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  • Market Insight 01 December 2020 01 December 2020
  • Global

  • Insurance 2021 - the year ahead

When we look back on 2020 from a cyber incident perspective, it will stand out as a year that saw a significant rise in the use of ransomware, and a corresponding increase in the amount of virtual currency demanded as ransom.

In Q3 2020, cybersecurity experts observed a 40-50% increase in the average number of daily ransomware attacks compared to the first half of the year. Year-on-year, it is believed that ransomware attacks have more than doubled.

Unfortunately, 2021 seems unlikely to offer any respite. Instead, we anticipate businesses may face cyber incidents that not only continue to increase in frequency but are also more malicious and driven by threat actors' desire to generate financial returns far greater than what has been achieved by holding encryption keys for ransom. The disturbing increase in the frequency and severity of cyber incidents toward the end of 2020 raises the specter that future attacks will evolve into events that threaten to cause property damage or bodily injury if a ransom is not paid. 

As we work with businesses, we are seeing an increasing willingness by threat actors to use sophisticated cyberattacks to physically damage computer systems. It is only a matter of time before threat actors change their revenue generation tactics to leverage bigger paydays out of threats of property damage and bodily injury. Cyberattacks causing property damage or bodily injury are not new and examples include the 2001 release of raw sewage into parks and rivers in Australia, the 2014 German steel plant explosion, and the 2015 Ukrainian power grid failure

Significantly, 2020 saw the first case of a hospital patient death linked to a cyberattack when computer systems were disabled at Dusseldorf University Hospital in Germany. In October, the FBI warned of an increase in ransomware attacks threatening the US healthcare system, raising concerns that healthcare providers and their patients are at serious risk of harm.

The use of threats of bodily injury and property damage to extort money seems like a return to the bank robberies of the Wild West. However, the Wild West is precisely the situation we find ourselves in from a ransomware perspective as 2020 draws to a close. This is why our prediction, with regret, is that 2021 will see an increase in cybercriminals utilizing modern-day techniques to extract money using age-old threats. The question is: is there a sheriff on the horizon?

View all our Insurance 2021 predictions here


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