In today’s digital age, insurance companies heavily rely on technology and information systems to streamline their daily processes. While technology, specifically insurance tech, has improved the efficiency of the insurance industry, it has also increased the attack surfaces, making the data collected by insurers more vulnerable to theft. As a result, insurers themselves have become prime targets for cybercriminals, facing the increasing scope and frequency of cybercrime.
Why Insurers Are Affected by Cybersecurity
Insurers, along with credit unions and payment institutions, are among the financial institutions most affected by cybercrime. There are several reasons why insurers attract hackers:
- Sensitive Data: Insurers handle large amounts of customer data, which makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Insurance-related data, particularly sensitive data, helps insurers customize policies, products, and prices for each client. The confidentiality of this data adds to its appeal for cybercriminals.
- Increasing Attack Surfaces: Insurers rely heavily on technology to provide personalized customer experiences and real-time insurance solutions. This growing reliance on technology expands the attack surfaces, increasing the potential vulnerabilities and the likelihood of human error.
- Industry Size: The insurance industry’s size, combined with the sensitivity and scope of the confidential data it collects, makes it a significant target for cybercriminals. In the United States alone, nearly 70% of the population has private healthcare insurance, highlighting the vast amount of data at stake.
Top Cyber Threats That Affect Insurance Companies
Cyber attacks can lead to the loss of confidential data, business disruption, and reputational damage for insurance companies. The following cyber threats pose significant risks to insurers:
Social engineering is a prevalent cybersecurity threat across sectors. Cyber attackers use various methods to trick unsuspecting employees into revealing credentials, sensitive data, or trade secrets. Social engineering attacks can also facilitate other types of attacks, such as phishing, ransomware, or identity fraud.
Ransomware attacks hold company data hostage until a ransom is paid to recover the data. Cybercriminals often research companies’ cyber insurance policies to customize their ransom demands accordingly. Data breaches in insurance companies pose a significant risk to the safety of their clients, who may become targets for ransomware attacks. However, relying solely on cyber liability insurance is not a foolproof solution, as there is no guarantee of data recovery, and hackers may retain access to compromised systems.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks involve using malware-infected machines to overwhelm a target server with requests, causing business disruption. This attack can range from slowing down webpage performance to completely disabling an insurance company’s online presence. Such disruptions can have severe reputational consequences for underwriting firms that need to react promptly to fulfill their contracts and maintain client trust.
How Cyber Risks Affect the Insurance Market
The recent proliferation and growing complexity of cyber attacks have fueled massive growth in the market for cyber liability insurance. More insurers now offer cyber liability insurance, and premiums have risen significantly, primarily due to the increasing threat from ransomware. However, insurers are becoming increasingly reluctant to pay ransoms, given the sophistication of cyber-attacks and the declining effectiveness of ransom payments.
Rather than relying solely on cyber insurance, insurers are better off improving their cybersecurity measures. By following cybersecurity best practices, organizations can enhance their data security and potentially lower their insurance premiums.
How the Insurance Industry Can Protect Data from Cybercriminals
To protect sensitive information from cybercriminals, the insurance industry must upgrade its defenses. This applies to both large and small insurance firms, as cybercriminals target companies of all sizes. Implementing cybersecurity best practices can help insurance providers secure their information and avoid becoming easy targets.
Cyber Risk Management for Insurance Companies
Insurance companies have a deep understanding of risk, which can help them manage cyber risks effectively. However, understanding risk alone is not enough to protect insurers from cyber attacks. To mitigate cyber risks, insurance firms should perform honest and accurate cybersecurity risk assessments and take recommended actions to reduce those risks. These actions can include risk avoidance, mitigation, transfer (via insurance coverage), or acceptance.
Best Cybersecurity Solutions to Prevent Cyber Attacks
Insurance companies should implement strong cybersecurity measures to prevent cyber attacks. The following solutions can help insurers protect themselves against the most significant cyber threats:
1. Network Security
Implementing anti-malware and antivirus software is crucial for building strong network and device security. These software solutions can detect and respond to threats quickly, providing a defense against malware and viruses. Additionally, using a firewall can help monitor and filter network traffic, alerting administrators to unusual activity and providing valuable information in the event of a data breach.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into cybersecurity practices can help insurance companies combat evolving cyber threats. AI can identify known threats and learn to differentiate normal activity patterns from potential threats. This technology enables quick response and containment of cyber incidents, especially in complex attack scenarios involving multiple types of attacks.
3. Access Control
Limiting access to sensitive data can significantly improve an insurance firm’s security posture. The more people with access credentials to confidential information, the greater the risk of compromise due to factors like physical theft, negligence, accidental loss, misconfiguration, or phishing. Implementing strict access control measures reduces the potential attack surface and limits unauthorized access.
End-to-end encryption provides a higher level of security for data transmissions, protecting against man-in-the-middle attacks. By encrypting transmissions, insurers can prevent hackers from intercepting, reading, or modifying data without detection. This security measure is crucial for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information.
5. Continuous Monitoring
Cybercriminals continuously search for new vulnerabilities to exploit. Implementing continuous monitoring enables insurers to identify and respond to threats in real-time, 24/7. By constantly monitoring their systems and networks, insurance companies can maintain a state of perpetual readiness and quickly address any potential security incidents.
6. Compliance Monitoring
Compliance with cybersecurity regulations is crucial for insurance companies to avoid significant fines and penalties. Monitoring and managing compliance requirements help insurers stay up-to-date with evolving cyber threats and ensure they meet all necessary regulatory standards.
Top Policy Solutions for Insurance Companies
In addition to technical solutions, insurance companies should implement effective policies and procedures to strengthen their cybersecurity measures. The following policy solutions can help insurers protect their data and mitigate cyber risks:
1. Risk Management
Implementing robust and continuous risk management processes helps insurers predict cyber incidents and assess their potential impact. By identifying potential risks, insurers can implement policies and procedures to prevent or mitigate the damage caused by cyber attacks.
2. Staff Training
Cybersecurity training plays a vital role in limiting damage from cybercrime, particularly social engineering attacks. Most data breaches involve human error, often due to staff members unknowingly downloading malware or falling victim to phishing attempts. Providing comprehensive cybersecurity training can turn this vulnerability into a strong defense. Training should cover topics such as the importance of cybersecurity, password hygiene, physical security, data protection legislation, and how to identify and respond to phishing attempts.
3. Cybersecurity Culture
Developing a cybersecurity culture within an organization goes beyond training. It requires a long-term commitment to information security and engagement from all levels, including top management. Organizations with mature cybersecurity cultures prioritize information security at all times, incentivize cybersecurity awareness, and drive engagement with information security initiatives.
4. Third-Party Risk Monitoring
Insurance companies often work with numerous vendors and third parties, increasing their attack surfaces and cyber risks. Focusing on third-party risk management helps insurers understand the extent of their vulnerabilities and improve their security postures through policies, systems, and collaboration with associates. Utilizing services that offer third-party risk monitoring can enhance the management of vendor risks and provide valuable insights into potential vulnerabilities.
Implementing robust backup systems or data backups is crucial for insurance companies to recover quickly after a cyber incident. In the event of a ransomware attack, cloud-based backups can help restore systems and data, reducing business disruption and mitigating the reputational damage and financial cost of repairing a data breach.
In conclusion, the insurance industry faces significant cyber risks due to the sensitive data they handle, increasing attack surfaces, and their industry’s size. To protect themselves from cybercriminals, insurance companies must implement robust cybersecurity measures and policies. By adopting strong network security, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, implementing access controls and encryption, and continuously monitoring for threats, insurers can enhance their security postures. Additionally, effective risk management, staff training, cybersecurity culture, third-party risk monitoring, and robust backup systems are crucial policy solutions for insurance companies. By combining technical solutions and policy measures, insurers can better protect their data and mitigate the impact of cyber attacks on their operations and reputation.