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State insurance commissioners link with feds to battle cyber threats


State insurance commissioners are engaging with U.S. federal legislators to counter the evolving cyber threat, but do not want adoption of national legislation or regulations that would pre-empt their authority, according to the head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“Cyber security is not just an IT issue,” NAIC President and Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen said during the opening session of the association’s 2015 fall meeting in National Harbor, Maryland on Thursday. “Data breaches strike at the core of what insurance does: protect individuals when they are most vulnerable.”

Because the threat posed by cyber attacks goes beyond the insurance industry, the association is working with other financial regulators, Congress and the Obama administration to identify specific threats and develop strategies to protect the financial infrastructure of the United States, she said.

“It is critical that as we work with Congress to identify and develop responses to data breaches, our hands are not tied by the federal regulations,” she said. “While there are potential benefits of establishing cross-sector minimum standards for data security, we must remain skeptical of any pre-emption of state authorities to safeguard consumer information or mitigation of harm resulting from a data breach of insurance consumer information. States must remain free to go above and beyond federal standards and to retain their enforcement powers. However well-intentioned, pre-emption could undermine existing consumer protections and inhibit the innovation necessary for regulators and companies to adapt to evolving threats.”

NAIC remains supportive of the adoption of the Policyholder Protection Act, which passed theHouse of Representatives on Monday, she said. The bill would clarify state insurance regulators’ authority to wall off insurance company assets within savings and loan holding companies and regulators’ options regarding systemically risky insurance companies, she said.

“It protects the interest of insurance consumers by ensuring that the FDIC’s authority to take liens on insurance company assets to facilitate the resolution of a systemic entity won’t materially impact the recovery by insurance policyholders,” she said. “The bill is widely supported, and we urge prompt action by the Senate so policyholders can remain well protected moving forward regardless of how their insurer is organized.”

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