One of the nation’s largest pipelines was forced to shut down in early May 2021 after falling victim to a ransomware attack. The 5,500-mile pipeline is operated by Colonial Pipeline and carries refined gasoline and jet fuel from Texas to New York. This pipeline transports 45% of the east coast’s fuel supplies. There are some key takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline breach that we can learn from.

The attack—carried out by DarkSide ransomware—resulted in gas shortages along the east coast due to Colonial Pipeline halting their operations in an effort to contain the breach. DarkSide reportedly stole 100 gigabytes of data from Colonial Pipeline and allegedly threatened to leak portions of it to the public unless a $5 million ransom was paid. This method, known as double extortion, involves cybercriminals not only encrypting stolen data and making it inaccessible but also threatening to release it.

Key Takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline Breach

The shutdown served as a reminder and warning of the catastrophic impact ransomware can have on businesses—especially those with aging IT infrastructure—and people. There are a few key takeaways from the Colonial pipeline breach, including:

  • The threat of ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS)—DarkSide ransomware operates as RaaS, meaning cybercriminals subscribe to their tools to execute ransomware attacks. This is significant because, in the past, hackers had to have coding expertise to be successful. With RaaS, however, users don’t need to be skilled or experienced to carry out sophisticated attacks. RaaS empowers novice hackers by providing them with an easy-to-use system for deploying ransomware.
  • The impact of double extortion—Double extortion increases the stakes of a ransomware attack. Rather than only deleting data if the ransom isn’t paid, cybercriminals threaten to leak it. Since Colonial Pipeline did have backup data available to them, it would have been possible to wipe and restore their infrastructure without paying the ransom. However, they paid the ransom to keep their data from being exposed.
  • The risks posed by aging infrastructure—Old and obsolete operating systems may be easier for cybercriminals to infiltrate. By exploiting vulnerabilities in the outdated network, cybercriminals can gain access to sensitive data and hold it for ransom.

Preventive Measures

Organizations can take the following actions to ensure that ransomware attacks don’t compromise their operations and data:

  • Conduct a security risk evaluation. Take time to identify which critical systems and assets are most appealing to cybercriminals. By doing this, businesses can get a better idea of how to prioritize protection.
  • Keep systems up to date. Update operating systems, applications and software regularly. Applying the latest updates improves systems, fixes problems and corrects any security issues discovered by developers.
  • Maintain data backups. The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center reports that backing up important data is the most effective way for organizations to recover from a ransomware attack. Backups should be stored offline, out-of-band or in a cloud service so attackers can’t target them. They should also be tested regularly for efficacy.
  • Train the team. Some of the most damaging cyberattacks occur due to human error. Training employees on the importance of cybersecurity and how to identify scams can help organizations reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of ransomware attacks.
  • Install antivirus software. Antivirus software protects against many cyberthreats, including viruses, spyware, malware, Trojans, phishing attacks, rootkits and spam attacks.

If an attack occurs, organizations should have an incident response plan ready with defined roles and communications that can be shared during an attack. Organizations that are overly cautious and plan proactively may be able to minimize damage.

Consider a Stand-Alone Ransomware Insurance Policy

Since cyber insurance isn’t standardized, organizations should review all policy language with one of our insurance advisors before choosing a plan that effectively covers ransomware. Policies can vary significantly in their language and coverage options, so we recommend policies that—at the very least—provide coverage for extortion demands and payments, as well as lost income resulting from an attack.

Organizations should also take a close look at the following definitions, terms and conditions when choosing a policy:

  • Sublimits and deductibles—Most policies set a sublimit for covering ransomware. It’s important to review this limit carefully, considering that demands may start on the low side, but can increase quickly. Also, since making a ransom payment may make organizations a target for subsequent ransom demands within the policy year, the deductible amount should reflect that risk.
  • Payment terms—Most policies require prior written consent before the insured can pay any ransom. This can result in payment delays and increased demands by the hackers. If an organization pays a ransom in order to resume business, without prior written consent by the insurer, there’s a chance that it may not be reimbursed. Therefore, organizations need to be comfortable with a policy’s terms in order to avoid compromising coverage.
  • Definition of extortion—It’s important for organizations to fully understand and agree with their insurance company’s definition of extortion, since the definition dictates the trigger for coverage. For example, although hackers may intend to sell or misuse information, the ransom demand may only involve a countdown timer and demand for money. While the combination of the two may seem like an obvious threat to the insured, a carrier could possibly deny coverage on the basis that there was no explicit threat to sell or misuse information—all because of its unique definition of extortion.

What to Look for in a Policy

Companies should look for ransomware coverage that uses broad terminology and protects against a wide range of threats, including threats to do the following:

  • Access, sell, disclose or misuse data stored on your network, including digital assets
  • Alter, damage, or destroy software or programs
  • Introduce malicious software, including viruses and self-propagating code
  • Impair or restrict access. Look for policies with broad terms like, “threats to disrupt business operations”
  • Impersonate the insured in order to gather protected information from its clients, also known as pharming or phishing
  • Use your network to transmit malware
  • Deface or interfere with your company’s website

The Importance of Risk Management

Ransomware insurance is most effective when coupled with a proactive risk management program, as there are many components in the fight against cyber crime. Business owners should work with one of our licensed advisors to review all applicable options before choosing cyber coverage.

Don’t let ransomware—or any type of cyber exposure—threaten your business.

Contact CoverLink Insurance today to learn more about available cyber policies and effective risk management techniques to protect your organization from ransomware attacks.

If you’d like additional information and resources, we’re here to help you analyze your needs and make the right coverage decisions to protect your operations from unnecessary risk. You can download a free copy of our eBook, or if you’re ready make Cyber Liability Insurance a part of your insurance portfolio, Request a Proposal or download and get started on our Cyber & Data Breach Insurance Application and we’ll get to work for you.

Tom Simon

Tom Simon

Chairman of the Board

Tom has worked in the insurance industry since 1977 holding numerous positions from Account Executive and Agency Manager, President to his current role. He combines his unique ability of thinking differently with his wealth of insurance and business experience to propel CoverLink to new levels of success.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, especially his grandkids. In addition, he’s also an avid woodsman… yes, you read that correctly. He can often be found yelling “timber” or just splitting firewood for family and friends.

 

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Matt Simon

President

Prior to joining the team at CoverLink in 2006, Matt worked as an Underwriter with a multi-state insurance company located in Columbus, Ohio. Matt is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), having successfully completed the rigorous coursework and exams to earn these designations.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Insurance Agents Association and the Associated Risk Managers of Ohio, in addition to volunteering his time to multiple other community and industry organizations.

In 2013, Matt was awarded and recognized as the National Young Insurance Agent of the Year, and in 2019 he was recognized as the Insurance Advisor of the year by Finance Monthly.

 

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Gina Loehr

Gina Loehr

Senior Account Manager

Gina oversees the Commercial Lines division at CoverLink, which is responsible for managing the business insurance needs for clients.

She has worked in the insurance industry since 1980, beginning as a Commercial Underwriter with a regional company located in Springfield, Ohio.

In 1984, she earned her Certificate in General Insurance, and in 1995, her Accredited Advisor of Insurance designation.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, including four grandkids, and biking.

 

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Kyle Carper

Account Manager

Kyle joined the CoverLink team in 2018 as in intern when he was a junior in high school. Shortly after, he began studying to obtain his insurance license, which he passed in 2020 and joined our Personal Lines division.

Kyle helps individuals and families with their home, auto, umbrella and other personal insurance needs, which he thoroughly enjoys.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with the ones he loves, watching sports and playing video games.

 

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Tim O’Rielley

Senior Insurance Advisor

Tim works with individuals, families and businesses to design insurance policies perfectly suited to their specific needs.

He has been working in the insurance industry, and with CoverLink, since 1993. As a lifelong resident of Logan County, he’s been involved with a number of community organizations, often taking the leadership role such as President of the Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way.

He’s often found spending as much time as possible with his two daughters, and his grandkids

 

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Mark Osborne

Account Executive

Mark has worked at CoverLink since 2004. He specializes in life and health insurance, where he utilizes his extensive knowledge to help clients make sense of a confusing and ever changing market.

He also holds the Property & Casualty Insurance License, and often helps families as well as small businesses to set up their insurance protection plan.

Mark graciously volunteers his time to several community organizations, and enjoys spending his free time with his family

 

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Leah Loehr

Account Manager

Leah joined the Commercial Lines division at CoverLink in 2012 where she works closely with business owners on their Commercial Insurance needs to help them achieve their desired level of protection.

Leah is known for her outgoing personality, positive attitude, and relentless pursuit of the goals she sets out to achieve. Clients often rave about her and the service she provides.

In her spare time, Leah enjoys spending time with her family and friends… and she can often be found at the closest Buffalo Wild Wings!

 

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Larry Middaugh

Larry Middaugh, PLCS

Senior Insurance Advisor

Larry joined CoverLink with an extensive background in sales, bringing over 30 years of experience and commitment to taking care of his clients in the banking and mortgage industry.

Larry’s dedication to his clients aligned so well with the CoverLink tradition of relentlessly caring for, and protecting its clients, that he joined the team of Licensed Insurance Advisors in 2015.

Those in need of Personal or Business Insurance are delighted after working with Larry.

Larry defines success as knowing his purpose in life, continuing to grow to reach his fullest potential and sowing seeds that benefit others. He’s a father of three incredible children and husband to an amazing, kind and loving wife.

 

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Tony Fink

Tony Fink, CIC, CLCS

Insurance Advisor

Tony is responsible for serving the needs of individuals and businesses looking for property & casualty insurance. In addition, he’s licensed and capable of advising clients that desire life insurance protection.

He’s a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and a Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS), having successfully completed the rigorous coursework and exams to earn these designations.

Tony entered the insurance industry in 2008 bringing a diverse background of experience and knowledge to his Account Executive position with CoverLink.

In his free time, Tony enjoys spending time with his family, being outdoors, following sports and listening to music.

 

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Meg Barton

Meg Barton

Senior Account Manager

Meg works in the Commercial Lines division at CoverLink as an Account Manager, where she helps businesses with their varying & complex insurance needs, from Business Auto to Commercial Liability, Directors & Officers to Commercial Property.

Meg earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Urbana University in Ohio. She has been active in the insurance industry since 2006, and is an Ohio Notary.

In her spare time, Meg enjoys spending time with her family at Indian Lake, listening to live music and reading.

 

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Jordan Springs

Jordan Springs

Account Manager

Jordan joined the CoverLink team in 2017, bringing top-notch client service skills acquired through several years in the banking industry.

She’s constantly assisting and advising clients on their personal insurance needs – home, auto, jewelry, umbrella and other policies – not to mention, she’s just plain fun to be around!

In her spare time, Jordan enjoys spending time with family and friends, especially her husband and two kids.

 

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Jill Rawlins

Jill Rawlins

Account Manager

Jill works in the Personal Lines Department where she helps individuals and families with their Home, Auto, Umbrella and other personal insurance needs.

She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in 2009 from Otterbein University, and shortly after began her career in the insurance industry.

In addition to holding the Ohio Property & Casualty Insurance License, she also has her Accident & Health, Life and Variable licenses.

Jill enjoys spending as much time as she can with her family, and especially enjoys being with her little girl who makes her laugh often.

 

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Chris Badenhop

Chris Badenhop

Insurance Advisor

Chris joined the CoverLink team in 2017 with a diverse and exciting professional and educational background. He works with individuals, families and businesses to find the ideal solution for their insurance needs.

He brings a positive attitude and a desire to help his clients in his position as an Insurance Advisor, but most importantly, he shares one of the most fundamental beliefs we hold dear within our organization: he cares. He cares about his clients, he cares about protecting all that’s important to them, and above all, he cares about doing what’s in the best interest of his clients. His enthusiasm and empathy set him apart, and he’s backed by the top-notch service provided at CoverLink, making him a tremendous asset to his clients. In short, Chris puts people before policies.

In his free time Chris enjoys spending time in the outdoors hunting and fishing. He’s also a passionate sports fan devoting support to all levels of play.

 

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Joe Cooney

Joe Cooney

Senior Insurance Advisor

Shortly after graduating from John Carrol University in 2008, Joe began his insurance career. His original focus and expertise was on personal lines and small commercial accounts, but he has since expanded his focus to include Cyber Insurance and Life Insurance, among other products.

Joe resides in Fairview Park, Ohio with his wife Megan and young son Jack. In his spare time, he coaches youth basketball and volunteers for the special Olympics.

 

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Kelli Young

Kelli Young

Director of Marketing

Kelli brings extensive marketing expertise to CoverLink after spending nine years in the automotive industry, where she gained valuable insight in the areas of design, digital presence, and content creation.

After joining CoverLink in 2015, her focus has been on telling the story of our long standing belief, that people are more important than policies, in a fresh way with a digital twist, allowing consumers who believe what we believe to find us easier.

Kelli graduated from Ohio University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, and earned her Master’s Degree in Business from Ashland University in 2010.

She enjoys spending time with her family, especially being outside with her son and two daughters.

 

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Jami Radern

Jami Rader

Director of First Impressions

As the Director of First Impressions, Jami brings top-notch client service skills. She’s constantly assisting clients with billing inquiries, working to resolve any frustrating issues they’re having, and she’s just plain fun to be around!

In her spare time, Jami enjoys spending time with family, especially her husband and four children and going on four-wheeling trips together.

Erika Asher

Account Manager

Erika works in the Commercial Lines division at CoverLink as an Account Manager, where she helps businesses with their varying & complex insurance needs, from Business Auto to Commercial Liability, Directors & Officers to Commercial Property.

In her spare time, Erika enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time with her son.

 

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Erin Whitaker

Account Manager

Erin joined the Personal Lines division at CoverLink in 2019, as an Account Manager, where she helps individuals and families with their Home, Auto, Umbrella and other personal insurance.

She previously worked in the healthcare industry before getting her insurance license in November of 2018.

When Erin isn’t at work, you can find her cheering on her kids at various sporting events almost every day of the week. In addition, she enjoys planting flowers, finding rusty items to decorate with and spending as much time with her family as possible.

Alissa Grim

Alissa Grim

Account Manager

Alissa works as an Account Manager where she helps individuals and families find the insurance that best fits their needs.

In addition to earning her Ohio Property & Casualty Insurance license in 2008, Alissa received her Life Insurance License in 2010.

In her spare time, Alissa enjoys spending time with her family camping, and watching her son race go karts around the U.S.

Vickie Allen

Vickie Allen

Account Manager

Vickie has worked at CoverLink since 2000 helping clients with a diverse set of needs, from securing the coverage that’s best for their individual situation, to providing guidance when claims or billing questions arise.

Vickie currently holds the Ohio Property & Casualty Insurance License, and is well known to clients because of her infectious personality and radiant smile that greets them when visiting the office.

In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, and traveling.

Randy Leopard

Randy Leopard

Vice President

Randy began his insurance career in 2000 working with both personal and business clients on their health insurance needs.  In 2008, he expanded his area of focus to include all types of insurance his clients needed from home & auto insurance, business insurance and farm insurance.

Randy resides in Urbana where he enjoys spending time with his family, and watching his horses race from time to time.

Melodi Wilkins

Melodi Wilkins

Senior Account Manager

Melodi has called CoverLink her ‘work home’ since 2009.  In her position as a Senior Account Manager, she works closely with clients needing home, condo, renters, auto, umbrella and other types of personal insurance coverage. Melodi also provides service and assistance to businesses regarding their insurance protection needs.

In her spare time, Melodi enjoys being outside and spending time with her family, especially with her granddaughter.

Morgan Edwards

Morgan Edwards

Account Manager

Morgan joined the CoverLink family in 2019, as an Account Manager. She helps her clients with personal insurance needs such as, home, condo, renters, auto umbrella and more. In addition, she works closely with business owners on their Commercial Insurance needs to help them achieve their desired level of protection.

In her spare time, Morgan enjoys spending time with her family and friends, making memories and enjoying all that life has to offer!

Sam Ankrom

Insurance Advisor

Sam joined the Coverlink team in 2020 with a strong passion and drive to help people. As an insurance Advisor with his Property & Casualty license, he assists individuals and business with all of their insurance needs.

He is dedicated to going above and beyond for his clients and wants to make sure every client is not only properly insured, but can also feel like a part of the Coverlink family. Sam is committed to helping everyone feel confident and comfortable with their insurance decisions and have the peace of mind knowing they are taken care of by not only himself, but by the entire Coverlink team.

Outside of work you can usually find Sam spending time with friends and family, or outside on the golf course.