Cyber Risk

Doxing: Are You Prepared?

When hackers steal data and publish it online, the financial and reputation repercussions can be severe.
By: | September 30, 2015 • 4 min read

Cyber insurance experts have warned corporate risk managers to expect more so-called “organizational doxing” attacks, such as those recently suffered by Ashley Madison and Sony.

In a doxing attack, hackers steal sensitive personal or corporate information, then publish the information online.

“Employees are a company’s weakest link.” —Alessandro Lezzi, team leader and underwriter, international technology, media and business service, Beazley

Doxing hacks can be perpetrated by corporations or state-funded organizations seeking to disrupt a company’s business, or by cyber gangs seeking to extort money under the threat of publishing data. In the case of Ashley Madison — an adultery dating website whose members’ details were leaked online — the motive for the doxing attack appears to be based on moral grounds.


Regardless of the reason, the financial and reputation repercussions for victims can be severe. Three Ashley Madison customers whose details were exposed have since committed suicide, and the company now faces a class-action liability suit from scores of clients.

“If someone is motivated to take down a competitor, one way they might do it is hacking that competitor and posting confidential information as a form of corporate warfare or espionage,” said Sarah Stephens, partner and head of cyber, technology, and media E&O at broker JLT.

The methods used by doxing hackers to steal the information are essentially the same as used in phishing or whaling scams, typically relying on employees responding to a fake email infected with malware.

According to Alessandro Lezzi, team leader and underwriter, international technology, media and business service at Lloyd’s underwriter Beazley, senior executives are most at risk of being targeted, as hackers may use embarrassing personal details against them to extort money, as well as potentially hacking sensitive corporate information from their email accounts.

“Our advice to clients is that 100 percent security is unobtainable, so this could happen to anyone,” Lezzi warned. “Companies are coming under attack all the time, and it only takes one to get through. The most important risk management objective is to be ready.”

“Our advice to clients is that 100 percent security is unobtainable, so this could happen to anyone.” — Alessandro Lezzi, team leader and underwriter, international technology, media and business service, Beazley

It is vital, he said, that companies put crisis response plans in place to allow them to minimize the fallout of a potential doxing breach. These plans can often be developed with the help of insurers and brokers, and a response service is usually included in specialist data breach policies.

“The forensic, legal and crisis management services offered under insurance policies in the wake of an attack often mean more to the client than the cover itself,” said Lezzi.

“You need a lot of coordination as fast as possible between the different departments within a company. Lots of people need to be involved — from compliance and legal to IT to crisis management — and the plan needs to have been tested.”

Insurance Solutions

While broadly worded cyber policies should cover the cost of crisis management and forensic investigation, as well as any liability claims that arise from the data breach, Stephens said, it may be hard to quantify the financial impact of the leaking of sensitive corporate data or information that may damage a company’s business or reputation.

The financial impact of a cyber attack is “a very difficult loss to value, and that’s why many insurers shy away from it.” — Sarah Stephens, partner and head of cyber, technology, and media E&O, JLT

“The insurance industry hasn’t done a great job of creating broad coverage for financial losses stemming from this kind of risk, although there are some products out there — primarily in the Lloyd’s market — that do address future lost revenue or immediate loss of attraction in the few months after a data breach,” she said.

This coverage, Stephens said, is often very carefully worded and requires certain triggers to be met within a short indemnity period.

“But it’s a very difficult loss to value, and that’s why many insurers shy away from it,” she added. “You could argue, for example, that Target’s disappointing performance in the quarter immediately following its data breach may have had as much to do with a failed expansion into Canada as the breach itself.”


Stephens and Lezzi both said the frequency of doxing attacks is likely to increase, and while it is virtually impossible to make a company’s network impregnable, the most effective form of defense is to educate staff on the evolving risk of cyber-attack.

“Employees are a company’s weakest link,” Lezzi said. “You’d be surprised how many employees fall for phishing emails — one client was tested with a fake scam and 50 percent of employees responded to the email,” he said.

“It is important to train employees about this type of attack and how to manage confidential information. They also need to be taught what to do and who to speak to in the event of an attack.”

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]