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Cyber awareness campaign aims to highlight growing exposures

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NEW YORK — The growing business role of the internet, the mounting exposures this brings and ways to manage and mitigate these new threats topped the agenda at a meeting of cyber experts which coincided with the start of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

“What a great way to kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month,” Tracie Grella, global head of cyber for American International Group Inc. in New York, told an audience of cyber specialists attending the Business Insurance Cyber Summit Conference in New York on Friday.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and “securing the internet is our shared responsibility,” according to a slogan emblazoned across the webpage of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Department of Homeland Security also has a page devoted to the subject.

The internet offers great advantage to business and industry, but has emerged also as a major exposure, experts say.

“The internet is the greatest engine of economic growth in the world today,” said Vincent Vitkowsky, attorney, Seiger Gfeller Laurie L.L.P. in New York.

“Cyber is now universally recognized by both regulators and policymakers as a major threat facing the insurance industry,” said Fred Karlinsky, co-chair, insurance regulatory and transitions practice, for Greenberg Traurig L.L.P. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Ransomware is one example of the growing exposure.

“Ransomware, along with social engineering, is the fastest growing area of incidents,” Richard Bortnick, senior counsel, Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry, Red Bank, New Jersey, said, adding that about $1 billion was paid to ransomware attacks in 2016.

Maintaining pace with this growing exposure will require a fundamental shift in the way companies think about and deal with cyber issues and exposures.

“The thing about cyber is that the risk evolves and changes so rapidly,” along with the coverage and regulatory structure, Mr. Vitkowsky said.

“One of our greatest challenges today will in fact be to help companies grow a culture of cyber communication, collaboration and information sharing,” Ms. Grella said.

The cultural shift may have to extend even beyond industry and into the educational realm.

“What we really need is cyber technology data security to be taught more now at the high school, college and graduate school level so that we’ll all 20 years from now be in a better position,” said Gail Arkin, senior vice president and general counsel, Berkley Cyber Risk Solutions, New York.

The October awareness month attempts to show that there are steps everyone can take to improve “cyber hygiene” as the FBI calls it.

“Cyber risks can seem overwhelming in today’s hyper-connected world, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and reduce your risk,” said Assistant Director Scott Smith of the FBI’s cyber division in a statement on the bureau’s awareness month website.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month was launched in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, according to the FBI site.