Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

Help Wanted: Cyber Security Neurologist

By: | January 10, 2017 • 2 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University and a former Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). His recent book deals with risk management in higher education: "Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Higher Education — Why Colleges and Universities are Struggling to Deliver the Goods." His website is www.jackhampton.com.

When we think about how some companies protect their electronic assets, it brings to mind “leech therapy.” This method has been used since ancient times to treat illness and disease. Many cyber security efforts resemble it. We perform a procedure and the patient improves. We don’t know if it was our treatment or just luck. We take credit for the success either way.

Medical advancement recognized that the human body is constantly under attack by unseen aggressors. At a basic level, antibiotics kill bacteria. We prevent heart attacks by reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure. Surgeons eliminate cancer by exorcising tumors.

At more complex levels, doctors move past a single remedy.  Pharmaceutical cocktails treat HIV, and cancer and holistic medicine helps us understand the need to make lifestyle changes.

These lessons are needed in cyber risk management. Information technology specialists build firewalls and insist upon complex passwords. They work at one level but fall short in the face of constantly mutating electronic pathogens.

To start, we need agreement on cyber security goals. The risk manager seeks to avoid damage to assets, interruption to operations and liability lawsuits. The underwriter wants to identify and insure named perils and avoid all-risk policies that cannot identify black swans. The CFO wants insurance to protect big losses but balks at incurring high costs without assurance that massive cyber damage will be reimbursed by the coverage.

These individual viewpoints can be reconciled by a “cyber security neurologist,” an individual with the knowledge and training to protect the total cyber body.

A neurological disorder is an abnormality in the brain, spinal cord or nervous system. Damage includes paralysis, seizures, confusion and pain.

A cyber neurological disorder can affect the (1) “brain” (computers, servers, and knowledge of work force), (2) electronic “central nervous system” (business disruption and liability) and (3) “peripheral nervous system” (liability exposures with customers, suppliers, partners and regulators).

There are many medical neurological disorders, some relatively common, but many quite rare. They may be treated by different specialists using preventative measures, lifestyle changes, physiotherapy, pain management and surgery.

Cyber neurological disorders are often treated differently. Organizations build firewalls without changing practices, processes and cultural lifestyles that leave doorways open. If this is your perspective, the next step is likely to be pain management.


What if we treat cyber risk like a peanut disorder, a type of hypersensitivity provoked by an allergen? A medical study just turned treatment on its head. Previously, doctors diagnosed the allergy and told us to keep totally away from any food with even a trace of peanut content. Teenage and adult peanut intolerance soared with this guidance.

A new study shows allergen immunotherapy or desensitization dramatically increases tolerance. Small doses of peanut butter starting with infants greatly reduces the likelihood of the disorder later on.

Cyber immunotherapy could treat the whole system. We can sensitize authorized users and correct behaviors that are careless or unmindful. We can separate data that needs the highest security from routine information available all over the internet. We can recognize that cyber risk is not a disease that needs an IT brain surgeon when the real problem is we are not protecting the entire electronic neurological system.

In conclusion, you may ask, “Why does everyone pick on poor leech therapy?” To comply with the Equal Time Rule, you are directed to Mehdi, a self-described Leech Therapist in Australia. He points out bloodletting “is still thriving today.”

Sony Pictures, Yahoo and the Democratic National Committee are victims of recent cyber attacks. Maybe they needed more than electronic “bloodletting.”

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Report: Marine

Crewless Ships Raise Questions

Is a remote operator legally a master? New technology confounds old terms.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 6 min read

For many developers, the accelerating development of remote-controlled and autonomous ships represents what could be the dawn of a new era. For underwriters and brokers, however, such vessels could represent the end of thousands of years of maritime law and risk management.

Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk

While crewless vessels have yet to breach commercial service, there are active testing programs. Most brokers and underwriters expect small-scale commercial operations to be feasible in a few years, but that outlook only considers technical feasibility. How such operations will be insured remains unclear.

“I have been giving this a great deal of thought, this sits on my desk every day,” said Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk, a major UK underwriter. Johnson sits on the loss-prevention committee of the International Union of Maritime Insurers.

“The agreed uncertainty that underpins marine insurance is falling away, but we are pretending that it isn’t. The contractual framework is being made less relevant all the time.”

Defining Autonomous Vessels

Two types of crewless vessels are being contemplated. First up is a drone with no one on board but actively controlled by a human at a remote command post on land or even on another vessel.

While some debate whether the controllers of drone aircrafts are pilots or operators, the very real question yet to be addressed is if a vessel controller is legally a “master” under maritime law.


The other type of crewless vessel would be completely autonomous, with the onboard systems making decisions about navigation, weather and operations.

Advocates tout the benefits of larger cargo capacity without crew spaces, including radically different hull designs without decks people can walk on. Doubters note a crew can fix things at sea while a ship cannot.

Rolls-Royce is one of the major proponents and designers. The company tested a remote-controlled tug in Copenhagen in June 2017.

“We think the initial early adopters will be vessels operating on fixed routes within coastal waters under the jurisdiction of flag states,” the company said.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.”

Once autonomous ships are a reality, “the entire current legal framework for maritime law and insurance is done,” said Johnson. “The master has not been replaced; he is just gone. Commodity ships (bulk carriers) would be most amenable to that technology. I’m not overly bothered by fully automated ships, but I am extremely bothered by heavily automated ones.”

He cited two risks specifically: hacking and fire.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.” — Rolls-Royce Holdings study

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, asked an even more existential question: “From an insurance standpoint, are we even still talking about a vessel as it is under law? Starting with the legal framework, the duty of a flag state is ‘manning of ships.’ What about the duty to render assistance? There cannot be insurance coverage of an illegal contract.”

Several sources noted that the technological development of crewless ships, while impressive, seems to be a solution in search of a problem. There is no known need in the market; no shippers, operators, owners or mariners advocate that crewless ships will solve their problems.

Kinsey takes umbrage at the suggestion that promotional material on crewless vessels cherry picks his company’s data, which found 75 percent to 90 percent of marine losses are caused by human error.


“Removing the humans from the vessels does not eliminate the human error. It just moves the human error from the helm to the coder. The reports on development by the companies with a vested interest [in crewless vessels] tend to read a lot like advertisements. The pressure for this is not coming from the end users.”

To be sure, Kinsey is a proponent of automation and technology when applied prudently, believing automation can make strides in areas of the supply chains. Much of the talk about automation is trying to bury the serious shortage of qualified crews. It also overshadows the very real potential for blockchain technology to overhaul the backend of marine insurance.

As a marine surveyor, Kinsey said he can go down to the wharf, inspect cranes, vessels and securements, and supervise loading and unloading — but he can’t inspect computer code or cyber security.

New Times, New Risks

In all fairness, insurance language has changed since the 17th century, especially as technology races ahead in the 21st.

“If you read any hull form, it’s practically Shakespearean,” said Stephen J. Harris, senior vice president of marine protection UK, Marsh. “The language is no longer fit for purpose. Our concern specifically to this topic is that the antiquated language talks about crew being on board. If they are not on board, do they still legally count as crew?”

Harris further questioned, “Under hull insurance, and provided that the ship owner has acted diligently, cover is extended to negligence of the master or crew. Does that still apply if the captain is not on board but sitting at a desk in an office?”

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Several sources noted that a few international organizations, notably the Comite Maritime International and the International Maritime Organization, “have been very active in asking the legal profession around the world about their thoughts. The interpretations vary greatly. The legal complications of crewless vessels are actually more complicated than the technology.”

For example, if the operational, insurance and regulatory entities in two countries agree on the voyage of a crewless vessel across the ocean, a mishap or storm could drive the vessel into port or on shore of a third country that does not recognize those agreements.

“What worries insurers is legal uncertainty,” said Harris.

“If an operator did everything fine but a system went down, then most likely the designer would be responsible. But even if a designer explicitly accepted responsibility, what matters would be the flag state’s law in international waters and the local state’s law in territorial waters.


“We see the way ahead for this technology as local and short-sea operations. The law has to catch up with the technology, and it is showing no signs of doing so.”

Thomas M. Boudreau, head of specialty insurance, The Hartford, suggested that remote ferry operations could be the most appropriate use: “They travel fixed routes, all within one country’s waters.”

There could also be environmental and operational benefits from using battery power rather than conventional fuels.

“In terms of underwriting, the burden would shift to the manufacturer and designer of the operating systems,” Boudreau added.

It may just be, he suggested, that crewless ships are merely replacing old risks with new ones. Crews can deal with small repairs, fires or leaks at sea, but small conditions such as those can go unchecked and endanger the whole ship and cargo.

“The cyber risk is also concerning. The vessel may be safe from physical piracy, but what about hacking?” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]