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Mitigating DDoS risks in the global insurance sector

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By Richard Hummel, threat intelligence lead at NETSCOUT

 

As cybercriminals continue to adapt their methodology, businesses in the insurance sector need to be especially vigilant of the current threat landscape. Indeed, according to NETSCOUT’s recently published DDoS Threat Intelligence Report, adversaries had launched an increase in attacks against insurance agencies and brokerages near the end of last year to cash in on distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) extortion pay-outs.

Although the report confirmed our predictions that overall DDoS activity would decrease – by three per cent in this timeframe – recent activity suggests that cybercriminals used this time to ‘sharpen their knives’, developing their techniques and identifying new targets. We also identified a rise in industry-specific targeting and direct-path attacks which suggests that adversaries are trying to zone in on targeting specific organisations, like the insurance industry. While this might sound like there would be less overall damage, ‘focusing’ DDoS attacks is akin to using a homing missile instead of a sniper rifle – causing damage not only to the intended target but to everything around it.

With the rapid adoption of DDoS attacks by cybercriminals, insurance agencies should take the time to learn about these attacks, the damages they can impose, and how to successfully mitigate the associated risks.

 

DDoS attacks targeting financial and insurance organisations

One of the notable observations we made in our latest Threat Intelligence Report, was a considerable increase in DDoS extortion attacks. We identified three prolific DDoS extortion campaigns operating simultaneously. This is significant because, although one campaign within a year is not out of the norm, it is rare to have multiple campaigns deployed within such a small amount of time. This activity suggests that cybercriminals are especially motivated by making quick profits and bolstering their extortion efforts via deploying ransomware, stealing data, and launching targeted DDoS attacks.

Richard Hummel

When it comes to insurance agencies and brokers, the sector faced a large 257 per cent increase in DDoS attacks during the second half of 2021, many of which were DDoS extortion events and likely due to the assumed amount of capital held within these organisations.

Another trend that affects finance and insurance sectors is the continued targeting of the connectivity supply chain. Previously, we have seen adversaries targeting vital gateways to online life such as DNS servers, virtual private network (VPN) concentrators and services, and internet exchanges. Successful attacks against them can cause a cascade of collateral damage that impacts a huge range of entities, from banks and insurers to wired and wireless service providers—not to mention myriad individual users.

In the second half of 2021, we saw this trend extend to computer manufacturing. DDoS activity targeting computer technology manufacturers increased by 162 per cent, along with a 263 per cent increase in attacks towards electronic device and computer storage manufacturers near the end of 2021. This is concerning, as DDoS attacks can cause major disruptions onto manufacturing companies which provide the technology needed for small enterprises and large international corporations to stay in business – as well as those in the insurance sectors.

DDoS attacks targeting the connectivity supply chain can impose a range of knock-on effects onto several industries relying on similar networks, so insurance agencies need to be aware of the current DDoS methodologies that will likely affect their business. However, insurance agencies must not only be aware of the risks relating to losing their own network connectivity – which will subsequently disrupt their business operations – they also need to be aware of the trends that affect other businesses when it comes to drafting future policies for their customers.

 

How insurance agencies and brokers can mitigate these attacks

With each passing year, DDoS activity is expected to increase in both frequency and intensity. This is already proving to be the case. Along with the widescale adoption of these attack methods continuing, triple extortion campaigns incorporating DDoS are also expected to become progressively more detrimental in time. It is evident from these significant changes in attack methodology that cybercriminals are only improving their techniques and building the momentum needed to launch even more destructive and complex attacks in the future.

With this, the imposed damages by these attacks will only increase delays of daily operations and financial losses to those insurance firms choosing to pay attackers, with the false hope that their attackers will stay away. Instead, organisations must match these attacks with equally effective DDoS protection systems in order to successfully defend their online infrastructures and digital assets.

In doing so, insurance companies should consider enlisting an on-demand DDoS attack specialist to help navigate through the unfamiliar cyberthreat landscape. Expert advice and insight of this kind can greatly benefit individual teams, the entire company, and its key stakeholders in better understanding how to mitigate the risks of emerging DDoS attacks.

Additionally, investing in a strong and effective DDoS protection system is also necessary to successfully mitigate emerging DDoS threats. Only by implementing a comprehensive DDoS mitigation system can organisations within the insurance sector prevent DDoS attacks from imposing significant damages. However, it is imperative that these protection systems are regularly maintained and tested to identify recent changes in attack methodology. Periodic testing in this way ensures that not only are changes to an organisation’s online systems incorporated into a well-rounded protection plan, but also provides insight into new attack trends and how to proactively prepare for them.

Positioning cybersecurity measures for success in this way will provide organisations with more favourable chances of defending their online infrastructures from potential DDoS attacks and extortion campaigns. By carefully following current best practices and implementing effective mitigation tools with the help of an expert, insurance agencies and brokerages can successfully protect their digital assets from DDoS attacks and truly take charge of their cybersecurity to prolong their business continuity.

 

Wealth Management

Green with Envy – an Environmentally Conscious Data Center

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Mark Fenton, Product Manager, Future Facilities

 

Environmental considerations are at the top of every business leader’s agenda and an increasing focus for governments worldwide. For example, in COP 26 discussions at the end of last year, the UK committed to data centers becoming carbon zero by 2050. As a result, there’s growing pressure on data centers – which consume around 1% of global electricity usage – to become greener. Digital twin technology can help data centers reach this goal and achieve additional benefits at the same time.

So, what is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a 3D, virtual replica of a physical data center that can simulate its behaviour under any operating condition or scenario. Using advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD), the replica can help managers plan changes they intend to make, in terms of layout and technology implementation, in a safe environment. Digital twins provide a clear view of the airflow/cooling systems and the power supplies within the data center and give a physics-based view of how they are operating and allow a sand box to test out potential improvements in a virtual environment. This allows stranded capacity to be freed and cooling to be used at the highest possible temperature whilst maintaining ASHRAE levels, without risk. These capabilities can also be applied to making data centers greener as we’ll explore throughout this piece.

Unlocking efficiency to meet environmental goals

Digital twin technology is already being used by several large global financial services enterprises to unlock operational efficiencies and support green goals.

Mark Fenton

For example, a top five global financial services organisation recently implemented the technology in its data centers containing high-density racks of approximately 14KW to maximise capacity and fine tune efficiency without risk. With a digital twin, they achieved a holistic view of cooling, space, power, electrical, and reporting, meaning that changes could be made to increase capacity without triggering overheating or/and an outage. By unlocking capacity, they also delayed the need to build a new data center at great financial and environmental savings.

Extending the lifespan of existing data centers

Black & Veatch has also used digital twin technology to increase the lifespan of its customer’s existing data centers. It reassessed its clients’ data centers using digital twin technology and found that the lifespan of their facilities could be extended by maximising capacity and space utilisation, as well as effectively distributing stranded power. By running several modelling scenarios, Black & Veatch established the optimal configuration to yield mechanical systems performance. This ultimately ensured its clients’ existing data center could meet the company’s needs for longer, mitigating the environmental impacts of building a new data center before absolutely necessary or outsourcing to colocation, saving the company millions of dollars.

Financing data centers in an energy crisis

Finally, a digital twin was used for a financial services customer to measure the data center’s availability, capacity, and efficiency to understand its current operational performance. Through physics-based simulation with digital twin modelling the company’s data center reduced the PUE from 2.35 to 2.0, resulting in a $1.15 million saving in energy costs across a 24-month period. This was made possible by integrating digital twins with existing monitoring and DCIM systems to be automatically updated with new deployments, maintenance schedules, and larger capacity project planning. With this, managers could track energy usage and monitor and optimise efficiency for more environmentally friendly outcomes.

While reducing energy usage is vital for the health of the planet, it’s also essential from a business cost perspective. In the context of the current energy crisis, the cost of running data centers is increasing significantly, so operators must think of ways to minimise expenses, and energy efficiency offers a clear road to this.

A new era of data center management

In 2022, data center managers face a whole host of challenges, none more prominent than the climate change battle. As such, data centers have a responsibility to run as efficiently as possible to maximise capacity. Small changes to the data center’s efficiency across large global organisations can make a big difference to the overall business and environmental cost. Not only will this be greener for the planet but will also help protect companies against rising energy prices.

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Technology

How Digital Adoption Platforms can enhance digital transformation and customer experience in the insurance industry

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By Vara Kumar, CPTO & Co-founder, Whatfix

 

Like many industries, the insurance sector was prematurely hastened towards digitalisation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, digital adoption continues to be a key focus of many organisations to strengthen their fully or partially remote workforce with nearly 50% of IT spend being put behind the growth of core applications and infrastructure, and an additional 25% being invested into digital solutions.

But with millions of claims processed every year, needing to provide superior customer service to drive retention, complex procedures and processes to navigate and both internal rules and external regulations to follow, digital transformation plans for insurance organisations are filled with challenges.

Increasingly digitalised workforce

With the pandemic came an overhaul of how we work. Remote and hybrid working is now the norm, and across most industries, there’s been a huge expansion in both the number and type of digital applications used to communicate, collaborate and enhance productivity across an organisation.

For the insurance industry, this has meant that every employee, from underwriters to customer service agents, has had to adapt to handling their steps of the process, from setting up coverage to filing a claim, remotely, and across multiple platforms and tools.

The challenge is ensuring this more digitalised workforce fully understands how to successfully navigate each application effectively and efficiently to ensure they can deliver on their services and customer experience (CX). But putting together a skilled, high-performing IT team can be difficult – according to an enterprise study, 54% of organisations said they’re not able to accomplish their digital transformation goals because of a lack of technically-skilled employees. This is further complicated by the fact that, in an age of labour shortages, the sector is forced to get creative and find ways of managing the workload and navigating new technologies with a smaller workforce.

Changing customer expectations

On top of the challenges that the increasingly digitalised workforce is experiencing, the tech-savvy customer of today also expects more from their insurers. Indeed, the pandemic forced customers as well as organisations to become more IT-literate, and in the customer service space in particular, customer expectations are high.

Customers today want and expect to be able to make maturity or house insurance claims in an efficient and straightforward manner, across multiple platforms, from phone to email to social media, preferably in a matter of minutes.

McKinsey observes that improving the value chain from the customer’s point of view is an important step within digital-ecosystem efforts, and HubSpot found that 90% of consumers expect an immediate response to a customer support issue, with 60% defining ‘immediate’ as under ten minutes. Even pre-pandemic 44% of customers were comfortable utilising chatbots for insurance claims, and 43% were comfortable using them when buying insurance policies.

Undergoing a digital transformation on the customer side is crucial then, as insurance providers that can meet these changing customer expectations are more likely to attract and retain customer loyalty now and in the future. However, just 30% of insurers believe that they have the capabilities to fully digitalise their customer experience.

So, what can insurers do to meet the technological demands of a digitalised workforce and a multi-channel CX for tech-savvy customers?

Using DAPs to boost digital transformations and CX

In a rapidly changing market, Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) can be a huge advantage to insurers looking to manage the challenges of today and come out on top. A piece of instructional no-code software that sits as an additional layer on top of other software applications, such as Claims Management or Policy Administration Systems, to help train and guide users on how to best use the software, DAPs can massively improve the agility and effectiveness of business processes across an organisation.

On the employee side, for example, DAPs can help insurers to manage challenges of a frequently changing workforce by making it easier for employees to get to grips with new digital applications. With the likes of  guided walk-throughs and task lists, which help employees through each step they need to know and just-in-time nudges to reduce policy administration, claim, or underwriting processing times, employees are more efficient and technology adoption is streamlined and accelerated. Easy to integrate into existing systems, DAPs can be used to not only train and onboard new employees but also upskill veteran workers, training the workforce as a whole on the latest technologies being used across the industry. As a result, everyone from underwriters, claims, and service representatives will better understand insurance tools that will enable them to be more productive and better deliver customer experiences leading to better business outcomes. Indeed, from the customer perspective, DAPs can enable companies in the insurance industry to keep CX positive and smooth. Firstly, by training on near real-life scenarios and secondly, by being able to more easily navigate applications, processes and systems internally, customer service representatives will be able to spend more time and focus on the customer and on resolving their queries, without being hindered by technological hurdles. For example, errors made in policy or claims processing can be reduced if employees can use self-help elements of DAPs to mitigate issues and solve queries themselves, in real-time. As a result, customers will be happier with their service, and more likely to stay loyal to that brand.

Customer-facing platforms can also be improved using DAPs. Typically, legacy apps whether on our phones or online, can make it difficult for users to complete their tasks, leaving them frustrated. With DAP user-specific content and just-in-time support, such as pop-ups, automated walk-throughs and user guides for every part of the user journey, customers can experience a smoother journey and have their queries and issues resolved more efficiently..

Drive efficiency and customer satisfaction

DAPs are already growing in popularity, with Gartner predicting that by 2025, “70% of organizations will use digital adoption solutions across the entire technology stack to overcome still insufficient application user experiences.”

So, now is the time for insurance providers to leverage this technology to facilitate their digital transformation plans. By ensuring their increasingly dispersed and digitalised workforce can use the latest applications to their full potential, and that their customer journey is as efficient and easy-to-use across the multiple channels customers expect, insurers will see huge benefits, from increased efficiencies to improved customer satisfaction.

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