Academy Advises Brokers on Cyber Risk
Travelers has launched a project to help agents and brokers to provide more thorough cyber advice for small and medium enterprises, where the risk of attack is on the rise.
The Travelers Cyber Academy offers free training for brokers and agents, while opening the possibility for buyers to participate as well, under invitation from their insurance partners.
The project is composed of eight webinars where both in-house experts and cyber security aces from outside the insurance industry strive to explain, in an accessible way, the pitfalls of the cyber world and how SMEs should deal with them.
“Customers are asking questions, and many agents have some degree of understanding and expertise, but they would like to have some more,” said Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead at Travelers.
Tens of thousands of invitations were sent for the first lesson in September, and the response by the targeted public has been more enthusiastic than to previous educational initiatives, the company said.
Drawing from data by Symantec, Travelers points out that small companies account for 43 percent of all cyber attacks against business, and for 22 percent of attacks against mid-sized enterprises.
Cyber risks rank in the top five risks feared by American SMEs, according to a survey by Zurich Insurance Group.
Francis said that, although the understanding of cyber risks by large brokers and corporations has progressed considerably in recent years, expertise about the subject among smaller brokers and their clients remains a work in progress.
“As the cyber industry has grown, many of the agents that service clients with cyber coverages are sometimes a little behind in terms of understanding exposures and translating them to their customers,” he said.
Contacts with agents and customers alike revealed that the appetite for knowledge in this particular area is increasing. However, the educational material currently available often falls short of the needs of this particular public.
Francis mentions the example of ransomware, the subject of the second webinar offered by the Travelers Cyber Academy. It’s an emerging threat where hackers paralyze a business by locking its IT systems until a ransom is paid, but while the wealth of literature on the subject thrills the IT community, it more often than not sounds like Greek to everyone else.
“There is no shortage of whitepapers on the topic of ransomware. But they are either very technical or so high level that they do not deliver much information for customers,” Francis said.
“We feel that we can help to provide deeper understanding about such a topic, without the need for being a cyber security expert in order to understand what is talked about.”
The series of webinars runs from September to May, and Travelers expects to offer it again in subsequent years, first in the U.S. alone, but maybe in other countries as well in the future. If a participant misses a section, it can be watched later as the webinars will be kept available online for registered users.
Agents will also be able to introduce the training sessions to customers with particular interests in the area.
“All businesses are today in the line of fire.” — Vinny Troia, certified ethical hacker
The initiative was launched with a session on the so-called dark web, an obscure side of the internet where hackers and criminals enjoy high levels of anonymity to pursue their bad deeds. With succinct explanations and infographics, the session tackles complex materials such as the workings of TOR, the browser developed by the U.S. military that is used to keep dark web activities out of the reach of the authorities.
Vinny Troia, a certified ethical hacker, described ransomware in the video as “a business to ruin your business.”
He provides tips such as how to train employees to avoid spear phishing attacks.
“All businesses are today in the line of fire,” Troia said in the video.
In forthcoming webinars, other invited speakers will elaborate on subjects like the forensics of cyber risks, the legal cyber environment, data breaches and so on.
“We are also adding our own expert input, not only from our underwriting team, but also from a member of the teams that support and service claims and underwriting,” Francis said. Travelers’ cyber team includes professionals with different backgrounds such as law enforcement, FBI forensic investigations and cyber security.
He pointed out that a challenge for the project will be to keep up with developments in a field where the risk is evolving at a thunderous pace.
“We can modify the curriculum to accommodate events or issues that we have not anticipated,” Francis said. “In the world of cyber security, things change so fast that a presentation made today could become obsolete very soon, or a new issue could be on top of everybody’s minds a month from now.”