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Penetration Testing, Here’s how Pen-testing your Insurance business’ infrastructure can save it from future disasters

Lorna Jones

Lorna Jones, Senior Cyber Security Consultant
Sep 29, 2023

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Discover vulnerabilities before someone else does, Insure and save your business.

Every business cares to know what might happen in the future and very well cover themselves from any rainy day; hence insurance companies and the insurance industry was born. These insurance businesses grew so much that the insurance industry accounts for 5.6 Trillion dollars (That’s a trillion with a T. It’s estimated 1.7 times by 2027). With the imminent growth of the insurance business, companies had to scale and pushed to do so daily. Alongside this, businesses, when they grew, had to expand in the online world; because it was more cost-effective, faster, and more reliable. Insurance companies grew to accommodate the public’s demand, and they rely heavily on various IT infrastructure components, including servers, networks, databases, and applications, to store and manage sensitive customer data, policies, and financial information.

Understanding What and Where to Secure in the Insurance Companies’ Infrastructure.

Understanding the specific components of an insurance company’s infrastructure is crucial when running infrastructure penetration testing. Here are some essential details to assess:

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
CRMs are the most considerable information hoarding place in the infrastructure of an insurance organisation. They hold the personal data of clients and financial records; from our standpoint, having privileged access to that information must have a limited number of people. 

Policy Administration & Claims Processing Systems
The place where all insurance policies, premium calculation of those policies, and all the gold mines of an insurance company are stored. Not testing the security of this system could prove data manipulation and policy tampering.
The claims Processing system is where managing and processing insurance claims are. These systems handle sensitive data related to policyholders, claim amounts, medical records, and other supporting documents.

Financial Platforms
As an insurance business owner, your business holds your clients’ financial data, like bank numbers, financial records, transaction history, and other critical and sensitive information. You know very well that you should invest in a better system and infrastructure, knowing that 90% of insurance companies use cloud infrastructure for their systems, applications and data storage, and 82.4% are willing to continue using it. You mutter to yourself:” Should I join the 7.6% and switch back to using in-house data centres for my business?” (Well, each person has their thoughts on the matter, but scalability, reliability, and minimal downtime are the key defining factors of cloud infrastructures. So from a firm’s side specialising in cyber security, it is best to stay with the cloud and put the rest of the budget into reverting to in-house servers for better security).

Data Storage, Backup Systems, Network Infrastructure and Connectivity
Insurance companies rely on secure and resilient network infrastructure to ensure seamless communication, connectivity, and access to critical systems. Assessing the security of the network’s infrastructure, including firewalls, routers, switches, and virtual private networks (VPNs), helps identify potential vulnerabilities or misconfigurations that could allow unauthorised access, data interception, or network-based attacks. Assessing the security of data & backup systems is crucial too in keeping a secure network and ensuring that your business’ network infrastructure is safe.
In conclusion, after explaining what insurance companies’ systems compound and secure. We will look at prior incidents. Learn from the mistakes of others, the importance of infrastructure pen-testing, and how to mitigate risk.

Importance of Infrastructure Penetration Testing

Here are some real-life incidents that left targeted insurance companies incapacitated:
“Back in October 2018, AXA in Mexico was attacked by an unknown method that caused a data breach, causing problems to the payment matching system of the SPEI interbank and the central bank of Mexico to raise the security alert of its payment system. AXA disclosed that the company lost no personal information or money.”
“The third most major insurance company In Brazil, Porto Seguro, experienced a cyber-attack on October 2nd, 2021. This attack resulted in instability in the company’s services and some of its systems. Fortunately, no data leakage occurred from either side.”
“Germany, Bitmarck, the largest IT security provider for health insurance companies, was struck by a cyberattack in April 2023, and it was the second hit that year after the January attack in which someone stole 300 thousand; names, dates of birth, and insurance card ID numbers belonging to policyholders.”
“Back in mid-April 20, 2023. Point32Health, the second-largest health insurer in Massachusetts, reported technical outages resulting from ransomware; that brought down the company’s systems.”

In conclusion, there are far more incidents that would triple this article’s reading time, and the best way to avoid becoming a statistic in some articles; is to check for vulnerabilities in your systems and penetration test your infrastructure.
Insurance companies handle vast amounts of sensitive customer data, including personal information, financial details, and policy-related data. As such, they must prioritise the security of their IT infrastructure. Here are some key reasons why infrastructure penetration testing is vital for insurance companies:

Risk Identification and Mitigation

By simulating real-world scenarios, seasoned cybersecurity experts can identify issues and misconfigurations in the infrastructure, and by exploiting them, they can assess the severity of possible attacks.

Compliance Requirements

The insurance industry is under heavy regulations that they have to comply with, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States, occasionally; one of these regulations, imposes the need for regular or a one-time infrastructure penetration testing to pass.

Customer Trust and Reputation

To keep the reputation of your business above water, it is necessary to show your clients that you are going above and beyond to safeguard their data by conducting regular tests throughout the year.

Third-Party Risk Management

Some insurance businesses get hit by a breach, and it’s not even their fault. 88% of insurance organisations say they use some third-party providers to perform a crucial task. The breach happened because one of the third-party partners had a point of entry that someone did exploit and gained unauthorised access.

Key Focus Areas Microminder advises businesses to review for Infrastructure Penetration Testing.

Your business must focus more on essential scopes commonly targeted by attackers when conducting infrastructure penetration testing. These scopes are:

Network Vulnerabilities
As mentioned, assessing network vulnerabilities involves identifying weaknesses in network devices, such as firewalls, routers, switches, and VPNs. Testers conduct common vulnerabilities, unauthorised access, and weak authentication mechanisms. Assessing network vulnerabilities with penetration testing could identify potential entry points and ensure to implement network defences adequately.

Web Application Security
Insurance organisations rely on web applications for several reasons; one is the customer portal or the app the customer sees when they access their insurance account to file a complaint or check any new promotions and policies. It’s substantial to pen-test the security of these web applications for several common vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, insecure session management, and improper input validation. Web application penetration testing helps identify weaknesses that could lead to unauthorised access, data breaches, or the compromise of customer accounts.

Access Controls and Privilege Management
You’re the business owner. The level of permissions and access is far higher than a desk officer. So, Your IT team should control the rest of your business’s licences and authentication to avoid insider threats or social engineering incidents. Penetration testing helps identify vulnerabilities such as weak passwords, improper role assignments, or unauthorised access to critical systems.

Data Protection Mechanisms
The insurance industry holds one of the most sensitive and targeted data, evaluating encryption practices, data protection protocols, and database access control measures. Penetration Testing could help uncover vulnerabilities that could expose sensitive data and ensure appropriate data protection measures are in place to mitigate risks.
Wireless Network Security
Inside the establishments of your organisation, the Wi-iI network is vulnerable to many attacks, such as middle-man attacks, unauthorised access or network eavesdropping. Penetration testing helps mitigate risks for any network vulnerabilities; this includes examining the configuration of wireless access points, encryption protocols, and authentication mechanisms.

Specific Vulnerabilities and Solutions

During infrastructure penetration testing, it is possible to encounter specific vulnerabilities that require attention and remediation. (I can tell you this after testing 11 thousand web & mobile applications, and 99% of those tests identified vulnerabilities, 59% were high risk, and 40% were access and authentication-related issues). Here are some of the security exposures that your business might encounter.

Misconfigurations are security breaches’ most common theme, and the reason is everything needs configuration, and a business’s IT team cannot configure everything correctly (hence human error “90% of security threats are human error”). Hiring a cybersecurity firm used to deal with daily configuration becomes second nature.
Weak Authentication
Weak passwords of default passwords, not using 2FA (Two-Factor-Authentication), over 80% of security breaches can be eliminated by adopting the use of Two-factor Authentication, said Symantec. Solutions include enforcing strong password policies, implementing MFA, and educating users about password best practices. Regular password audits and implementing password rotation can also enhance authentication security.

Inadequate Logging and Monitoring
Your business must have satisfactory logging and monitoring systems. Logging is the indicator of any vulnerabilities, suspicious activities or security incidents. Companies should request a firm or go through it with their in-house team to set up and ensure that intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS) and leveraging Security Information and Event Management (SIEM). Regular log analysis and monitoring enable timely detection and response to security incidents.
Poor security posture
To safeguard data from cyberattacks and mitigate cloud vulnerabilities, insurance companies must establish a robust cybersecurity framework capable of addressing a broad range of risks and threats.
However, the traditional approaches utilised by insurance companies, such as questionnaires, penetration tests, and on-site assessments, have limitations. These methods are time-consuming, providing only a snapshot of the company’s cybersecurity posture at a particular moment. Such an approach must include the continuous security monitoring required to protect data adequately.
To effectively counter cyber risks in the insurance industry, security teams need advanced tools that enable real-time monitoring of their cybersecurity posture. Automated solutions allow insurance companies to monitor their security posture continuously, providing a more accurate and up-to-date understanding of their overall security status within a shorter time frame.

How do I make sure my insurance business will not be under attack?

You can’t afford to compromise if you’re an insurance business owner with an online presence. You can trust our team to help you scale your business safely. Our security experts can speak with you and help protect your business. Join the cyber sanctuary of Microminder and start building a secure future for your business today!

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