Cyber insurance firm Cowbell Cyber today launched what it is billing as the first-ever cyber risk exchange marketplace, designed to help companies find solutions that reduce their risk and thus make them more easily insurable.

The out-of-control proliferation of ransomware attacks has underscored the need for companies to invest in cyber insurance, and yet many businesses – especially SMBs – have gaping holes in their security that make them a potentially risky proposition for insurance providers. The new marketplace, dubbed Cowbell Rx, will provide a destination where prospective and current insurance policyholders can find solutions to fill these holes.

They typically need a lot of help, and given the current situation right now with cyber and the fact that there's really an explosion of incidents… we really wanted to help our policyholders do the best job they can at keeping their business secure,” said Isabelle Dumont, vice president of market engagement at Cowbell, in an interview with SC Media. “Obviously it benefits us, because it diminishes the number of claims, but it's also helping them in keeping them secure and that's really the priority.”

According to Dumont, certain aspects of network security repeatedly turn up as areas of need for companies assessed by cyber insurance firms: “Everybody's talking about the same thing. If you talk to the FBI, if you talk to all those cyber insurance vendors… multi-factor authentication is absolutely critical, because that's the first thing that cybercriminal do. They try to [steal or abuse] credentials, and if you have MFA in place – even if they have your password they can’t get in,” said Dumont.

Another area where many companies are lacking: employee security awareness training. “Training your employee to recognize a phishing email – that needs to happen. It's not a one-time solution, it has to be a [continuous] program,” Dumont continued, noting that such training “could prevent a lot of some of the basic cyberattacks that a lot of small and medium sized businesses are victim of.”

With that in mind, services made available so far through the Cowbell Rx web page include MFA and identity management solutions, endpoint protection, security monitoring for threat detection and prevention, backup and disaster recovery and compliance consulting and services.

When companies apply for Cowbell Cyber insurance, the company conducts a risk assessment to determine if the applicant qualifies for coverage. Those looking for help earning a policy or reducing renewal rates can turn to the marketplace to improve whether they are lacking. The marketplace is also fully accessible to non-Cowbell customers as well – though Cowbell clients will at times be eligible for certain incentives such as free trials or discounts on the various solutions being offered through the marketplace.

Dumont said the marketplace is vendor-neutral and recommends multiple different providers of various cyber services. “We don't want to enforce the use of any specific partner; we want to give policyholder the choice,” she explained. “So our goal is to give them as much information as possible about the partner and then they choose the one that's going to fit their needs.”

One of the partners represented on the platform is Safeguard Cyber. Karen Kukoda, vice president of strategic partnerships at Safeguard Cyber, said that the launch of the referral marketplace has helped to “innovate the ways in which cyber insurance is understood and delivered,” by “actively engaging the cybersecurity community to deliver solutions that help policyholders reduce exposure to new and evolving cyber risks.”

Rick Betterley, president of Betterley Risk Consultants, disagreed with the assertion that this marketplace is a novel offering, noting that “cyber insurers have identified sources for this type of help since way back near cyber insurance’s beginning.” With that said, however, he did acknowledge that “the types and sophistication of the services are now much more sophisticated,” and that Cowbell has found a good angle by focusing on how the online risk exchange marketplace helps companies qualify for insurance.