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Few Surprises in Cybersecurity for Insurers

Robert Regis Hyle | January 21, 2016

When Janeen Blanton asked the audience at last spring’s ITA LIVE conference to guess the number of insurance carriers her company, Salient Commercial Solutions, had discovered were vulnerable to attack among the 10 insurance companies that volunteered to be ethically hacked by Salient, there was nervous laughter in the room as several in the audience guessed the answer was probably all 10 companies.

Ten, in fact, was the correct answer, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, but should nonetheless be a cause of concern for each of us. All 10 had what Blanton, vice president, insurance productivity services and commercial operations, characterized as moderate vulnerabilities, nine had minor vulnerabilities, and eight had critical vulnerabilities, according to Blanton, vice president of Salient’s commercial operations.

That surely must be disheartening to corporate risk officers because there is no guarantee that the amount of time and money being invested to protect their data, a sizeable amount for most carriers—it still might not be enough to get the job done.

The best most companies can ask for are minor vulnerabilities, but even those minor issues eventually reach major problems if the holes that are exposed are left open for others to find and flaunt. That is why Blanton encouraged the industry to continually test for vulnerabilities.

The other point that IT leaders need to stress is that while cybersecurity often falls under the discretion of the IT department, it is not simply a technology issue. Cybersecurity is the responsibility of the risk management team because exposures often result from sloppy data handling from people working within the business units.

Like anything in life, there are two ways of doing things—the easy way and the hard way. The hard way in data security means removing names and other personal information from the data before it is used for analytics, explained Blanton. It is a step that could avoid major embarrassment for your company someday.

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