by Theresa Breunig-Silbernagel, Head of Personal Lines, Main Street America Insurance •
We live in a digital world that has its many benefits like connecting us to our family and friends and giving us tools to make our lives more convenient. Unfortunately, it also opens the door for cybercrimes that can wreak havoc on our personal and professional lives – sometimes without us even being aware it’s happening. But protecting yourself and your data can be as simple as improving your online habits and taking advantage of home cyber protection to safeguard the things that may be out of your control.
Whether you own or rent, you likely have an insurance policy in place to protect your property and possessions from physical damage, but what happens if the damage affects your digital files or equipment?
That’s where home cyber protection comes in.
What Does Home Cyber Protection Cover?
Think about everything you do online. How many devices do you have connected to the internet? How many online accounts do you have with various companies? Each one of those activities and connection points is a gateway for potential cybercrimes, and home cyber protection can help.
Home cyber protection acts as a safety net in case cybercriminals target you and can help you recover information and financial losses should an attack happen to you. A good home cyber protection policy should cover some of these common risks:
- Cyberattack. Cyberattacks are viruses that target your computers, smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers, security systems and other connected devices. Your policy can help protect your home from unauthorized access or malware attacks and cover the cost of removing the viruses or reprogramming devices that need it.
- Cyberbullying. Online harassment can have a profound impact on your life. Fortunately, cyber coverage can protect against lost wages, provide reimbursement for temporary relocation costs, pay for expenses to resolve school disciplinary issues or costs associated with temporary private tutoring, and help cover legal expenses up to policy limits.
- Cyber extortion. Ransomware attacks are a digital form of extortion. With home cyber protection, coverage can help pay for experts to get your files back or reimbursement for any ransom you may have paid, including expenses associated with cybersecurity to prevent additional events.
- Data breach. While most people think of data breaches with large companies, it can happen on a smaller scale – even something as small as a school fundraiser. If you keep other people’s personal data, such as a credit card, on a device that gets stolen, you could be at fault. Home cyber protection insurance can cover the costs of notifying the people whose data was compromised and pay for credit monitoring services as compensation.
- Identity fraud. This includes identity theft, phishing schemes and unauthorized banking or credit card transfers. With identity fraud coverage, you can get reimbursed for expenses to recover your identity and keep others from using your name or money.
Some home cyber protection plans have additional coverage. Ask your insurance agent if your coverage includes:
- Access to fraud specialists. These specialists are expert guides that will help you through the process of recovery until your case is resolved. You can rest easy knowing that if a cyberattack does impact you, you won’t have to figure out how to fix it alone.
- Active cyber monitoring. Some coverage can monitor your information in real time and help you prevent or minimize loss due to cybercrime.
- Protection from lawsuits. If you face allegations for unintentional online libel, slander or invasion of privacy, your coverage may help pay for legal expenses.
- Replacement data. Sometimes data is the target of cybercrimes or is affected by cyberattacks. This coverage will help replace or repair data lost as a result of cybercrime, like pictures or any other documents saved on your computer, phone or other connected device.
- Retrieving documents. In some cases, people have important financial or identification documents stolen. Getting them replaced can be time-consuming but protection with a home cyber insurance plan may make the process a little easier for you.
While homeowners insurance and renters insurance are important, they may not cover everything you need. It’s important to talk to your insurance agent to find out what your current policy does and does not cover.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Cyber Theft?
Basic homeowners insurance covers a lot of things, but cyber theft coverage is generally not included in the standard homeowners contract. Cyber protection may be offered as an endorsement or a rider (an amendment to your policy that gives added benefits). Talk to your insurance agent about cyber protection to determine what endorsements would work for you.
Why Do You Need Personal Cyber Protection?
According to statistics from the Insurance Information Institute, in 2020, more than 170 million people were affected by cybercrime. The problem is not confined to computers, either - cyber attacks on mobile phones have increased, too. Data from Check Point Research shows 97 percent of organizations reported mobile threats in 2020. As we have relied more heavily on technology to keep us connected during the recent pandemic, cyber attacks remain a real threat to most people.
If you’re debating whether cyber protection is right for you, consider this: The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2021 T-Mobile had a breach affecting 50 million customers. Reportedly, some of the information included names, drivers’ licenses, government identification numbers, Social Security numbers and dates of birth. While all of this information could be used to steal your identity, having the right protection in place can provide peace of mind.
How Much Does Cyber Insurance Cost?
The answer depends on the type of coverage and where you live. However, industry experts say the average cost per household is about $1,500 per year. Costs will vary depending on liability limits, deductibles and other factors, but with more than 49 million consumers affected by identity theft, and a total cost of $56 billion in 2020 alone, why wouldn’t you want to be protected?
But home cyber insurance is just one piece of protection you should consider. The best way to prevent cybercrime is by staying proactive and making the right choices online.
How Can You Improve Personal Cyber Security and Protect Your Home from Cyber Attacks?
Besides buying home cyber protection, there are several simple and effective things you can do to improve your personal cyber security. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency suggests these ways to protect your home from cyber attacks:
- Don’t trust links. Whether sent by email or by text, links can lead to malicious sites. Even if you’re positive the email came from someone you know, it’s best to go directly to their site and log in. Legitimate offers will be on the website, so you can still take advantage of them.
- Watch out for attachments. Email attachments are a common source of malware attack, so you should only download or open attachments you are expecting to receive. Remember, a retailer likely will not send an email attachment. If you get one, contact the business directly to find out if they sent an email.
- Keep personal information personal. You might receive a call from someone claiming to work for a bank, retailer or company you know, asking for personal information. Don’t answer. Instead, ask them for their name and a callback number. Then, call the business to confirm the request is legitimate.
Looking for day-to-day ways to protect your personal information? Use these tips for another layer of safety:
- Passwords. Make sure to use strong passwords that consist of at least 11 characters. Include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Never use common words, phrases or personal information and update your passwords every two months.
- Update software. Most software you have on your computer or mobile device gets regularly updated to correct potential vulnerabilities that can lead to cybercrime. To ensure the best protection, keep your operating system, browser and other critical software updated.
- Consider antivirus software. Invest in specialized software that detects and neutralizes harmful computer viruses and other malware. Find one that works on your device and be sure to keep it updated.
- Watch website URLs. When you surf the web, always double-check the web address you are visiting. Scammers can use a variation in spelling or a different domain, for example .net instead of .com, to trick you into thinking you’re on a legitimate site. If something looks off, leave the page right away.
- Regularly check credit card statements. Keeping a close eye on your credit card statements can help you catch fraudulent activity quickly. If you spot anything suspicious, report it to your credit card company immediately.
- Use alerts. Many financial institutions help you combat cybercrime by letting you opt-in for security alerts. If they notice an unusual purchase on your account, they could reach out to confirm it came from you.
Remember, the best thing you can do is to be careful with your information. Protect yourself now and be prepared in the event something does happen.
Extend Your Homeowners Coverage with Home Cyber Protection