As widespread cyber breaches have become a routine part of the news cycle, strengthening and updating company cybersecurity practices has become more important than ever.
To aid agents and brokers in better understanding cyber risks and coverage options, the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) and its carrier council, The PIA Partnership, have launched a new educational resource, “Cyber 101,” on its website.
Cyber 101 is designed to help independent agents gain practical knowledge about the cyber risks faced by businesses, as well as the insurance coverages that have evolved to help protect those businesses. This knowledge will in turn help these agents determine what cyber coverage to recommend to their clients and prospects.
“Agents and carriers have tiptoed into the cyber arena for a number of years. The age of wading slowly is over," says the chair of The PIA Partnership, Nicole Carter, CIC, manager of agent/broker relations at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “Agents need the same level of expertise and competence about cyber that they have with other areas of risk and insurance. Their clients increasingly expect it.”
The Cyber 101 project began at the start of 2016 as carrier research and general feedback from insurance professionals indicated there was a serious need among agents and brokers to better understand cyber exposures and coverage options, both for their clients and also for their own firms. The program was designed to serve as a one-stop-shop platform, providing easy access to educational tools such as the Cyber Webinar series. It also includes links to the various carrier resources.
“Our hope is that by elevating this resource, we can create a greater sense of urgency, a call to action to ‘insure yourself, then educate and protect your customers,’” Carter adds.
Evaluating the risks
In their research and development process, The PIA Partnership teamed up with ABA Insurance Services Inc. (ABAIS).
“Many small and mid-sized business owners and operators do not understand the many ways that their businesses can suffer a cyber-related loss," says ABAIS Senior Product Manager David Rupnow. "Because so many people are affected by the data breaches at very large companies, news reports often focus on these events. However, our experience shows us that small businesses are also at risk, and not just from data breaches.”
ABAIS and The PIA Partnership have identified seven key areas that may put small and mid-sized businesses at risk. These seven areas will be a topic of interest on Cyber 101 each month as the course rolls out, and includes:
- Fraudulent funds transfers.
- Social engineering.
- Business interruption.
- Data breach/privacy.
- Network security.
- Website media liability.
PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Mike Becker says the Cyber 101 program provides agents with both general knowledge of the cyber landscape, as well as detailed information and claims examples for each of the seven key areas of focus.
After adding their agency contact information, agents can download materials including interactive claims examples to provide to clients.
Carter says for the insurance industry – as for everyone – it can be argued that the biggest cyber threat is complacency. After years of hearing about cyber breaches, people are beginning to grasp the nature of the risk. Still, many agents and brokers still seem to think “It won’t happen to me or my clients,” which is a dangerous mistake.
“Cyber 101 is designed to get the message out to agents, brokers and everyone,” she adds. “The Cyber threat is real, it’s growing, and everyone needs to ensure that they are protecting themselves appropriately.”
Rollout to be ongoing
While general cyber educational information is available on the Cyber 101 page on PIA’s site, the program will roll out in full over the course of seven months.
PIA Partnership incoming Chair Tom Hamilton says each month, new materials will be introduced, covering another one of the seven areas of focus, enabling agents to explore each topic and promote the accompanying materials to their current and prospective clientele in a “steady, methodological fashion.”
Live seminars will be held monthly, each focusing on one of the seven areas of focus, with related materials provided. Those will be archived for members to access at any time following their release.
PIA National’s senior vice president of products and services Alexi Papandon says in addition to the many educational resources made available directly through the Cyber 101 website, agents can use the site to access additional cyber resources made available directly through the PIA Partnership companies. (Established in 1996, the PIA Partnership is a group of insurance companies that work collaboratively with PIA agents and leadership to conduct research and develop tools and resources designed to benefit professional independent insurance agents).