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Personal cyber risks that every homeowner should understand

This post is part of a series sponsored by The Cincinnati Insurance Companies.

  Don Culpepper, Senior Risk Management Territory Advisor Cincinnati Insurance
Don Culpepper

October is National Cyber ​​Security Awareness Month and the perfect time to reach out to your clients with strategies to protect themselves against cybersecurity risks. In a new interview with the Insurance Journal, Cincinnati shared insurance companies' Don Culpepper best practices for securing their home, with a particular focus on high-value individuals and families. As a senior risk management area consultant, Don has extensive experience in personal lines and offers strategies for improving cyber security in the home.

Don, when you talk to people about cyber risk in the home, what are some of the trends that have emerged in recent years?

Trend No. 1

“It is critical that we become more aware and aware of what is happening inside the home. Our home networks are much more vulnerable today than ever before.

During the post-COVID era, an increasing number of people work from home. If you work with sensitive data, it is important that your network is secure. Don suggests the following best practices:

  • Update passwords with complex combinations of at least 12 characters, including uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols.
  • Make sure your company provides you with encryption software or a virtual private network (VPN), which protects your data and prevents it at home from accessing your connection to the office network. Lock your machine when you are not at the computer.
  • Create a guest WiFi for others to use to limit the likelihood of someone accidentally letting a bad actor into your home or office network.
  • Change the manufacturer's installed password on all devices installed in your home. Many of these devices are installed with 000, 1234 or admin: administrator and bad actors are aware of this.

Trend No. 2

“We have more children and students who now work or are educated from home. The more connected devices, the greater the exposure to bad players.

  • Make sure your virus protection is up to date on all devices.
  • Consider installing a VPN to protect your home network.
  • Pay attention to update messages on all devices. For example, Apple released an emergency update in September to protect against Zero Click Malware.
  • Use a technology company that uses certified information security experts to set up your home network.

Trend No. 3

“We have more connected devices and devices such as Alexa, Google Assistant, Facebook Portal and Echo. These devices are designed to help homeowners with routine tasks around the house. But they also present the potential for bad actors to gain access to personal data or to listen to conversations. In addition, smart home appliances can be used to spread spam, malware, ransomware and more.

Innovation in connected devices provides convenience for homeowners but requires vigilant password protection. Each connected device can be the important point for a bad actor to send nasty emails anonymously. With the help of these household items, such as smart refrigerators or washing machines, once they are hacked, the turning point can send out thousands of emails per hour, which protects the bad actor's identity. Bad actors are known to hack babysitters to watch and scare sleeping babies, smart doorbells and TV cameras are modified to watch homeowners, and your own portable camera can be accessed remotely to monitor you.

Think carefully about the interconnected devices that you place in your home and their connection to the internet. For example, a digital internet-connected thermostat cannot be controlled if the internet goes down. For those living in geographical areas with extreme weather conditions, this may not be appropriate as loss of heating or cooling can endanger both residents and their homes.

Trend No. 4

“There is an increase in extensive phishing attempts by bad actors, via e-mail, text-based telephone messages and social networks. So, looking at your email, being very careful about how you respond to emails and clicks that you make on your various devices is something that needs to be considered.

Pay attention to these tactics:

  • Malvertising, a tactic used on Facebook, occurs when bad actors use online advertising to spread malware.
  • Unwanted communication called "pretext" occurs when a bad actor has enough information about a person to convince them to try to do something they would not normally do or provide information that they would not normally provide.
  • Recently, the airdrop feature on iPhone has been used in cramped areas to send unwanted information and photos to people whose privacy settings have not been set to this information sharing feature. (To secure your iPhone airdrop feature: Settings> General> AirDrop)

Don, let's focus on high value families. Are they a target for a unique set of threats?

“Many high-quality customers want the latest, greatest and best in devices and appliances, and because of their hectic professional and personal lifestyles, they do not usually think about the risks and preventive behavior we have discussed here, or they have people who will handle them for them. One of the risks for people with high value is that one can easily search the internet to reveal identity, financial status, family members, housing and the like, so they are an easy target.

Unique Risks and Limitations Strategies to Consider for Your High Value Customers:

  • These households often include many non-family members, including household staff, property maintenance and contractors. Homeowners should be veterinary installers of units and be vigilant about the availability of non-family members to units in the home.
  • Because privacy is so important, contractors and staff should sign confidentiality agreements before commencing employment, to protect the location of the home and to identify family members from being exploited on social media or that their privacy is being violated.
  • Avoid posting travel and space on social media in real time. From a photo published on social media, a bad actor can use geotagging to identify exactly where the photo was taken, determine where a home is located or how far a homeowner is from the home right now. To protect children's identity, refrain from sharing their location and photos on social media.
  • If travel is part of one's job and requires exposure on social media, increase physical safety at home while they are away.
  • High value individuals are often the target of financial fraud. Be careful when receiving e-mail information for information or requests for electronic signatures. You either validate the sender by phone or delete the email and wait for further requests from legitimate contacts who will search for you in other ways.

What is your advice to insurance agents with high value clients?

“See if you can get an opportunity to meet the client or their representative to gain a real understanding of their lifestyle and if that particular lifestyle accentuates the risk of identity theft or personal security issues.

  • Determine their social media, platforms used and their extended family.
  • Ask who has access or use of their devices or passwords.
  • Suggest a social media or cybersecurity assessment.
  • Discuss any recent threats that need to be considered.

What type of coverage or services do you advise to high value customers?

“In this particular environment, which changes frequently, agents should work with a company that is vigilant in how it is designed and coverage and how it helps to respond to risks that their customers may face. [

Find companies that offer the following for your customers:

  • Risk reduction services through home consultation, cyber security assessment, home bug sweeping and other detection services.
  • Identity theft protection, cyber security protection and personal security coverage.
  • Lawyer services specializing in assisting with recovery efforts in the event of identity theft.
  • Crisis management and public relations services to restore reputation after a crime.

Finally, as we enter National Cyber ​​Awareness Month, Don advises us all to be vigilant.

“The more you are aware of what is happening around you, within your home, within your units. and with whom you associate, you raise your understanding of potential risks for you and your family.

Mitigate these risks with best practices and partnerships with industry experts that remain in line with new trends in cyber threats.


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