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By Karen Wheeler, Country Manager and Vice-President, Affinion UK

A week barely goes by when we don’t hear news of another cyber attack. Most recently, it was corporate giant Deloittethat joined a string of other high-profile companies whose businesseswere faced with serious problems due to a data breach.However, although it’sthe big brands making headlines, it’s important to remember that everyone is susceptible to the risks.

Research by ICAEW has found that 60 per cent of small businesses suffered a malicious breach in the past year and half of them had a serious incident. And new figures by Cifas reveal identity theft is reaching “epidemic levels”, with 89,000 cases recorded in the first six months of the year as ID fraudsters obtain personal information to open loans or store cards in their names.

While there’s certainly an awareness of the dangers associated with sharing sensitive information online, do businesses and consumers have suitable prevention methods in place? And is there, in fact, a role that insurance providers can play in helping to detect and prevent cyber threats moving forward?

The cyber attacks people are most likely to fall victim to

It’s hard to imagine a life without our smartphones and laptops; whether it’s working on the go or checking social media, digital devices have become our constant companions. However, although this convenience is great for helping us live our lives, the reality is that there are moments throughout the day when we may be leaving ourselves vulnerable to fraud.

On the train to work, for example, the desperation to send an important client email may mean joining an insecure Wifi network, which may expose the individual to hackers.Or in the office, just one member of the team clicking on an attachment from an unknown sender can have widespread implications as a potential malware threat can spread quickly across the network.

But it’s not just on our commute or in the office that threats linger; working from home is a growing trend, with figures from TUC revealing the number of employees who say they ‘usually’ work from home has climbed by almost a fifth over the past decade, passing 1.5 million. This move from office to home means an increase in remote log-ins todownload important files from their employer’s server, which could leave the business vulnerable to privacy attacks. The repercussions of a cyber attack can be seriously detrimental; ICAEW found the worst breaches disrupted operations for small businesses for an average of seven to 10 days.

What role can the insurer play when it comes to prevention?

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Where I believe the opportunity lies for insurance providersis helping customers to detect warning signs of fraud and act to prevent against them before they occur – as well as helping to resolve issues if the worst does happen. Consumers already see insurers as the custodians of their physical belongings – homes, cars, phones – as well as their health and business assets, so carving a new role as guardians of their digital presence would perfectly complement this.

In a heavily commodotised market, insurers have to work hard to differentiate themselves, with customers often only selecting a provider based on price. It also presents an opportunity for insurers to engage with customers outside of their lifecycle. Typically, customers only interact with their providers when they’re first setting up the policy, renewing or making a claim. These isolated points of communication don’t allow insurers a huge amount of potential to build a relationship with their customers.

The threat of cyberattacks is unlikely to subside any time soon. There’s a real understanding of this and consumers and businesses alike are actively seeking advice. The government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017 found that three in five businesses have sought information, advice or guidance on the cyber security threats facing their organisations over the past year.But the question remains, who should provide this advice and help?

There’s a clear opportunity for insurance providers to evolve their roles in consumers’ lives. It’s time they moved away frombeingperceived simply as a point of contact during a time of crisis or renewal, to a provider which offers ongoing support to customersby helping keep them safe online.

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