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The ever-increasing importance of cyber insurance

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The overwhelming prevalence of technology and digital media has certainly affected the lives of many people. Connecting with friends and family over long distances is easier, gathering information and accessing entertainment media can be done a lot more quickly, and all the mundane things, from ordering pizza to paying the bills, can be done anytime, anywhere, without any hassle.

Digital innovation has proven its worth repeatedly. But, as with many good things, there’s a downside to it. We’ve seen evidence of that downside numerous times, most notably in March 2018, when it was revealed that the British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of 87 million Facebook users for political means. Later that year, the hospitality company Marriott International announced that its Starwood hotel brand had been hit with a security breach, and that hackers had accessed and stolen information on around 500 million customers.

Cyberattacks are an unpleasant reality in this tech-oriented age, and they don’t only involve social media powerhouses and multinational hotel franchises. Due to the pervasiveness of technology, breaches such as these can occur in our own homes, hence the strong need for effective counters to cyberattacks, such as cybersecurity and cyber insurance.

No matter how many devices are in your home, these counters are an obvious necessity. They are especially pertinent if your home features an array of technological devices and applications that are all connected through what is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Writing for Memeburn, Candice Sutherland explains how the IoT “offers consumers access to a network of physical objects, such as home appliances that feature an IP address for internet connectivity.” The connection and communication between these objects allow the user to control them with one remote device.

The international safety consulting company UL (formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories), groups smart devices into six separate categories: entertainment, surveillance and security, energy and resource management (examples of which are watering and HVAC systems), lighting, household management, and health (wearable devices etc). The technology which was once the domain of only smartphones and laptops now comes standard within every household appliance, from the light switch to the toaster. Homes which feature this kind of technological integration are called smart homes. While they might allow for easy living, their owners are still vulnerable to dangers such as a home systems attack, which could result in the spread of malware or the theft of personal data or financial records.

In a brochure on cybersecurity and smart home systems, UL cites several instances in which cybersecurity systems were found to be easily hackable. In one, “researchers at the University of Michigan were able to able to hack into a widely-available smart home automation system and successfully open electronic locks, change system presets and remotely trigger a false fire alarm.” Another shone light on internet-connected baby monitors, with researchers revealing that only one in nine models was properly protected against cyberattacks.

A device’s vulnerability can often be boiled down to flaws in its overall design, the failure to update its software on a regular basis, a non-secure network, or inadequate user authentication (passwords etc.). Even incorrect installation can cause problems. UL notes how “consumers who install smart home systems and devices may lack a sufficient understanding of device or network-related security

considerations.” They mention possible errors that these inexperienced consumers could make, such as “the [incorrect] positioning of certain smart devices in the home network”, and “simple configuration challenges that a security novice may be unable to address.”

No matter your knowledge and understanding of technology, and regardless of whether you own a smartphone or a smart home, it always helps to be protected against possible cyberattacks. This means insuring yourself against malicious cyber-related activity. Cyber insurance can cover you for any kind of damage or loss resulting from this activity, as well as any legal advice, legal action or third-party negotiation to resolve legal disputes, all of which might follow a cyberattack. You can also be covered for financial loss, the recovery of data, and the removal of malicious content related to cyber bullying. This last service also involves legal assistance. All these kinds of cover are necessary in this predominantly digital era.