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Life Distributors Wrestle With Cyberattack Threat

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Many of the attendees and speakers at NAILBA 36 are talking about how to protect their own systems, and the United States, against cyber threats.

Theresa Payton, a former White House chief information officer and a cyber security expert, talked about the conflict between the opportunities and the threats during a workshop Thursday.

Technology connects us, helps drive up efficiencies and spurs innovation, Payton said.

“Through our devices and other technologies, we’re able to collect, communicate, analyze and act on data, creating new value and improving customer experiences,” she said.

As a society, and as individuals, we want that, Payton said.

But, as technology advances, she said, that information gets exposed, and data breaches occur — with the most recent being at Equifax, where a breach put 146 million Americans at risk of identity theft.

(Related: NAILBA Enters a New Age

Because of the data breaches at Equifax, Yahoo, Target, LinkedIn and other companies, “our focus has been on protecting servers, data, the cloud or an internet of things device,” Payton said. “But the game has changed while we were busy securing components.”

One threat that’s gone largely uncontrolled is the threat of manipulation of “social sentiment,” Payton said.

Payton said social sentiment played a part in the 2016 presidential election, with Russian spies spreading false information on Facebook and other social media platforms.

“My prediction is that a foreign country will leverage social sentiment again within the next 12-18 months through fake news and disrupt an American business or an entire industry,” she said.

Payton said we can try and legislate our way to a cyber secure nation, “but if you want legislation to be your salvation, then you better be careful what you wish for.”

She cited Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank as two well-meaning consumer protection bills that “wound up being more of a stick to beat you with after the fact than offering protections to people or businesses.”

With tax reform making headlines these days, Payton said a better solution would be in offering an R&D tax cut. “Insurance and financial institutions are entrusted with so much client data. Why not offer incentives through an R&D tax credit to insurance and other companies who are willing to beef up cyber security in efforts to keep client data safer?”

Whatever the method a cyberattack takes, it’s put a burden on corporate America and the insurance industry, according to Jim Sorebo, the 2017 NAILBA chairman.

Earlier this week, Sorebo told ThinkAdvisor, “Today the cyber insurance industry is at $1.3 billion in premiums; by 2020 it’s estimated to be at $20 billion in premiums. Cyber threats are truly disrupting our industry, and we have to pay attention to that threat.”

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