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The new cyber defence strategy: insurance

Almost half of South African cybersecurity professionals were motivated to get insurance coverage after experiencing a cyberattack, writes PIETER NEL, Sophos regional head for SADC.

Cyber insurance has become a key part of South African organisations’ risk reduction strategies, driven by the need for additional financial protection and contingency plans in the event of a cyber incident. As the threat landscape evolves and becomes more complex, more organisations are turning to cyber insurance as a critical component of their risk management plans.

Research by Sophos, involving 311 IT and cybersecurity professionals across South Africa whose organisation has some form of cyber coverage, sheds light on insurance adoption. Conducted from January to February 2024, the study highlights factors influencing cyber insurance decisions.

53% of respondents cited awareness of cybercrime’s business impact as a key reason for purchasing cyber insurance. Forty-five percent were motivated to get coverage after experiencing a cyberattack, emphasising the threats businesses face.

The quality of an organisation’s cyber defences significantly affects their cyber insurance status. Ninety-eight percent of those with a policy said they had invested in improving their cyber defences to optimise their insurance position, with seventy-two percent making major investments and 26% making minor investments. 

The investment paid off: 74% said it enabled them to get coverage that they wouldn’t have achieved otherwise, 68% were able to get better priced coverage, and 45% were able to get better policy terms such as total coverage limits and sub-limits.

The cyber insurance market has undergone significant changes in recent years. Until 2020, the sector had many participants and high capacity, yielding good returns for insurers. 

The trend of rising claims persisted into 2021, leading to some insurers exiting the market due to surging claim payouts. This reduced market capacity, limiting risk transfer options. The remaining insurers became selective, often setting higher prices and stricter conditions.

This changing landscape highlights the need for organisations to integrate cyber insurance into their holistic risk management strategies and to strengthen cyber defences. As threats grow in sophistication, the role of cyber insurance in preventing financial losses becomes increasingly vital.

Organisations should view cyber insurance as part of a broader cyber resilience strategy, combining financial protection with preventive measures. This approach not only improves their insurance position but also contributes to a secure digital ecosystem in South Africa.

The growth and adaptation of the cyber insurance market to new threats present an opportunity for South African businesses to lead in cyber resilience. Understanding cyber insurance nuances and prioritising robust defences will enable them to navigate digital challenges successfully.

The evolution of South Africa’s cyber insurance market reflects the changing cyber threat landscape and the growing recognition of comprehensive risk management solutions. As businesses adapt, the insights provided here will guide them through the complexities of cyber insurance.

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