JIF 2022: Cyber Criminals Shift to Softer Targets And Reputation Threats

JIF 2022: Cyber Criminals Shift to Softer Targets And Reputation Threats

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Photo credit: Don Pollard

Cyber criminals continued to shift their tactics and adapt their techniques in 2022, according to experts speaking at the Triple-I Joint Industry Forum (JIF) last week.

Ransomware as a business model” remains alive and well, said Michael Menapace, an insurance attorney with the law firm Wiggin and Dana LLP and a Triple-I Non-resident Scholar. What has changed in recent years is that “where the bad actors would encrypt your systems and extract a ransom to give you back your data, now they will exfiltrate your data and threaten to go public with it.”

The types of targets also have changed, Menapace said, with an increased focus on “softer targets – in particular, municipalities” that often don’t have the personnel or finances to maintain the same cyber hygiene as large corporate entities.

Theresa Le, Chief Claims Officer for Cowbell Cyber, concurred with Menapace’s assessment, noting an increased tendency of cyber criminals to contact organizations’ customers or leaders as “a pressure point” for the organization to pay the ransom in order to avoid reputational harm.  

“Threat actors are focusing on the quality of the data that they can extract while they’re ‘in the house’,” Le said, “so it’s not just stealing Social Security numbers or other information they can sell on the Dark Web, as it was a few years ago. It’s really much more thoughtful and focused.”

Scott Shackelford, professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, reinforced Menapace’s and Le’s observations about the increased sophistication and adaptability of cyber criminals by talking about state-sponsored incursions.

“It’s not just the North Koreas of the world,” he said, adding that “a growing cadre of nation-states” are launching attacks “not just on large corporations but increasingly small and medium-sized businesses, even local governments.”

“We founded a cyber security clinic two years ago,” Schackelford said, “and the number one request we get from local government and small utilities has to do with insurance coverage. There’s a lot of need out there for better information.”

Shackelford emphasized the continuing evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) as an “attack surface.” In the new pandemic-driven work-from-home environment, he said, “What counts as a covered computer device for some of these policies has led to litigation and remains a big vulnerability that we’ve only just begun to wrap our minds around.”

The conversation, moderated by Frank Tomasello, executive director for The Institutes Griffith Insurance Education Foundation, ranged across topics that included:

  • Deep-fake technology;
  • The importance aligning insurance pricing with the risk – and educating policyholders on how to get a better price by becoming a better risk;
  • How threats differ for different-sized organizations and for individuals; and
  • The need for better data and information sharing around cyberattacks and trends.

Learn More:

Triple-I “State of Cyber Risk” Issues Brief

Insurance Industry