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2020 Innovation Awards: FM Global Cyber Lab

2020 Innovation Awards: FM Global Cyber Lab

FM Global

FM Global recognized the growing hazard of cyber losses over the past few years and determined it needed to provide expert guidance to its clients, just as it already did for fire and earthquake risks. 

The insurer used the same hands-on approach it takes with these other hazards in creating the FM Global Cyber Lab in Norwood, Massachusetts, which enables risk managers to see firsthand how their systems can be attacked, albeit in a secure environment.

“It’s very hard to get your head around what (cyber risk) means, and how to prevent it, and it comes with its own language,” said Jens Alkemper, FM Global’s manager of cyber research. The insurer’s approach “breaches the barrier” between cybersecurity people and risk managers “and helps them communicate with each other,” he said.

“We can put a demo on and really show how things happen,” and then respond to risk managers’ questions, Mr. Alkemper said. This gives the risk managers a basis to talk to their chief information officers and better understand the defenses they have in place, he said. 

The program, a winner of a 2020 Business Insurance Innovation Award, is available to policyholders at no cost.

The process involves injecting a virus into a virtual environment either through email or cyber phishing.

“We use a real virus,” Mr. Alkemper said. “This is not a re-creation. This is the actual stuff that is out there wrecking companies.”

The lab monitors the cyber environment to see how the virus acts. “We don’t care about the code of the virus but about what it does,” Mr. Alkemper said.

The virus’ impact “happens amazingly fast,” he said.

“It’s a little bit of show and tell,” demonstrating how an attack unfolds and how fast the damage spreads, Mr. Alkemper said. “Things become real for them. We give them the ability to understand something that was very hard for them to understand.”

“It’s almost physical when they start to understand how bad it can be for them,” Mr. Alkemper said. That’s when he feels “I just made a difference here,” he said. “That’s the cool part.”

Mr. Alkemper said that risk manager visits to the lab have been suspended for now because of the pandemic, although the insurer’s research is continuing, including remotely.

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