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Risk Insider: Kevin Kalinich

Risky Things

By: | August 27, 2015 • 2 min read
Kevin Kalinich is the global cyber risk practice leader for Aon Risk Solutions, focusing on identifying exposures and developing insurance solutions. He can be reached at [email protected]

Some of us are old enough to remember when our stand-alone computers first became networked with other computers. Who over 40 years old doesn’t recall sending and receiving that first email?

That profound technological development – networked computing – brought enormous advantages but also set the stage for security concerns, like viruses and malware, which can be an Achilles heel of computer technology.

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), we find that it is more than just our computers that are connected. Our homes, possessions and even our physical bodies are becoming connected.

Many IoT products can actually reduce exposures.

Arrays of smart, sensor-equipped, connected devices that collect and digitize a wide variety of data are already being used, with exponentially more in development.

Literally tens of billions of “things” containing sensors – cars, homes, medical devices – will be connected in the next several years. A range of twenty to 50 billion of these “things” are estimated to be installed by 2020, with a vast amount more to follow.

An example is car manufacturers’ strategies to sell “tires as a service.” The car manufacturers use embedded technology to detect tire wear and under-inflation, which improves service and increases safety.

The IoT phenomenon is unfolding faster than developers can address the accompanying security vulnerabilities and risk management concerns. We are living in a new world in which our “things” can tattle on us, compromise our privacy or even harm us.

While telematics in vehicles or home appliances may seem helpful when we need roadside assistance or to diagnose maintenance issues, they can also report our speed or our diet, which to some may seem invasive.

Drones, hidden cameras and driverless cars once seemed like fantasy objects in a futuristic world, but suddenly that future is here, and it is unclear how liability would be assigned when one of these “things” misbehaves or is used to harm another.

On the contrary, not all IoT innovations are necessarily harmful. Many IoT products can actually reduce exposures. Home automation startups being incubated by Microsoft Ventures carry a number of safety benefits, such as turning off your stove or protecting your home from water damage.

IBM just announced a $3 billion investment in IoT and is launching a multitude of services that will help make us safer, such as alerting car insurance policyholders of storms to help prevent damage. So it’s important to remember that IoT exposures are not necessarily negative, just different.

With the increased use of internet-connected devices, however, new types of exposures have arisen to increase the possibility of certain damages. This creates an enterprise risk management challenge as businesses seek to harness the exciting potential of this evolving technology while managing the related cyber threats.

The data gathered by IoT is often quite vulnerable. According to a study by HP, it’s estimated that 70 percent of the most commonly used devices contain serious vulnerabilities. Potential concerns include a dangerous hacker disabling a life-sustaining medical device, the brakes in an automobile, or aviation systems from Wi-Fi or power grids.

As it has repeatedly done throughout history, our ability to create new technology is opening up worlds of opportunity. It’s also creating new types of risk.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys will look to those involved in the design, production, delivery and servicing of the IoT device that allegedly causes economic loss, bodily injury or tangible property damage.

While it is impossible to predict the exact impact of the IoT on the insurance industry, this much is clear: future IoT evolution will force the insurance industry to better clarify where coverage starts and stops under each type of policy.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”

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Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]