This year, the world has seen a record-breaking number of cyber-crime breaches, with Equifax being the latest victim of a hack, with over 700,000 British consumer's sensitive personal information accessed and lost by the US credit monitoring firm.

In May, our very own National Health Service suffered a breach, which is the largest cyber-attack in the UK this year.

The growth of cyber-attacks has been unprecedented, with the first half of 2017 witnessing more worldwide data leaks and thefts than in the whole of the previous year, with 1.9 billion records compromised since 1 January 2017, up from 1.37 billion for the whole of 2016.

These statistics come after digital security company, Gemalto, released a breach level index, suggesting on average 10 million records are swiped or exposed each day.

What can we do to stay protected…

There are a number of simple and easy measures we can take to ensure we are not a victim of cyber-crime.

Keeping software updated is just one key area where we can ensure we're protected – whether it's in the office or at home, security experts say users should ensure their computer software is always up to date.

This comes as generally important security updates are contained within new software downloads or patches which are released in response to known vulnerabilities, and can prevent known viruses from infecting a device.

Emails are another area where we should remain vigilant especially with senders we do not recognise or if an email looks suspicious. If you're unsure, do not open any links or download attachments from the email.

Experts also warn that software, applications and other programs should never be downloaded from unofficial sources as this is another common method for hackers to secretly install malware onto computers.

In addition to all of the above, one of the most critical areas is to make our passwords stronger.

Although we do have to change these every 90 days, where we can, we should be using strong passwords made up of at least three random words using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols to make passwords even stronger.

What we can offer our clients…

According to analysis undertaken by Towergate on a government report, 60% of small businesses suffered a data breach in the last year, with a further 16% who experienced a 'denial of service' attack – making their computer systems unusable.

We therefore know there is a growing threat of cyber-crime to small businesses – a key client group of ours, and it is vitally important we provide best advice on the vast range of cyber policies which are available to them.

While there are a number of cyber policies available, the key exposures or covers to be considered fall under the following headings:

  • Cyber incident response costs (including legal, regulatory, IT security, forensic, legal breach notification and crisis communications)
  • Cyber crime (including social engineering, theft of personal funds, extortion or ransomware)
  • System damage and System business interruption (including first party reputational harm)
  • Network Security and Privacy Liability (including management liability, regulatory fines, payment card industry fines, penalties and assessments)
  • Media liability (including defamation and intellectual property rights infringement)
  • Technology Errors and Omissions (where technology services are provided)
  • Court attendance Costs (for applicable claims under the cyber policy)

In addition to the growing threat of cyber-crime, changes to data protection legislation under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018, will result in significantly increased penalties for breaches.

The Commissioners Offices could levy up to £500,000 for breaches, and penalties will reach an upper limit of €20 million or 4% or annual global turnover (whichever is higher).

All of this means it's essential we are more vigilant than before, and brokers should be carrying out appropriate conversations with their clients, they could be left underinsured.