Risk Insider: Greg Bangs

Cyber Gang Vigilance

By: | June 29, 2016 • 2 min read
Gregory W. Bangs is chief underwriting officer of global crime at XL Catlin. Over the last 30 years, he’s been underwriting insurance and developing new products in the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong and France. He can be reached at [email protected]

The Bank of Bangladesh didn’t know what hit it. More than $80 million vanished before anyone even noticed last February. The good news is that the criminals did not accomplish what they initially set out to do – steal nearly $1 billion from the bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The hackers, however, did succeed in installing malware in the Bangladesh central bank’s computer systems. Then they watched, probably for weeks.

They observed how to go about withdrawing money from the bank’s U.S. account, using its credentials for the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) messaging system.

SWIFT is used by banks around the world along with other financial institutions like brokerages, securities dealers, asset management companies, and others, for secure financial communication.

If an email’s subject line is so tempting that you can’t resist opening it, you probably shouldn’t.

Bangladesh’s central bank was not alone; the same crooks took $12 million from an Ecuadorean lender in January 2015. Fortunately, another attack trying to steal about $1 million from a Vietnamese bank late last year was thwarted.

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In all of these incidents, the perpetrators got access to the codes the banks use to connect to the SWIFT global payments network to request fund transfers that were directed elsewhere and then quickly disappear.

All indicators are pointing to one prime culprit – Dridex, a notorious gang of cyber criminals operating in Russia and former parts of Eastern Europe.

Dridex is a disciplined, highly organized gang that operates very much like any other company, following a Monday-to-Friday work week. During those working hours, it sends millions of phishing emails, managing to infect an average of 3,000 to 5,000 computers a day with its malware, also known as Dridex.

Once released, the malware lurks on a user’s computer, watching everything he or she does, waiting for some online banking activity, at which time it uses keystroke logging or web injections to steal the necessary user name and password so that it can carry out its own transactions later on.

These incidents are prompting central banks worldwide, as well as other businesses, to beef up security. After all, some security firms are already reporting that Dridex recently stepped up its attacks and added ransomware to its inventory. Most predict financial institutions will not be the prime target for long.

In addition to conducting regular audits and building strong information security awareness protocols, businesses, no matter what industry, are wise to reinforce some simple, yet vital, messages to all colleagues:

Delete any suspicious-looking emails and be wary of attachments: To unleash malware, hackers are smart enough to disguise attacks as generically worded messages such as, “Please look this over and get back to me by end of day.”

If it’s too good to be true, don’t look. If an email’s subject line is so tempting that you can’t resist opening it, you probably shouldn’t.

Working with their information security and technology teams, as well as many others, risk managers can play an integral role in driving online vigilance throughout their organizations.

Adopting the gang-style approach of the cyber criminals, risk managers can coordinate multiple disciplinary roles throughout the organization to fight cyber gangs’ crime games.

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

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For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

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This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]