Remember when the computer field was the province of nerds? Programming brainiacs used to occupy themselves by figuring out how to make it look like a digital ball was bouncing up and down while a blinking cursor moved to intercept and keep it from falling off the bottom into oblivion.
Ah, the good old days.
Some of the nerds have gone rogue. Now hackers and other ne’er-do-wells spend their time figuring out how to disrupt the lives of others in order to put money in their own pockets. For businesses, this often takes the form of ransomware—encrypted software that usually either locks a business out of its own computer systems or threatens to make their data public if they don’t pay a fee.
It’s like someone coming into your home, locking you out of the kitchen and bathrooms and not letting you use them again until you pay. It’s not fair, but it’s getting worse; incidences of cyberattacks are on the rise. International insurer Beazley saw a doubling of attacks on their customers in just one month from August to September 2018. Some of the hardest-hit—71% of the incidents they handled in the first nine months of 2018—were small or medium-sized businesses that don’t have sophisticated anti-hacking practices in place like most large companies do.
Individuals, especially those who are wealthy, are also at risk, both from ransomware attacks and cyber harassment. The latter can take several forms, like a person who makes their living based on their reputation (doctor, attorney, financial advisor) who is subject to malicious impugnment of their character online. They may be told that the only way the defamatory statements will be removed is if they transfer funds to an untraceable account.
Add in other threats like phishing—emails baited to look legitimate in order to get sensitive information like bank account numbers—or malware that covertly sends data from an individual’s or business’ hard drive, and there is a fair amount to worry about.
Private client insurers like Chubb and AIG now offer cyber-security protection as an add-on to their homeowners insurance offerings, and it’s likely only a matter of time before it’s available for families of more average means, too. One of the key components of the policies is to provide consultation up front to try to educate the homeowners about ways to prevent hackers from getting in, such as restarting a router to break any connection they may have established and changing passwords regularly.
As the concern over cyber security grows, there are important reasons for insurance agents to stay on top of this topic, mainly: 1) You can expect your customers to start asking about how they can protect themselves, and 2) You should also think about whether your own business is shielded from cyberattacks.
You can start by doing a check of your security practices. If you’re tech-minded, you can find lots of good advice online and do it yourself. If not, though, it may be worth the investment of a few dollars to hire an expert now rather than paying a hacker after they’ve gotten your and your customer’s data.
This also applies to time. Don’t ignore notices that you receive from the company that provides your antivirus protection; sometimes those emails contain important information about the necessity to restart your computer or what you need to do before you upgrade to a new operating system to ensure that you will still be protected. Your investment of time up front to install the latest antivirus updates can save you a lot of hassle trying to untangle a mess later.