Going on holiday? Lovely. When? Where? For how long? Oooh, was that on some kind of deal? …and so it goes with regards holiday small talk. Until you and your colleague(s) realise there's only so far you can take it for a trip to Wales in winter. To stay with the in-laws. Comparatively exotic for some I'm sure, it nevertheless isn't the stereotypical jet-setting jaunt you'd sworn you would do next year amidst the recriminations of the previous visit.
Some way down the list of important matters to be discussed on that same small talk agenda is the subject of insurance. You wouldn't be blamed for ending our brief acquaintance at the merest mention. Travel insurance, medical insurance and all manner of other sensible but sleep inducing holiday essentials are always brought up by someone. They who are incandescent at your wonderful welsh voyage in light of their own soiree to Saltcoats. And…back to shivering reality.
Our calendars are designed around our holiday breaks. They work as an incentive for productive, although admittedly short term, behaviours. Holiday diets? Funny that we should want to look our best where no-one we actually know will see us. They are our light relief amongst the stresses and strains of our daily existence. They should be the one chance we get to completely switch off. If only.
If it should transpire that you successfully experience such holiday utopia, and the stars align in a manner only known to happen in the presence of blue moons, then it is inevitable that something will go wrong. Cue your insurance coming to the rescue. If you arranged it. Always, seemingly, an afterthought in the holiday planning process, unless Ukraine, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan happen to be on your itinerary, it might just save your sanity when an Icelandic volcano decides to decimate everyone's holiday plans.
Insurance. Always aware of the worst that could, and sometimes does, happen. Always prepared. (Notwithstanding 'acts of god' clauses that now seem to include a stiff breeze) Dependable. From Churchill, to Esure, to Staysure, sensibly and strongly named, conveying an air of indestructibility. We're forever told our name says something about us. It dictates how you will fare in life. It can help or hinder our cause in curious ways.
Unfortunate, then, that the last-named in the aforementioned trio hasn't quite held up to either these lofty standards, or its steadfast name. Indeed, only this week, online Insurance firm Staysure was handed a £175,000 fine by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after a breach of its cyber-security left the details of over 100,000 customers exposed to hackers. Ooops.
Celebrating a decade in business this year, the insurer clearly hadn't caught on to current cyber-security standards, and was castigated by the UK's data protection enforcer for repeated failings to keep data secure. Upwards of 5,000 customers had their credit cards used by fraudsters after the attack on the organisation's website and credit card security numbers, or CVVs as they are sometimes known, were also accessible despite industry rules stipulating they should not be held at all. With medical details also available, an ICO investigation found the organisation had breached the Data Protection Act by failing to keep personal information secure. Head of Enforcement at the ICO, Steve Eckersley, said of the incident;
'The company's actions were unacceptable and this penalty notice reflects the severity of the situation. The fine issued by the ICO today should send a clear message to other companies of the importance of proper IT security.'
So as one online insurer sheepishly shapes up its cyber-defences, and begins to grasp something of data protection 'worst case scenario' to a degree it does for holiday disasters, all e-tailers would do well to let the broader lessons sink in. IT security is more than firewalls and anti-virus – it is an evolving and intricate challenge. One that needs constant testing and updating. And an awareness and relentless pursuit of potential gaps in security – across software and hardware and even amongst those operating it.