Tag Archives: WIRED Magazine

New Vulnerabilities in the Connected World

Many exciting TV shows and movies include hacking as standard fare – overriding security systems, changing traffic lights, causing explosions, even committing untraceable murders. Hacking makes for interesting entertainment. The frightening part? It’s all possible.

The digital connections in our world are multiplying faster than we realize. It is difficult to even think of anything that cannot be connected. Connected cars and connected homes are advancing by leaps and bounds. Livestock such as cattle and sheep are tracked electronically, and your dog or cat may have an embedded chip. Even bees are being outfitted with tiny RFID backpacks. Roads, buildings and transportation systems are beaming real-time information to servers in the cloud. The rapid rise of wearables, hearables, implantables and personal medical devices means that an increasingly large number of people are connected.

The increasingly connected world provides terrific opportunities to improve life on earth. But with opportunity often comes threat – in this case the threat of hacking. And the facts are scarier than the fiction.

The word “hacking” conjures up images of millions of credit cards being stolen from banks or retailers, or perhaps the stealing of corporate secrets or even cyber-espionage between countries. Insurers have been at the forefront of this battle, designing cyber risk coverages and policies to help individuals or businesses address the financial exposure of hacking. But the connected world increases the hacking potential in incalculable ways. Here are just a few examples of other existing vulnerabilities:

  • Connected Cars: Wired magazine hired two hackers to demonstrate how a Jeep Cherokee could be hacked. The hackers showed that they could take over simple tasks like locking or unlocking doors, and could also take over the steering wheel and drive the car over an embankment.
  • Toys: The new Hello Barbie Doll is connected to the Internet and can be hacked to listen in to the conversations in your home.
  • Laptops and Smart TVs: Bad guys can remotely take over the camera and audio for these devices to spy on the laptop user or anyone viewing a Smart TV.
  • Medical Devices: Insulin pumps and other medical devices can be hacked to alter their treatment. For example, the insulin dosage can be changed, resulting in insulin shock and even death.
  • Wearables: Connected watches, shoes and health monitoring devices are notoriously exposed, especially because they often collect very private, personal information.

Fortunately many of these incidents were the work of white hat hackers hired to expose weaknesses. Unfortunately, most of the exposures still exist, and every new chip, sensor and connected device becomes a target. There are several key implications for insurers and individuals:

  • Cyber risk insurance must greatly expand. The industry has done a yeoman’s job thus far in helping to address financial exposures. But now, whole new classes of cyber threats must be evaluated and addressed.
  • Loss control must increasingly consider cyber safety. Individuals and businesses need advice on how to protect their valuable digital information, related to both traditional and new sources.
  • Insurers must consider their own growing cyber vulnerabilities. As companies employ drones, IoT devices and wearables for employees, they must understand and address the potential exposures from theft of the related information.
  • The industry must actively participate in cyber initiatives. New technology defenses, law enforcement approaches and regulation will all play a role in thwarting hackers. Insurers should provide expertise, investment and support to advance important initiatives.

It’s an exciting time to be alive. And it’s an exciting time to be in the insurance industry. Technology, with all of its benefits, is advancing fast – but faster than we can regulate and manage it.

New risks and threats from connected devices definitely exist. But connected devices also provide great opportunities for the insurance industry to play to its strength – protecting valuable assets, promoting safety and providing peace of mind to individuals and businesses alike.

Change at the ‘Speed of Life!’

In my career, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words on change. I was preparing another article for your consideration, when three articles, one invoice and one memory made my ramblings about speed unnecessary. Consider the following, then decide – is the market being transformed?

  1. The memory – In 1978, I represented the Famex Insurance Program through Fireman’s Fund. This was a property and casualty offering to GM’s dealers throughout the country. In those days, the No. 1 concern of GM and her dealers was that GM would reach 65% market share, and then Uncle Sam would break up “Mother GM” into Cadillac, GMC, Olds, Pontiac and Chevrolet. That fear was, of course, never realized. Back in the ’70s, the fantasy of GM was that she was invincible. Today, the bankruptcy of GM is reality‚Ķ. Too big to fail is BS.
  2. The first article: Fast Company (November 2015) – “Hot Sauce U.S.A.,” by Elizabeth Segran. “Where once was Tabasco, there is now sriracha, gochujang and more. What the condiment aisle says about American consumers….While Tabasco accounts for 18% of the hot sauce market, there are now hundreds of varieties available in the U.S. – from Tapatio to Texas Pete – and more than a few of them with foreign roots.” Once, a “local” company controlled the hot sauce market worldwide — today, the global market is served by a much more diverse group of pepper pickers and processors. (In the name of full disclosure, I live within 10 miles of Avery Island, LA, the home of Tabasco. I love Tabasco and was able to enjoy this delicacy in every town I visited in Europe during my year [1972] of service with the Army in Germany.)
  3. The second article: The Week (Oct. 30, 2015) – “Issue of the Week: Walmart’s Wobbly Empire. “What would Sam Walton think if he were alive to see Walmart today?” Brian Sozzi asked. The founder of the behemoth would probably be shocked to see that his pioneering profit formula – low operating costs and extra-discounted prices – is now virtually impossible to maintain. “Walmart understands the challenges it faces, but its decline may be practically inevitable,” David Graham said in theAtlantic.com.
  4. The third article: The Week (Nov. 13, 2015) – Editor’s Letter. “I recently had one of those ‘welcome to the future’ moments that you think only happen in sci-fi movies and dystopian novels. I’d agree over email to get coffee with a friend of a friend, and he cc’ed his personal assistant, Amy, to set up a mutually convenient date. Amy and I emailed back and forth to find an available time slot. She was efficient and gracious, considerate of my schedule constraints and so polite in her responses that, with the meeting arranged, I began typing a brief thank you. Then I glanced at her e-mail signature. There, written in small type, it read ‘powered by artificial intelligence.’ That’s when it hit me: Amy wasn’t actually human. She was an algorithm. I’d been corresponding with a machine all along and hadn’t even realized it.”
  5. The invoice – Wired magazine. I received my 4th reminder to renew my subscription. The cover price for one year was $143.76. “Your special low renewal rate” was $20, plus a “second subscription to your friend for free.” I’m guessing the mailing costs alone for one year exceed the $20 price to me. Wired is a good magazine. I’ve enjoyed it. But in today’s easy access world I’m oversubscribed and under read.

Should we be Wired, too? Because competition and technology will allow innovators to deliver what we sell at a price below our costs? Is it now time to reinvent our organizations to compete in the world as it will be?

In closing, I acknowledge Bob Dylan, one of the first modern-day philosophers, who saw and spoke to the world of change. Our parents thought Dylan was a “flake” or a “fad.” In retrospect, he was right, and they were wrong. Ours is a world being transformed. Suggestions of incremental change are BS!

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Bob Dylan (1964)

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.