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Top 5 Cyber Threats Plaguing the Insurance Industry In 2021

The Insurance industry is data-rich. It holds a vast amount of personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), and the financial information of clients and related organizations. Hence, making the insurance industry a very lucrative target for cybercriminals and advanced persistent threat (APT) actors.

As digital transformation takes over every industry, we are reaping the benefits of technological advancements, which often leads to the widening of attack surfaces within corporate networks. As such, threat actors that target the insurance industry have leveraged sophisticated tactics in an effort to obfuscate their attack path while maintaining a longer foothold in a target’s network.

Let us take a look at the top five (5) cyber threats that are plaguing the insurance industry in 2021:

1.   Cloud-Specific Cyber Attacks

As cloud computing continues to gain wider appeal, multi-tenancy still remains a major attack path for threat actors due to the sharing of one cloud resource among multiple customers. Thus, eliminating segmentation and forming a single-point-of-failure (not good). Therefore, threat actors can leverage these cloud-based loopholes to steal and/or manipulate sensitive data available on cloud hosting infrastructures.

2.   Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks

With increasing influences from smart mobile devices and social media, there has been a proportional increase in the amount of social interaction. This has led to employees falling for social engineering tricks and phishing scams that cybercriminals use to gain access to sensitive information. Phishing is a menace that does not depend much on technology. Therefore, the impersonation of leadership individuals within an organization or deploying fileless malware via url downloads is more than enough to breach an otherwise secured network.

3.   Ransomware Threats

This is an upcoming threat that has shown to wreck immense damage to critical infrastructures. IT Security teams within small to large insurance companies must endeavor to practice good security hygiene to be a victim of ransomware attacks.

4.   Security Systems Deficiencies

Most, if not all insurance companies rely on legacy systems to deploy static security controls, such as Firewalls, IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems), and IPS (Intrusion Prevention Systems). These static security controls lack the ability to mitigate the current security challenges from emerging risks and threats, within an ever-changing threat landscape. While most threats need human intervention, your technological infrastructure must be capable of handling automated security emergencies, which often includes incident responses, such as patches and updates.

5.   Lack of Basic Security Hygiene and Awareness

Insurance professionals are often bugged down with their daily tasks to even consider cybersecurity threats, risks, and vulnerabilities that could impact their business continuity. Therefore, the majority of employees within the insurance industry lack the ability to detect a malicious event or how to respond to it. As such, threat actors leverage this non-existent or poor cyber hygiene to gain a foothold in a corporate system.

Defining Cyber Threat Mitigation Countermeasures For The Industry Industry

Preventive Countermeasures: Employee Training and Awareness

Employees are the strongest and weakest link of any organization. Thus, cyber threat awareness sessions is a critical tool for protecting mission-critical data while also maintaining business continuity. Therefore, a cost-effective and important preventative countermeasure for cybersecurity threats is consistent security awareness training programs, laced with tabletop exercises and simulations.

Detective Countermeasures: System Monitoring and Logging

Like many IT teams in most industries, incident response is often an after-action activity – meaning that there are actions to hunt or detect for potential threats within a critical network. By establishing an automated threat detection process, IT teams can properly respond to threats before they become lethal. Therefore, it is imperative to engage with competent cybersecurity providers that are equipped with the expertise to perform detective procedures as needed. 

Corrective Countermeasure: Systems Reconfiguration, Patching/Updates

Hardware and software play a significant role in identifying and mitigating threats as humans are limited in scope. For corrective countermeasures to be precise and scalable, insurance companies must invest in IT security solutions that will be responsible for deploying vulnerability mitigation processes aimed at fixing bugs, reconfiguring systems, and applying the latest security patches based on designated security policies and standards because system updates and patches play a significant role in recovery, in the aftermath of a cyberattack.

Final Words

As the world takes steps to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Insurance industry appears to be at the cusp of a digital transformation journey. As such, several insurance claims will be processed and more insurance packages will be needed. Therefore, the need to ensure that data privacy and security for sensitive client data is paramount.

Understanding the dynamics of the evolving cyber-threat landscape, governments and other IT governing bodies instituted specified regulatory compliance frameworks, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, NIST 800-53, etc. insurance companies must follow when handling client data. Although complex in its nature, security controls are not meant to be implemented and left alone – they must be maintained based on the business scope of each organization. Therefore, collaborating with cybersecurity professionals who are specialists in the deployment of detective, preventive, and corrective countermeasures, within the insurance industry, is a business move that should never be ignored.

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