pool of information to pull from as we write new policies.

Beyond the knowledge, however, are the relationships with the insurance carriers, the relationships with the communities in which we work and live, and the amazing referrals we receive from clients that appreciate what we bring to the table.  Levitt-Fuirst has always been a referral based agency – we don’t grow by acquisition, we grow by impressing our clients enough that they recommend new clients.  It is an old school philosophy that has truly worked for us, as we continue to succeed even in a difficult marketplace.

The Community Association Institute Conference and Trade Show

But back to the CAI show…  We exhibit because we want more properties and property managers to hear about us and our success stories, and because we want to connect with our current clients who always have a question or two for us when we are at an event.  We want people to know that insurance should not be feared, that insurance keeps you whole when life conspires against you.  Our booth?  It is something to behold, and we hope it gets that point across… With the right professional organization behind you, there is no reason to fear insurance after all…

A Coop and Condo Primer

by P. Andersen, 9/10/14


Here in the region surrounding New York City, we have an abundance of both Condos and Coops.  In New York City limits, Coops account for 85% of all available apartments. The buildings look the same on the outside, but the ownership structure is very different. What do you need to know before buying an apartment in our area? Let’s take a look at the Condo and Coop situation.

Condos and Coops, Coops and Condos…

We will start simply with the condo, and go from there. A Condo is like any piece of real property you may own, such as a house. You are buying a parcel of property, and that apartment is considered property in your name. A Coop, however, is a bit different. When you buy a Coop, you are actually not buying a piece of property. Rather, you are buying stock in the corporation that owns the apartment, and leasing the apartment from the Coop.

A Condo owner is responsible for their own real estate taxes and its share of the common charges associated with the maintenance of the property. A Coop owner, on the other hand, pays monthly maintenance to the building corporation for maintenance, building operation, property taxes, and underlying building mortgages.

Here are a few more things to think about…

  • Buying a Condo is a contract between a buyer and a seller, but buying a Coop requires the board approval, and the process can be more time consuming and demanding. Horror stories abound, so be prepared with every financial document they request to make the process go smoothly.
  • A condo generally has a higher value than a comparable coop, but closing costs may be higher with regard to title insurance and other taxes. Also, monthly fees are generally higher with a Coop, due to underlying mortgage payments which are included (based on shares).
  • Coops may require a larger down payment, then a comparable condominium, often 20%, causing a barrier to entry for some home buyers.
  • Sub-letting your apartment is far more difficult in a Coop, due to board approval and financial requirements.

Insuring your Condo or Coop

Insuring your Condo OR Coop is very different than insuring your free standing home. The building itself will have a policy that covers the property’s common areas, and your insurance is generally meant to cover anything from the “walls in”. This unique situation is why a special form was developed, the HO-6. Freestanding homes utilize the HO-3 form, and renter utilize the HO-4 form – the HO-6 is designed for both Condos and Coops, and their unique requirements.

One last note regarding insurance. Take a good long look at the association documents, just to be sure you know what the association policy is covering. It is always better to go in knowing all the facts, than to be surprised when a claim happens.

So, if you are buying a Condo or a Coop, be it in New York City, Westchester, Connecticut, or anywhere else for that matter, do your due diligence beforehand with regard to your homeowners insurance policy. Give us a call, we would be happy to answer any questions.