How Are We Doing?

By: | September 2, 2014 • 2 min read

Ara Trembly is founder of The Tech Consultant and The Rogue Guru Blog. He can be reached at [email protected]

Famed former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was noted for, among other things, frequently asking the Big Apple’s citizens for an informal report on his job performance as the city’s executive. “How am I doing?” Koch would ask at press conferences and, in his case, the answers were often positive.


We would all do well to adopt the same approach when it comes to the cyber security of our enterprises, as well as the enterprises of our service providers and trading partners.

So when it comes to safeguarding the precious data of our companies and our customers, just how are we doing overall?

According to HP’s 2013 Cyber Risk report, there is both good and bad news.
The good news is that the total number of publicly disclosed cyber vulnerabilities remained at roughly the same levels seen in the previous three years, with the volume decreasing about 6 percent from 2012.

It goes without saying that more obvious targets tend to be better protected, but that leaves plenty of room for less obvious targets, such as insurance enterprises, as well as brokers, agents, third-party suppliers and countless small businesses.

The really good news is that “high-severity vulnerabilities continued their multi-year decline in volume, reflecting vendors’ use of newer security technologies.”

This is truly significant, because any kind of positive news on the cyber security front is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Still, we cannot afford to get too comfortable.

The bad news? HP reported that, “As organizations scramble to meld their mobile and desktop workflows … the hybrid development frameworks available don’t sufficiently address a number of issues already well known to desktop developers.”

The most pressing issue identified in the report is “missing or weak encryption in native mobile applications, thus carrying potentially high risks for related hybrid mobile applications.” HP Security Research found that nearly 46 percent of iOS and Android applications analyzed use encryption improperly.

It’s great that so-called “high-severity” vulnerabilities are down, but we can’t ignore the possibility and probability that cyber criminals are simply choosing to settle for less chaos (and a reduced chance of being caught) in exchange for easier access to systems and highly valuable data.

It goes without saying that more obvious targets tend to be better protected, but that leaves plenty of room for less obvious targets, such as insurance enterprises, as well as brokers, agents, third-party suppliers and countless small businesses.

In addition, the HP report noted, “Plenty of vulnerabilities already known on traditional platforms can be equally effective on mobile devices using the same attack techniques, vectors, and targets. Worse, users tend to trust their handy mobile devices more than they trust their desktops, making certain techniques (social engineering attacks, for instance) far more effective.”


There can be little doubt that mobile devices are being pushed at both business and personal users as the most convenient and “coolest” way to go, so this challenge is likely to grow more difficult over time.

Further, said HP, “As the line between mobile and desktop usage blurs, and as users become more accustomed to having access to sensitive data on any platform they please, such [security] issues will rise in importance. In the meantime, organization defenders face the difficult task of socializing best security practices among their people, while waiting for the development community to hold up its end.”

Coming back, then, to our question of “How are we doing?” the answer is something like “slightly better, but not nearly good enough.”

In fact, it appears that the threats are simply changing their appearance and methods, keeping many of us off balance. This is something we cannot allow.

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]