Cyber Threats Echo Wars of Years Past: Reflections on President’s Day

By Shawn Dougherty February 17, 2014

Shawn DoughertyIn 1776, future President of the United States General George Washington led an inexperienced, ragtag army of colonists against a well-trained foreign army. Following a retreat from New York City in late summer that year, Washington used a top secret ring of spies — the Culper Spy Ring — to collect confidential information from the enemy — information that, in part, ultimately helped turn the tide of the war in America’s favor.

Four score and seven years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was fighting a different battle: to preserve the Union during the American Civil War. Against the backdrop of a battlefield where two armies from within — one from the North and one from the South — attacked each other in one of the bloodiest conflicts on U.S. soil, President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. That brief two-minute speech has gone down as one of the most important in American history. The enemy from within was something our young country had never faced before, but it posed just as big a challenge to the nation’s security as the Revolutionary War had.

Fast-forward 150-plus years: President Barack Obama in his January 2014 State of the Union Address cautioned that the United States would face new types of attacks, such as cyber attacks.

The United States is almost 238 years old and, across two centuries, the story sounds similar — only the circumstances are different.

Today, businesses, educational and religious institutions, healthcare providers, and government offices all face attacks from “armies” of hackers — both internal and external, foreign and domestic. The primary goal of those attackers is to cause havoc and disruption and reap financial rewards. The attacks might be caused by employees from within, organized external groups such as “hactivists,” or state-sponsored attackers.

Rather than face the attackers head-on, businesses can take proactive steps to fight off and protect themselves from such intruders, thus perhaps preserving their existence. While proper planning and good risk management techniques will go a long way, purchasing a cyber-liability insurance policy will certainly help as well.

Though the types of battles we fight today are different, the goals are the same. We need to stay vigilant and strive to keep ahead of those seeking to cause us harm.

If you’d like to learn about other aspects of cyber-liability insurance, please e-mail me at sdougherty@iso.com. Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter @doughertyshawn.

Enjoy your President’s Day 2014.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in our Cyber Monday Series.


Shawn Dougherty

Shawn Dougherty is the assistant vice president of ISO's Specialty Commercial Lines Division. He is responsible for providing the overall direction, leadership, and client service for ISO's cyber liability (e-commerce), D&O (management protection), businessowners, crime and fidelity, financial institutions, employment-related practices liability, and professional liability (other than medical) insurance programs. He is also the ISO product manager for the Lloyd's Wordings Repository, an electronic database of policy wordings and clauses regularly used within the London market. Mr. Dougherty has worked at ISO since 1988.