Insurers scramble to offer e-crime protection

Companies want protection against the damage caused by viruses, hackers and high-tech blackmailers, but the insurance industry says it is still getting to grips with the practicalities

With e-crime estimated to be costing Britain billions of pounds per year, UK businesses are increasingly looking to their insurance providers for protection against cybercriminals, a prominent insurance-industry executive said on Wednesday.

Insurers, however, are still coming to terms with the dangers posed by hackers, virus writers and high-tech extortionists.

Marie-Louise Rossi, chief executive of the International Underwriters Association, said on Monday that interest in cybercrime protection is growing within the insurance community. "Companies want e-crime protection to be included in their existing insurance policies. But protection from this kind of new threat must be kept separate until it is properly understood," Rossi told the E-Crime Congress 2004 on Wednesday.

Rossi said that her organisation, which represents insurance and reinsurance companies, is currently assessing the cybercrime cover that is available, and trying to define what protection should be provided.

She also suggested that there are no fixed standards in place yet to assess companies' exposure to cybercrime.

"We're having discussions with government and the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] to develop standards to measure digital risk," said Rossi.

On Tuesday, the National Hi-Tech Crime Squad (NHTCU) reported that e-crime is likely to cost British businesses around one billion pounds in 2003.

According to Rossi, every firm needs to be aware of the dangers. "Increasingly, all business is e-business. Even if a firm isn't trading online, they are using IT in their offices, and storing electronic data that they want to keep secure," said Rossi.