4 Threats to Data That Agencies Need to Know About

Business was booming in February of 2020. Everything was going according to plan for countless insurance professionals across the United States. Then, March changed everything. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived and, with it, people needed to rely on technology more than ever. With this new reliance, though, comes data threats.

Scams, breaches, compliance issues, and human error all predate the pandemic. However, in a drastic turn of digital events, the pandemic has increased cybercrime. The FBI found that online criminal activity increased by 300% once the pandemic began. Though this crime is still going strong, you can take some steps to protect your insurance business and your clients.

By understanding the risks, you can act accordingly.

1. Phishing Scams

Phishing is one of the most common data threats you’ll encounter in any industry. These scams most often take the form of an email, pretending to be a coworker, boss, or official organization. They’ll request sensitive information or ask you to click on a link. It’s imperative that you and everyone you work with do not click or provide that information.

If successful, a phishing scam can steal vital data or personal information. Insurance agents and companies make ideal phishing targets, since you work with bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, and payment methods.

Solutions and preventive measures for phishing scams include:

  • Educating staff members about what phishing scams look like and what they’ll ask for.
  • Discouraging sending private information through email and instead using secure file-sharing services.
  • Reporting the email to tech specialists.
  • Communicating about suspicious activity.
  • Backing up data.

2. Malware and Ransomware

Malware attacks will infect devices in various ways by corrupting or stealing data. Ransomware, on the other hand, packs a bit more of a punch. It’s a category under malware, and as the name implies, it holds data hostage and demands a ransom. If you don’t pay said ransom, then it may corrupt or delete the data.

These instances are tricky, and professionals will give different advice on how to deal with them. You’ll prevent malware most simply by having high-quality firewall, anti-virus, and cybersecurity software in the insurance firm. If a ransomware attack occurs, though, it may be best to pay the demand and move on.

Sometimes, the ransom may be low enough that a firm can pay it quickly. If it’s too steep to afford, the firm could be looking at a major loss of money or data. It’s always essential to back up the data, so that if these instances do occur, the stakes aren’t as high.

3. Noncompliance

Though the United States does not yet have a collective federal law for cybersecurity compliance, individual states do. On average, a financial services employee can access 11 million files — a number that requires the strictest security and compliance possible.

Depending on your state, you must comply to achieve the best cybersecurity, privacy, and protection for your business and clients. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has different requirements from the New York Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies. Ensure you follow your state’s guidelines.

If a breach or scam occurs, you could be liable if your firm isn’t up to compliance standards. For independent agents, here are the overarching regulations to adhere to:

  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
  • HIPAA
  • HITECH
  • PCI DSS
  • Sarbanes-Oxley

4. Human Error

Unfortunately, human error will happen no matter what, but that’s what makes humans human. Accidental deletion, poor organization, a lack of communication, and outdated technology are all potential risks. Employees can easily make a mistake due to any of these instances. Then, in the blink of an eye, data is gone. Plus, with COVID-19 boosting working from home, these issues can multiply.

To protect against this inevitability, you can do a few things — update systems and software, use a logical file naming convention, and communicate better with everyone in the organization.

One key step is to limit access to data based on responsibilities. The more people who have access, the higher the risk of deletion or exposure. Only keep necessary parties in the know.

Of course, as with each data hazard, backing up the data is an essential proactive solution.

Back Up Everything

Each of these COVID-19-heightened data risks comes with its own unique solutions. Whether you encounter a phishing scam that seems too good to be true or an employee deletes the data by accident, there’s usually a proper course of action. However, one recurring solution that never fails is to back up everything.

It’s easy to understand in hindsight — you should’ve stored the information in a second location. But consider today the right time to take proactive steps. Back up the insurance information in encrypted, low-access locations to provide the best business practices and customer satisfaction while complying with regulations.

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