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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, Alien Vault

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 Alien Vault, 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 Content by Riskonnect

3 + 3: Theory of Risk

A risk management professional constructed a versatile system that he can really believe in.
By: | November 3, 2014 • 5 min read
SponsoredContent_Riskonnect

Anthony Valsamakis doesn’t just practice risk management, he wrote a book about it. And he doesn’t just consult with quants, he is one.

“Risk management has been in my blood for so long that I have to stop myself, otherwise I could go into a two-hour monologue,” said Valsamakis, whose career in the discipline goes back almost 35 years, to his first job with the Standard General Insurance Company.

In 1990, the London-based chairman of the Eikos Group received a doctorate in Business Economics. In 1992, “The Theory & Principles of Risk Management” was published, with Valsamakis the principal author, and is now in its 4th edition.

Valsamakis worked first with a carrier, then as a commodities broker, before taking up an academic post. The company he started in 1999, the Eikos Group, has a risk consulting arm, with clients in most industrial sectors, including the food, mining, forestry, industrial paper and packaging and banking industries. The group also includes a transportation risk brokerage and a Bermuda-based carrier.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect“I think the idea of having a secure data base that everyone can access and can update at any moment is by far the best innovation that I can see happening in the information game.”
– Anthony Valsamakis, Chairman, Risk Financing Strategy, Eikos Group

For as long as he can remember, Valsamakis sought ways to get better information on the risks he underwrites, brokers or consults on.

“Over many years we’ve tried hard to increase the quality and timeliness of the information that enables us to do just that,” Valsamakis said.

Finally, it looks like Valsamakis has found a risk management information systems platform that enables him to do just that.

For the past year and a half, Valsamakis has been using a system developed by Riskonnect.

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectValsamakis likes the Riskonnect approach for a number of reasons – one of the key reasons that the platform can be readily adapted for each of his clients, regardless of industry.

“What’s useful for me is that the platform basically resides within the client’s systems,” he said.

The information he needs to prioritize, depends on which client he is working with.

“By definition, depending on where I am working and what I am doing, risk management priorities are very different,” Valsamakis said.

The Riskonnect platform provides the necessary flexibility.

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectA mine, for example, could be in a location in Africa or South America with a high degree of political risk. A key risk for a furniture maker might be around trade secrets, the possibility that a disgruntled employee would leak a pricing catalogue to competitors. For a packaging manufacturer, their material supply chain is of the utmost importance, and so on.

For each client, Valsamakis can use Riskonnect platform and work with the client to compile the information that is most relevant to that client and its industry and enter that into a secure system.

“All of these are template facts that you can easily put into the Riskonnect system,” Valsamakis said.

The Riskonnect platform is housed within the client’s information technology system, and it is transparent enough, to give Valsamakis and his client access to the same sets of data.

“I think the idea of having a secure data base that everyone can access and can update at any moment is by far the best innovation that I can see happening in the information game,” he said.

Whose System Is It?

Valsamakis has been around long enough to know a few things about data and risk transfer. He’s seen a number of risk information management systems put out by brokers, for example, that he thinks are set up more for the broker’s business model than for the sharing of information.

Generally speaking, information about an insured’s risks come from the broker and the insured. The Riskonnect system works, according to Valsamakis, because it is designed to be adapted to the client, not the broker.

“I have seen efforts by brokers, for example, over the years to produce a type of risk information platform that becomes theirs,” Valsamakis said.

“It’s been a perennial problem in the industry, where depending on which broker you end up with, you’ll end up with system A, B or C,” he said.

The Underwriter Needs to Know

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectUsing Riskonnect, Valsamakis encourages clients to be as transparent as possible, in order to give the most complete information to underwriters.

“For me the question is, ‘What is the volatility around the asset and can there be an impact on the balance sheet of our clients?’” he said.

“We need to describe this exposure in various contexts so that the underwriters know what they are covering,” he said.

It’s basic human psychology. If an underwriter doesn’t feel they are getting enough information about a particular risk, they will take a negative view of that risk.

The more accurate the information Valsamakis has about a client’s exposures, the better the pricing he gets from underwriters.

“If you were an underwriter putting your capital and risk and I gave you little information, you would actually be less inclined to look at the risk in favorable terms. There will be a natural inclination to downgrade it,” he said.

Where Valsamakis sees enormous value is in the Riskonnect system ability to tag which can be revisited at a later stage.

“It’s amazing how clients forget, in the passage of time, that there are profiles that have changed for better or worse.”

A Long-Term Investment

The Eikos Group invested significantly in the Riskonnect product and are taking it to a number of clients. The transparency of the system and the advantage it gives the Eikos Group and its clients with underwriters is in itself a business advantage over the competition.

“We made a decision as a small company, relatively speaking, to invest a lot of money in Riskonnect and be very proactive about it,” Valsamakis said.

“When I talk to executives I say we invested in it because it’s going to save our clients money. Better information will lead to a lower cost of risk,” he said.

“If I’m talking to someone at a high level, that’s fairly easily understood.”

SponsoredContent

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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 Riskonnect. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.


Riskonnect is the provider of a premier, enterprise-class technology platform for the risk management industry.
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