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Cyber Threats

Heading Off ‘Cybergeddon’

Cyber experts say resistance is futile, but resilience is paramount.
By: | May 8, 2014 • 3 min read
Cyber dragon

In April’s R&I cover story, Cyber: The New CAT, experts called catastrophic cyber attacks “inevitable” and the prevailing attitude in the C-Suite “denial.”

Jason Healey, director, Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, says that in order for organizations to weather the inevitable attacks, the key will be resiliency. “The organizations that fare best,” he said, “will be those that have the size, agility and resilience to bounce back as quickly as possible.” Healey is also author of Beyond Data Breaches: Global Interconnections of Cyber Risk, commissioned by Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. and published in April 2014.

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Developing resilience would include conducting exercises, developing response playbooks, increasing funding and grants for large-scale crisis management and developing redundant data storage in case one is compromised.

The tangle of Internet information that companies and countries depend on to function is now so complex, Healey said, that companies and governments can’t manage the risk from within their own four walls. Beyond Data Breaches notes that Internet failures could cascade directly to Internet-connected banks, water systems, cars, medical devices, hydroelectric dams, transformers and power stations.

Like superstorms such as Hurricane Sandy, cyber risks are inevitable and unstoppable, and like the financial crisis of 2008, they can’t be contained, because of organizations’ interconnection and interdependency. The worst-case scenario, stemming from the principle that everything is connected to the Internet and everything connected to the Internet can be hacked, is “Cybergeddon,” where attackers have an overwhelming, dominant and lasting advantage over defenders.

Even now, Healey said, attackers have the advantage. The Internet’s original weakness — that it was built for trust, not security — perpetuates defenders’ vulnerability. “Some ‘serious’ thinkers suggest we should start over” rather than try to retrofit an Internet so flawed by weak security as to threaten every user, he said, despite the impracticality of a do-over.

Second, Healey said, defenders have to be right every time, and attackers have to be right only once.

Third, technology evolves very quickly, and most people don’t understand it well enough to lock out intruders. “Every time we figure out what we’re supposed to be doing right, the technology has moved on and once again we don’t know how to properly secure our data,” Healey said.

Software is still poorly written and so insecure that “a couple of kids in a garage” can hack into corporate and government systems just for a naughty thrill. “Bad guys” with theft or sabotage on their minds can work their mischief behind a veil of anonymity. “The Internet almost encourages bad behavior because of the anonymity involved,” Healey said.

Companies, governments and risk managers should shift the drumbeat from resistance to resilience, and to expand cyber risk management from individual organizations to a resilient and responsive Internet system, Healey said. For systemic risk management, Beyond Data Breaches recommends:

  • Putting the private sector at the center, not the periphery, of cyber risk efforts, since they have the advantage in agility and subject matter expertise.
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  • Using monetary or in-kind grants to fund effective but underfunded non-government groups already involved in minimizing the frequency and intensity of attacks. Governments and others with system-wide concerns (such as internet service providers and software and hardware vendors) should advocate for this research.
  • Borrowing ideas from the finance sector. This could include examination of “too big to fail” issues of governance and recognition of global significantly important internet organizations.
Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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Retail Data Exposures

Emerging Ways to Pay

New e-payment systems offer some data security advantages but they face implementation difficulties.
By: | November 17, 2014 • 6 min read
iphone6plus

With massive data breaches among big box retailers and major banks consistently making headlines, the cry for more secure consumer payment methods has reached a crescendo.

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Yet, the critical question remains: Will emerging technologies — from “chip/pin” credit cards to Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other similar e-payment products — stem the data risk tide?

And if so, will there be a winner among the group? Will there be a single payment system that can give both retailers and their customers a sense of security that currently doesn’t exist?

It’s much too early to tell, experts said. The main challenge now may be sorting through the various technological options — in addition to the potential cost and difficulty of implementing a new standard system.

Video: Mashable took Apple’s new payment system to the streets of New York City to see how it worked.

For example, some large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Rite Aid and CVS recently announced they would not accept Apple Pay, which uses the iPhone and major credit cards as its “touchless” payment delivery system.

Those large retailers and others are planning to use an alternative e-payment technology, called CurrentC, which bypasses major credit cards completely. The retailers favor that system because it eliminates the transaction fees charged by credit card companies to retailers.

According to Aaron Press, director of e-commerce and risk solutions at LexisNexis Risk Solutions in Dallas, each of the various mobile wallet systems has its own advantages.

One key benefit of systems such as Apple Pay and CurrentC is that they do not pass actual card data to the merchant, so there is no account information either in storage or in transit that can be compromised.

“If the wallet systems are secure, then consumers benefit from not sharing their payment credentials with merchants,” he said. “This means that even in the event of a breach, the consumer will not have to worry about their information being stolen and dealing with the hassle of disputing fraudulent charges or receiving new account numbers.”

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In addition, said David Katz, leader of the privacy and information security practice group at Nelson Mullins in Atlanta, Apple Pay’s biometric Touch ID technology makes it “difficult for a thief or imposter to use an iPhone to complete transactions fraudulently.

“Consumers whose phones are stolen or misplaced can easily use the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature to suspend all payments,” he said.

“Even if the world magically adopted chip/pin technology overnight, hackers would simply find a new way to turn card data into money.” — Russ Spitler, vice president of product management, AlienVault

However, he added, with 800 million credit cards on file — not to mention the brand new watch/fitness trackers that contain large amounts of health data — Apple may have succeeded in making itself the primary target.

Press noted that it is not yet clear whether Apple Pay or CurrentC will be vulnerable to fraudulent use.

E-wallet providers must ensure that the credentials being provisioned and used actually belong to the consumer attempting to use them, and that the applications, processes and infrastructure are secure, he said. The biometrics used with the Apple Pay process are helpful, but not a panacea.

Biometric Advances

Apple Pay, however, represents a security improvement over magnetic stripe architecture since it requires stealing a victim’s phone and successfully duplicating their fingerprint to commit fraudulent transactions, said Paco Hope, principal consultant at security consulting firm Cigital, in Dulles, Va.

Apple Pay also includes architecture (such as proxy numbers instead of account numbers) that contributes additional security, he said.

Russ Spitler, vice president of product management at AlienVault, a security provider in San Mateo, Calif., called Apple Pay a “major move” for the payment industry.

While the underlying technology is not new, Apple has the market share and mindshare to make it popular, he said. Shifts in payment technology are driven by consumer demand, not retailer preference.

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“In the past, Apple has proven to manage private data very responsibly — they take encryption seriously and implement it well,” Spitler said. “They are still prone to attacks against their users such as the recent iCloud issues — but they are working to add more features to help safeguard even in that situation.

“With Apple Pay, I am hopeful we will turn the corner on the horrible status quo of credit cards,” he said.

Structural Challenges

Because the U.S. adopted credit cards faster than they spread across Europe, Spitler said, the infrastructure in the U.S. is antiquated and entrenched, such as the point-of-sale (POS) systems reliant on magnetic stripe technology.

Moving past that to new EMV-based credit cards (also referred to as chip-and-PIN, chip-and-signature, chip-and-choice, or generally as chip technology) will require a major retrofit of a very distributed payment system in use for a long period of time, he said.

Video: A brief look at some of the advantages and challenges with EMV technology.

“Each corner store will have to invest in new technology at great cost to themselves and without any demand from the consumer; that’s a really difficult request to make of a small business,” he said.

EMV supports dynamic authentication (numbers change with each transaction), which means a cardholder’s data is more secure on a chip-enabled payment card than on a magnetic stripe card, and is much more difficult to copy or counterfeit.

“Magnetic stripe technology makes it dirt simple to clone a card once you have the electronic data associated with it,” Spitler said.

However, he said, the use of chip/pin technology does not guarantee the long-term elimination of risk.

“Even if the world magically adopted chip/pin technology overnight, hackers would simply find a new way to turn card data into money,” Spitler said.

Hope said that payment networks are introducing risk management beyond simply accepting or denying charges. Contactless payment systems deployed in the UK, for example, are usually dependent upon a variety of limits on total amount, number of transactions and transactions per time period.

“This is what it looks like when modern risk management meets the retail experience: the strength of the security measures in place,” he said. “Retail customer data in the future will be much more carefully protected using similar designs.”

Cyber Coverage

Regardless of what type of payment system is used, Collin Hite, who leads the insurance recovery group at Hirschler Fleischer in Richmond, Va., said all businesses should have cyber insurance, even though many companies still don’t believe they are likely targets.

The first party aspects of such coverage can be critical to a business since the insurance pays for forensic investigation and re-securing the network, in the event of a data breach, he said.

“This is typically the largest cost — not the actual loss of information of the consumers,” he said.

“While we know the Fortune 500 to 1000 are considering specific cyber coverage, middle-market businesses need to understand that they are as vulnerable as the ‘big boys,’ ” he said.

Craig Young, a mobile security researcher for Tripwire, in Portland, Ore., said the best risk management strategy is to move to the next technology as quickly as possible.

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“The ancient swipe and sign technology that dominates American retail is long overdue for a funeral,” he said. “For years, credit cards have been low-hanging fruit for thieves with a variety of techniques to steal card data, reproduce cards and start spending.”

LexisNexis’ Press added that it’s way too early to declare a front runner in mobile payments, and that magnetic stripe cards will be around for several more years.

“There is no security salvation or fraud magic bullet, but many of the new technologies offer a lot of promise,” Press said. “EMV will drastically improve POS security and reduce counterfeit fraud.  Biometrics is a promising option for identity verification.”

But, he warned, new technologies can open the window to new problems while shutting the door to known issues. Adding new technologies such as mobile, he said, increases the number of potential blind spots.

“Companies need to evaluate the risks and benefits of adding any new commerce technology or channel to their environment,” Press said.

Tom Starner is a freelance business writer and editor. He can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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Sponsored: Liberty Mutual Insurance

Construction’s New World

The underwriting of construction risk is undergoing a drastic change, one that may take many years to resolve.
By: | November 3, 2014 • 5 min read

Get off a plane at Logan Airport and cross the harbor toward Boston and you will see construction cranes, a lot of them.

Grab an Amtrak train from Philadelphia into New York and pulling into Penn Station, you will see more construction cranes, many more of them. The same scene repeats in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

All that steel and cable in the skyline signifies a construction industry that is growing again, after having the rug pulled out from under it in the Great Recession of 2008-2010.

The cranes these days look the same as cranes looked in 2008, but the risk management and insurance environment in construction is anything but the same now.

A variety of factors are now in play that have drastically changed construction risk underwriting, according to Doug Cauti, a senior vice president and chief underwriting officer with Boston-based Liberty Mutual’s construction practice.

Doug Cauti characterizes the current construction market.

Talent and Margins

For one thing, according to Cauti, the available talent pool in construction is nowhere near what it was pre-recession.

“When the economy went into its downturn, a lot of talent left the business and hasn’t returned,” Cauti said.

Cauti said recent conversations with large contractors in Ohio and Pennsylvania confirmed once again that contractors are facing a workforce that is either aging or very inexperienced. That leads to safety management and project quality concerns at just the moment in time that construction is rebounding.

Doug identifies one of the top risk management issues facing construction firms today.

Workers compensation risks in construction, already a problematic area, are seeing an impact from that dynamic.

Contractors are also facing much more competition. In the past, contractors might have bid on 10 jobs to get one, now they have to bid on 50 or 60 jobs to get one. That’s putting pressure on margins.

“There are a lot of contractors out there competing for business,” Cauti said.

“Margins are going up but not at the same rate as the industry’s recovery,” he added.

Financing and Risk Transfer

Another factor impacting the way construction risk is being underwritten is the size of projects and the way they are being financed. Construction’s recovery from the recession might be slow and steady, but the size of projects requiring risk management and insurance has increased substantially.

In 2010, there were 85 projects under contract nationally that were worth $1 billion or more, according to Cauti. One year later, the percentage of projects of that value or higher had grown by 30 percent, and the trend continues.

A lot of those projects are design-build, a relatively new approach to construction that Liberty Mutual has grown comfortable underwriting over the years. But design-build is still an additional complication, blurring the traditional lines of responsibility.

SponsoredContent_LM“We did it when the growth in contractor-controlled insurance programs happened, we did it with the evolution in design-build and we’re laying the groundwork to be a thought leader in public-private partnerships and integrated project delivery.”
– Doug Cauti, Chief Underwriting Officer, Liberty Mutual National Insurance Specialty Construction

Given the funding demands of these much larger and more valuable projects — many of them badly needed public sector infrastructure improvements — public-private partnerships, otherwise known as P3s, are now coming into vogue as a financing option.

But deciding how risk should be allocated, underwritten and transferred in this new arrangement between contractors, the state, and private partners is a relatively new and untested science.

As a thought leader in the underwriting of the design-build approach – and the more traditional design-bid-build – Cauti said construction experts within Liberty Mutual are growing their knowledge to stay in step.

“We did it when the growth in contractor-controlled insurance programs happened, we did it with the evolution in design-build and we’re laying the groundwork to be a thought leader in public-private partnerships and integrated project delivery,” he said.

That means attending relevant industry conferences like the annual IRMI Construction Risk Conference where Liberty Mutual has maintained a significant presence, and engaging in dialogues with contractors and government officials, and maintaining clear and active lines of communications with brokers.

Doug discusses emerging approaches to construction.

Legal and Regulatory

Another change that is creating challenges for construction risk underwriting, according to Cauti, stems from what’s happening in United States courtrooms.

Across the country, how a court interprets coverage can vary widely, especially in the area of construction defect.

“In the past, many jurisdictions viewed construction defect simply as shoddy workmanship and they had to go back and redo it,” Cauti said.

But now, on a state by state basis, courts are ruling that a construction defect is an accident under certain circumstances that may be covered by a contractor’s general liability policy.

In 2014 alone, according to Cauti, Supreme Courts in West Virginia, Connecticut and North Dakota ruled that construction defects can sometimes be considered accidents.

Cauti said doing business with a carrier that pursues contract clarity whenever possible – and that possesses an experienced claims team that can navigate the wide variety of state interpretations – is absolutely essential to the buyer.

Having claim teams not only dedicated to construction but also to construction defect, adds a lot of value to a carrier’s offering.

Doug outlines another top risk management issue facing construction firms in today’s booming market.

Now, as never before, contractors are relying on experienced construction insurance teams to help them address these complexities.

Insurers need to have the engineering expertise to analyze a project, to make sure the right contracting team is in place and to insure that risk exposures are being properly assessed. Another key in a construction insurance team, according to Cauti, is the claims department.

A Strategic Approach

The legal and financing changes that are taking place in the construction market, from a risk transfer standpoint, aren’t going to get ironed out overnight.

Cauti said it could be 10 years until the construction and insurance industries fully understand the complications of public-private partnerships and integrated project delivery, these approaches gain traction, and the state-by-state legal decisions that are causing so much uncertainty can be digested.

In the meantime, an engaged, collaborative approach between carriers, brokers, contractors, and their financing partners will be necessary.

Doug discusses how his area can provide value to project owners and contractors.

For more information on how Liberty Mutual Insurance can help assess your construction risk exposure, contact your broker or Doug Cauti at douglas.cauti@libertymutual.com.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.


Liberty Mutual Insurance offers a wide range of insurance products and services, including general liability, property, commercial automobile, excess casualty, workers compensation and group benefits.
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