WITH computer hacking at “epidemic levels”, a world-renowned investigator has warned that The Bahamas is among those countries most likely to be targeted because of its vulnerability.
Juval Aviv, the former Mossad agent who successfully led the Israeli government’s bid to track down the Palestinian militants responsible for assassinating 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, has spent the last four decades studying and developing solutions to a new kind of threat – cyber-attacks and financial intelligence.
He returned to The Bahamas this month for a second time to help Insurance Management and Summit Insurance Company launch their cyber security insurance coverage.
“We must face the truth,” said Mr Aviv. “We live in a dangerous world. In earlier decades, we could see the enemy. We knew their method of attack. Today, the enemy could be anywhere - in a garage, in a basement, in a room in Pakistan or Ukraine, or on a farm in China, and their attacks are carried out in secret.
“No longer guns, knives, tanks. Their weapons are more frightening, posing more potential damage. They already have the ability to knock out the power supply of the United States, to take down the entire grid.”
Through hacking, viruses or ransomware, Mr Aviv said their illicit activities have no borders. He warned that those who pose the greatest threat to individual, business and national security set their sights on the easiest targets.
“Today, Latin America, the Caribbean and The Bahamas are among the most vulnerable,” he told an audience of nearly 100 people representing some of the country’s largest corporations and most active businesses.
“Protect yourself, become cyber resilient,” he said. Attendees shared personal experiences about how their businesses were hacked, disrupted by a virus or hit by ransomware. The latter involves an attack by a cyber fraudster who gets into a system, captures and kidnaps data, and offers to release it for a fee - a move that most consultants strongly advise against.
Anton Sealey, an Insurance Management director, said the insurance broker recognised the danger and wanted to offer companies protection, knowing it would be pioneering in a field certain to grow.
“Our lives revolve around the internet and so do our vulnerabilities,” he said. “So just like we offer coverage for fire, theft, liability or damage from hurricanes, we want to ensure that our clients have the ability to protect themselves against the threat of cyber attacks or system failures.
Along with its in-house underwriter, Summit Insurance Company, Insurance Management identified a broker known for its work in the cyber security space. It last month signed an agreement with UK-based Willis Towers Watson, the world’s third largest underwriter with some 43,000 employees worldwide. Both companies have agreed to accept applications for cyber insurance within two weeks.
“Cyber theft is a $100bn a year crime,” said Marcela Visbal, an attorney who is regional cyber product leader for Latin America with Willis Towers Watson. “While most of it is intentional, some 18 percent comes from accidental divulgence of information and material.”
Sources of cyber fraud are varied. Hacker attacks, viruses, cyber extortion, human error, employee dishonesty and fraud, and system failure are among the most common.
“Even if you retrieve all your data, you experience consequential damages,” explained Ms Visbal, “first and third party claims, extortion costs, data recovery fees, restoration costs, loss of income.” For financial institutions, medical and pharmaceutical companies and others that deal with personal data, there can be reputational damages and legal, public relations and marketing fees.