Cowbell’s Le and Thompson: Threat actors heightening their focus on “quality” of data

Cowbell’s chief claims officer said that threat actors are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks, now targeting the “quality” of data rather than just volume, and that social engineering threats have evolved beyond just business email compromise.

Le was speaking alongside the insurtech’s chief underwriting officer Caroline Thompson to The Insurer TV at last week’s NetDiligence Cyber Risk Summit in Miami Beach, where they also discussed their outlook on industry subsegments that look attractive in the year ahead.

Le commented on the well-established narrative of a resurgence in threat activity, and called a recent increase in claims severity “concerning”, as she highlighted new tactics threat actors are employing.

“We've noticed that the threat actor groups have become more complex. The strategies to monetise their crimes are also more complex, and so what we're seeing is pressure tactics that we haven't seen before,” Le commented.

“In years past, it might have been a big smash-and-grab for large quantities of data – maybe that's financial data or personal information, like social security numbers – and in more recent times, we've seen more of a purposeful targeting of quality data,” Le explained.

“This perhaps can warrant a higher ransom, so if you're taking the secret sauce, the information that may be embarrassing, or that competitors might want, or IP-related to data, this could cause an organisation to pay a ransom that is higher than just large quantities of data,” Le explained.

Social engineering attacks becoming more sophisticated

“So we are seeing a lot of that as well,” she added, while also saying that social engineering attacks – like phish schemes targeting business email compromise – continue to be prevalent and a “concern”.

“That is a very common way of cyber criminals, using social engineering, which used to be email, and now it's phishing via text messages, phone calls, QR codes – so a lot more different methods that they can try and leverage their social engineering to get a human,” Le noted.

“So, it's the human vulnerabilities, of course, as well as the technical vulnerabilities that we see continue to be exploited,” she explained.

Cyber market conditions have dramatically softened in the last year, and Thompson said that she is seeing more underwriters pushing back when it comes to price adequacy.

“People are finally stepping out and saying, ‘Okay, we have to do something about this, it cannot continue’. We've got to close the gap. So I see us addressing some of that this year, whether it be just making sure insureds are better prepared and putting better controls, as well as having more direct conversations about price adequacy.”

Growing trend among insurers to provide security services

Both Cowbell’s CUO and chief claims officer also noted an uptick in services underwriters are providing insureds, such as “micro-” penetration testing and managed detection and response (MDR).

“It's a valuable service, because in the small- to medium-sized enterprise space, we typically see the insureds don't have as much resourcing or a robust in-house team,” Le commented.

“So, recognising that and knowing that they have a cyber policy that will add value, but also act as outside consultants… and in claims as well, when there's a claim that arises, or a bunch of claims, and there's valuable data in that process that comes to light, then we can feed that information into our underwriting, but also our risk engineering teams,” Le said.

Thompson added: “We're not there yet, where the entire insurer community is doing that active, proactive outreach. And you're seeing a lot of carriers apply this, but the insurtechs were first.”

Thompson also said the firm applies analytic tools to its claims data, risk engineering, and threat intelligence to assess what industry subsegments to target, and that public administrative entities and education have the best loss ratios in Cowbell’s portfolio.

“We have a book mix that's diverse and I'm taking a look at it all, consistently and this year, I do want to grow, specifically, the finance book, because I think it's performing well,” she explained.

Watch the full Insurer TV interview with Cowbell’s CUO Caroline Thompson and chief claims officer Theresa Le to hear more on:

  • Industry subsegments which Cowbell sees as the best-performing this year and emerging claims trends
  • How Cowbell is evolving its pricing strategy with the softening of the market
  • Cowbell’s performance in terms of rating risk, managing limits and adjusting to severe uncertainty in the market
  • How Cowbell’s team manages claims that differentiate it from its competitors
  • And more…