Computer Worms Turn, But Business Slow To Insure Against Risk

Friday, 14 February 2003, 12:51 AM EST

Companies are not racing to buy insurance against computer hackers, despite the latest computer worm that brought chaos to servers across the United States, Asia and Europe, rendering some systems useless.

Insurance professionals argue that the continuing risk to corporations is real and should not be ignored.

"How many times does your house burn down before you buy some insurance for it?" said Aaron Latto, e-commerce underwriting director for the St. Paul Companies Inc. "After the worm hit, I only got a couple of e-mails from agents asking, 'Hey, did you hear about the virus?' or 'Can you tell me more about this virus?' But no specific inquiries like 'I need to get my policyholders on these cyber policies!' It's kind of strange."

The Love Bug, Melissa, Code Red and other globe-hopping computer vermin have cost companies more than $54 billion in down time, repairs and removal expenses since 1995, according to Computer Economics Inc. of California.

While the recent "SQL Slammer" worm didn't actually damage computer files at Bank of America, Minneapolis public schools and other places that fell victim, "it did slow things down with bogus messages and made access difficult," said Bob Hartwig, an economist at the Insurance Information Institute. "It's not Al-Qaida, but it is something that interrupts the flow of commerce and that is just as costly.

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