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

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]