I’m sure the Anthem medical data breach in 2015 rings a bell, but in case it doesn’t, it was the biggest data breach in the history of healthcare. They experienced the theft of 78.8 million records of people’s names, addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers. The hackers manipulated Anthem Healthcare employees through spear-phishing, a practice of sending emails from someone known and trusted to get confidential information. And while cyber security is of enormous importance in every industry, it is undoubtedly extremely vital in the insurance sector. If you’re reading this article and wish to be a part of protecting this and other vulnerable sectors, consider getting a certificate in cybersecurity. It will help you understand how to confidently monitor your organization’s cybersecurity by holistically understanding network and system vulnerabilities.
Insurance companies are a prime target for cybercrime as they hold a massive amount of customer information which is also known as Personal Identifiable Information (PII). The number of cyber-attacks in this industry has grown dramatically in the last few years. This increase comes as insurance companies go digital, with the hope of keeping up with the times. It undoubtedly improves customer retention, builds relationships, and enables them to communicate more effectively. However, upgrading to digital methods has also made them more vulnerable to cyber security breaches.
This industry’s challenges are unique because of the valuable and highly sensitive data that insurance companies hold. That is the nature of insurance. While structured data can be machine-readable and can be protected, most insurance companies have unstructured data. This is when data is in a human-readable format. As unstructured data lacks organization, it is even more challenging to protect. Traditional security techniques and tools will not work in such a case, and the insurance company employees don’t have adequate knowledge on how to stop cyber threats effectively.
Another challenge is that it takes quite a bit of time to detect security breaches. Only 66 percent of effective breaches sometimes take nearly a month to detect. Many breaches make it past the security team only to be found by an employee much later. It is found that most attacks take place by manipulating employees into giving their login details. Though this is clearly a huge threat, many insurance companies aren’t prioritizing cybersecurity training for their employees. There is a huge need for these companies to proactively take a holistic approach to create many lines of defense against this genuine and dangerous threat.
What can be done?
These are some proactive solutions that can help insurance companies protect their data and systems from the threat of cyber-attacks.
Conducting a risk assessment can help identify what systems need to be protected. By doing this, you can understand where and how sensitive information is stored, how it is used, and who has access to it. The same goes with emails- how are emails used and accessed? You can also look into what processes are already in place to protect data and how it could be remotely retrieved.
A firewall is a program that works as a wall or barrier against viruses or attackers. It does this by assessing the traffic coming through your network. Each insurance company employee has an interface that connects them to the company’s network, and if there is no firewall in place, all those devices are susceptible to cyberattacks. That is why it is vital for firewalls to be set up at every connection to the network to protect against hackers.
Another solution is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to protect against malware. Malware is malicious software viruses designed to destroy computer systems, the common ones being ransomware, spyware, and trojan viruses. Machine learning and AI can analyze large amounts of information and thus detect anomalies in patterns and respond to an attack.
Monitor website security
As insurance companies have digitalized their business, these online portals must be monitored and tested frequently. Making sure there are no vulnerabilities or errors through continuous monitoring helps reduce the risk of cyberattacks. By pressure-testing the company’s defense, they can understand if they can withstand a targeted attack. Simulations of attacks can also be done to find internal threats or loopholes. It is crucial to ensure that internal access to key information is limited to employees.
Creating a culture of vigilance
Bringing awareness of cybersecurity-related crimes to employees will create a culture of vigilance. This can be done by having cybercrime awareness training that can simulate social engineering approaches such as phishing to keep employees from falling for these tricks. Through awareness training, the employees of insurance companies can know exactly what to look for and how to react in the case of an attack. Creating this culture of vigilance is critical, and this culture has to extend from the higher-ups to the newest employees. Training is key to bringing in this culture. Security is not just an IT problem, but it’s the entire company’s problem.
Have a plan
It is essential that insurance companies create a robust security plan that addresses vulnerabilities and recovery from breaches in security. It is also vital that plans are tested regularly to ensure they are up to date with the company systems. Companies need to prioritize investing and building an effective cyber-security foundation.
Security professionals are of immense value to the insurance industry as they help maintain the trust given to them by policyholders. After all, trust is at the foundation of insurance. An insurance company’s reputation is everything, and a publicized cyber-attack like Anthem Healthcare’s can affect not only their reputation but the reputation of the entire insurance sector.
If you are a young professional interested in making a difference in this field, you might want to consider learning cyber security from Great Learning. Cyber security professionals are needed now more than ever, especially for vulnerable sectors such as insurance.