5 Common cyberattacks impacting insurance agents
Day-to-day insurance operations include working with policyholder information like Social Security numbers, financial information, addresses, birthdates and other sensitive information. Given the value and sensitive nature of this data, this can make agencies a common target for cybercriminals. A recent report—X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2022—determined that the finance and insurance industry was the second most targeted industry by cybercriminals in 2021.1
Further proof, our latest Nationwide Agency Forward research found 34% of Independent Agents have experienced a cyberattack.
Learn more about the top five cyberattacks agents have experienced according to our research, and how to protect your business.
- Phishing – Hackers send fraudulent, malicious emails to as many people as possible, customizing emails to make them appear trustworthy, sometimes using logos or fake email accounts. The phishing message will likely include language designed to fool victims into clicking a link, opening a document, installing software or entering their username and password. If a victim falls for a phishing email, the cybercriminal can infect their computer and steal sensitive information.
- Compromised credentials/password attacks – These attacks occur when a malicious party takes a stolen username and password and tries it on various websites. In some cases, a hacker may purchase an individual’s username and password from the dark web. Then, assuming the individual uses the same password for multiple accounts, the hacker tests the stolen credentials across multiple platforms.
- Data breach – Data breaches can occur through different types of cyberattacks, resulting in unauthorized access to a computer system or network leaving private, sensitive, or confidential personal data vulnerable.
- Business email compromise – A form of fraud by which an attacker repetitively impersonates a seemingly legitimate email sender, such as a senior employee, vendor, organization or company. This is done to trick an email recipient into wiring money, providing confidential information or performing similar compromising actions, all of which can defraud a business and its employees, customers or partners.
- Ransomware – Malicious software that infects a computer and either prevents it from working as it should or prevents access to specific files until the user pays a ransom. Typically, the cybercriminals behind the ransomware demand bitcoin, a type of digital currency that is difficult for police to trace.
Cybersecurity quick tips
All technology solutions and equipment used by the agency should have protection in place.
- Be mindful of incoming emails and avoid clicking on links or attachments from untrusted sources.
- When receiving potential phishing emails, it’s crucial to report them to the proper company employee (e.g., a senior member of the IT department).
- All company devices should have trusted antivirus and antispyware programs installed. These programs should be set to perform scans on a regular basis for unwanted and harmful programs.
- Any device that can access agency applications must be password protected.
- If a device is lost or stolen, agencies should have the ability to wipe data remotely.
Data Protection and Document Management
- Consider what types of personal information the agency collects, where it is stored and who has access to it.
- Encrypt personally identifiable information (PII), including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, debit and credit card information, bank and financial account information, and protected health information.
- When handling data or selecting a software vendor, it’s important to consider how encryption will be used to safeguard sensitive information.
- Access to sensitive data should be limited to individuals who need to use it as part of their job.
Employee education and training
- Train on common cyberthreats and how to respond. Employees should also know the cybersecurity policies and know how to report suspicious activity.
- Create a password policy that requires employees to change their password regularly, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and is 12 or more use characters
- Update software as soon as new updates are released. Security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals rely on are patched.
Agency Management System
- Your AMS should be encrypted, and access should only be provided using multifactor authentication.
- Create security permissions by job functions.
Nationwide values data security and we take a number of steps to protect accounts and personal information. Our information security practices align with the industry standard, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. These efforts may occasionally lead to identifying a potential breach at an agency, in which sales managers will reach out. Beyond reporting possible compromises, Nationwide is committed to ensuring a cyber-safe environment while providing solutions to meet your needs.
Nationwide and Edelman Data & Intelligence conducted a national online survey of 430 independent insurance agents to understand the current cybersecurity landscape, identify barriers to cybersecurity adoption, and track cybersecurity concerns and adoption. The study was fielded from July 27 to August 9, 2022.