Malware Anywhere

By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read
Ara Trembly is founder of The Tech Consultant and The Rogue Guru Blog. He can be reached at [email protected]

Risk from cyber attackers — criminal, government-sponsored or recreational — has certainly not escaped most of us in the quiet corners of the insurance marketplace, but few seem aware that because of the increasing sophistication of these attackers, danger may lie in unexpected places.


Most of us realize that malware can be downloaded to our computing devices — portable or desktop — via spam or faked emails from supposedly reliable companies or even friends. Now, however, there is a newer threat. With the advent of the cloud and online services and file sharing sites, cyber attackers are now using such sites to bypass traditional security and steal information. Dark Reading, a data security newsletter, reported that in one case, malware compromised the systems of six employees at a company and created bogus accounts for the employees on a cloud service. From there, the attackers were able to use the individuals’ accounts to upload and download data as they chose. Of course, traffic going to and from a legitimate online service seemed harmless, so no alarm bells were likely to go off when the data transfers took place.

Dark Reading said this type of attack, known as advance persistent threats (APTs) is increasingly being used to gain access to confidential information — information of the type that is commonly in the hands of insurance companies, brokers and agents. In addition, the newsletter said, hackers are continuing to improve their methods, making them more effective and harder to detect.

Just how serious is this trend? Symantec, in its 2013 Internet Security Threat Report, stated that of the Top 10 industries attacked in 2012, “finance, insurance, and real estate” ranked No. 2, accounting for 19 percent of the recorded attacks. Only “manufacturing,” at 24 percent, ranked higher. And while about half of the attacks occurred at companies with 2,501-plus employees, a surprising number (31 percent) were aimed at companies with between 1 and 250 employees (an increase from 18 percent in the firm’s 2011 report).

It would seem that size of organization is a somewhat less important factor than, perhaps, its ability to fend off attacks — which may be weaker in smaller companies that generally have fewer resources.

The 2013 Symantec report also stated that, “At 36 percent, the health care industry continues to be the sector responsible for the largest percentage of disclosed data breaches by industry.”

With the insurance industry closely tied to nearly every facet of health care, it seems its profile as a target for hacking activity has grown quite significantly.


Interestingly, a number of insurance industry surveys show that data security is not among the top-of-mind concerns for most insurers and others in the industry.

Difficult as it is to contemplate, however, we are increasingly involved in a pitched battle to protect our systems and our precious confidential data from theft and/or harm. To ignore this wolf at the door — who grows fatter and more vicious with each passing day — would be foolishness.

And yet, our time and attention are focused on more immediate concerns of competitive positioning and customer attraction and retention. Insurers, brokers and agents of all sizes would be well advised to devote more time and financial resources to data and systems security.

We operate on an assumption of trust from our policyholders; a major data breach could easily destroy that trust.


More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?


A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]