Mind Games

By: | December 10, 2014 • 2 min read

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

It is fair to say we have reached a stage in the evolution of technology in which hacking is an accepted fact of life in our business and personal spheres.


That is not to say we underestimate the damage that hacking attacks can do to insurance enterprises and to our organizations overall, but the prevailing attitude seems to be that the cyber bad guys are smarter than we are.

Our efforts to stop them may be partially successful, but in the end — just as a thief who really wants to steal your locked car will find a way to do it — a hacker who really wants to break in will eventually be able to do so.

We are all used to passwords as a security tool, but it is also useful to realize that passwords can easily be stolen — or guessed, if not adequately deployed.

To take this a bit further, since many of us feel we will lose the battle to hackers at some point, perhaps we are a bit less careful in our efforts to secure the data that is the lifeblood of our organizations. This idea was suggested to me by a recent article I read in “Dark Reading,” a data security publication.

In that piece, author Garret Grajek, CTO and COO for SecureAuth Corp., suggested that what is often missed in cyber attacks is the vulnerability created by what he refers to as “sloppy authentication.”

According to TechTarget.com, “Authentication is the process of determining whether someone or something is, in fact, who or what it is declared to be. In private and public computer networks (including the Internet), authentication is commonly done through the use of logon passwords. Knowledge of the password is assumed to guarantee that the user is authentic.”

We are all used to passwords as a security tool, but it is also useful to realize that passwords can easily be stolen — or guessed, if not adequately deployed.

“Hackers like it when the authentication deployment and security experts build sloppy authentication,” Grajek said. “The sloppiness generates vulnerabilities and thus the vector(s) for attack.”

And while many of us believe that hackers spend hours developing complicated algorithms to crack our systems, he called that idea a myth. “None of the major notable hacks, such as Living Social, Target, SnapChat, or Heartbleed, have provided any truth to these misconceptions,” he noted.

Instead, he said, “hackers attack the enterprise, rather than the algorithm.”

What does this mean? This is simply another way of saying that careless human efforts in the authentication building and securing process can lead to compromised systems and stolen data. Yes, some hackers are very clever — and sometimes they are a step ahead of those of us who would wish to stop them.


In fact, many of them are clever enough to realize that they need not spend countless hours devising mysterious break-in algorithms when they can instead count on the inevitable sloppiness of someone to leave a virtual door open for them. And one reason they can count on such carelessness is the defeated attitude of many who feel that a break-in is inevitable and thus are not vigilant in providing safeguards.

This battle is more psychological than it is technological. Grajek suggested that automated systems that involve less human involvement are the answer, and perhaps there is some merit in this idea.

In the end, however, it is also useful to remember that locking one’s car really does discourage theft, especially if others leave their vehicles unlocked.

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]