Insure against cyber risk with new policy

People usually buy insurance to protect themselves against hefty hospital bills, but they can soon also get coverage for the losses incurred from losing their good name online.

French insurer AXA is introducing a new insurance plan in Singapore by the end of this month to help individuals and families mitigate cyber risks, including the damage to one's "electronic reputation".

While corporations here already have access to cyber-risk insurance, observers say the plan is a novel one for individuals and families.

"This is the first such plan for individuals that I have come across in Singapore," said Mr Terence Tang, senior director of consumer business for security software firm Trend Micro Singapore (Asia-Pacific).

Under the cyber-protector indemnity policy, AXA will pay for the losses incurred over things like the loss of one's "e-reputation", identity theft, unauthorised Web transactions, and disputes with online merchants.

This means, for instance, that consumers can get compensation for damaged or undelivered goods bought online or if excess funds had been deducted from their bank accounts as a result of online theft.

It also covers things such as psychological assistance and even "information removal service" in cases of online defamation.

Said Ms Irene Ang, who heads artist agency Fly Entertainment: "It's about time something like this became available, we spend so much time online these days... For more well-known people, such as my artists, e-reputation is important."

The cyber-protector policy will cost $148 a year per person, and Singapore is the first country outside of France to be offered the product, said AXA.

Mr Tang noted that with more mobile devices being used around the home, the personal data of individuals and families is more easily compromised nowadays, hence creating a demand for coverage for these groups.

The plan is expected to appeal to bloggers and other high-profile people keen on protecting their identities and reputations, said some observers.

Said Mr Bryan Tan, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons who specialises in finance and technology: "For Singapore, we commonly see defamation (damage to reputation), harassment, and online merchant disputes as the common legal problems faced online by individuals."

He said that while insurance payouts "cannot totally reverse the effects of cyber wrongdoings", they at least allow victims to seek professional help to minimise and eradicate their effects.

Going by a survey last year by logistics giant UPS, Singaporean online shoppers tend to be unhappy with the service they receive: Only 51 per cent of 1,000 online shoppers here were satisfied with service - the second-lowest score after Hong Kong, out of 13 economies polled.

Singapore consumers cited damaged items, long delivery times and the inability to get refunds as their main bugbears.

Frequent online shopper Emily Lin, 26, a bank service relationship manager, has lost goods parcels before and said she would consider getting the cyber-risk insurance as "added protection".

Mr Tang said other insurers may also offer similar cyber-risk plans for individuals, given the high Internet penetration here.

Whatever it is, measures such as preventive security software against online attacks should not be neglected, he added, as "a tainted reputation or a loss of identity is never easy to get back".

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.

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