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Business & Technology

After SolarWinds intrusion, companies turn to insurers for protection

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After SolarWinds intrusion, companies turn to insurers for protection

2021-03-12 04:36:49

By K.Shalini

The United States' cybersecurity infrastructure is still reeling from one of the worst digital intrusions in the nation's history uncovered late last year. But as a new administration scrambles to shore up its digital defense, industry leaders are turning to private insurers, not the federal government, for protection.

The hacking hazards have continued to grow more sophisticated over the years, with even more moving parts than the average vehicle. Most companies and consumers alike aren't even aware of the countless ways in which they may be targeted, much less how to protect themselves.

Mario Vitale, CEO of Resilience Cyber Insurance Solutions insurance firm  described the hacking as "an emerging peril" akin to more familiar risks covered by insurance policies, such as fire, flood and earthquake. And a while a cyber event is no "Act of God," it can be equally unpredictable, even for experts.

The definition of an industry standard in this case, he said, is ever-changing and updating. And while the idea of cyber insurance companies dates back about a decade, he explained, it's only now that the concept is only now beginning to pick up and "it's going very rapidly."

But the threat it seeks to counter is moving even quicker, outpacing public awareness. As such, the chances grow more likely of another serious incident that could affect an entire supply chain, and a nation.

"Everyone is linked today, and so you're only as good as your weakest link," Raj Shah, chairman of cybersecurity insurance firm Resilience, told Newsweek.

Shah described "a strong movement" of companies, especially large ones, who are now requiring their suppliers meet minimum levels of cyber insurance for both security and financial reasons. Despite the enormity of the risk involved, it's an area where there are few government mandates, which has compelled the private sector to take action.

"In the absence of the government solving the problem or having regulatory change," he said, "private companies are taking that into their own hands."

The mass digitization of data is not a new phenomenon, and neither are efforts to steal or manipulate it. Individuals and entities, private and state-sponsored, have for decades played cat-and-mouse games over online information, from personal passwords to nuclear centrifuges.

But never has it been so dangerous to run a seemingly innocuous operation that could endanger not only one's own company but a vast network of equally unsuspecting victims.

It's been about a year since products of leading software company SolarWinds are believed to have first been infiltrated with Trojan malware. Upon discovery of the breach months later, it triggered a crisis that affected various agencies of the U.S. government and scores of Fortune 500 companies, among other institutions. The U.S. has blamed Russia for that incident, a charge vehemently denied by Moscow.

A range of U.S. federal agencies stepped in upon the suspicion of a foreign government sneaking into some of the country's most prominent agencies and firms. It’s getting easier for even less-equipped enemy actors to stage attacks of unprecedented magnitude.

But Washington has yet to catch up, despite areas of potential private-public sector cooperation.

Henry, a former FBI executive assistant director, has spent the better part of his career sounding the alarm on cyber threats and their capacity to disrupt the livelihood of countries, companies and citizens. He said it's "maddening" to be reciting some of the same concerns after not only 10 years, but 20.

It's a threat that's intangible for most people, he acknowledges, but it has the capacity to ruin careers and lives all the same.

Holes in cybersecurity even extend to critical infrastructure. Authorities are investigating an incident just last month in which an unidentified hacker electronically manipulated the water treatment system of the city of Oldsmar, Florida, increasing the factor of sodium hydroxide, or lye, by a factor of 100. The act of sabotage was thwarted by a worker who caught the move. Henry hopes the White House will take measures to educate on the importance of good cybersecurity practices.

 

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