Would you insure your Twitter or Facebook account against trolls and hackers?

Filed Under: Facebook, Social networks, Twitter

Hacker, courtesy of ShutterstockHave you ever been targeted by online trolls?

Had your Facebook account hijacked?

Been impersonated on Twitter?

Such social media attacks can be devastating. They can make you want to hide under a rock.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to bring legal action or conduct reverse-SEO to bury reputation-damaging posts while you're under the rock. A new insurance policy, aimed at UK consumers, offers to help.

For £3.99/month (roughly $6.50), the coverage insures against reputation damage and ID theft.

The insurance pays up to £10,000 (around $16,200) in professional fees and ancillary costs - including services such as reverse SEO to bury foul content - for any one incident of identity theft or account hijacking.

It also pays up to £3,500 (around $5,700) toward damaged reputation.

The coverage is being offered to subscribers of information privacy company ALLOW, which has taken out the policy with Legal Insurance Management Ltd.

Nicola Brookes is a case study in how much suffering and reputation damage can be done with the type of identity fraud and troll attack that the new insurance targets.

Brookes was hounded by trolls (one of whom turned out to be a policeman) after writing a message of support on Facebook to a contestant on the X Factor.

The 45-year old, a single mother, suffered from messages describing her as a drug dealer, a prostitute, a pedophile, and a known child abuser.

A fake Facebook profile was also taken out in her name, which tried to "Friend" young girls.

Brookes succeeded in winning a landmark case that forced Facebook to release the bullies' identities in June.

Evil troll, courtesy of ShutterstockLegal success costs a few coins, of course: the Daily Mail says it would have cost Brookes £5,000 if her legal team hadn't provided pro bono services due to her horrific ordeal.

That value of her free legal services will rise, as Brookes continues to seek legal redress against her persecutors.

ALLOW is claiming that this is the first insurance of its kind in the UK to address the needs of social media-harmed individuals such as Brookes. And, obviously, with such low costs and such a low payout cap, this is not for businesses.

It promises to cover ALLOW subscribers for account hijacking, reputation damage and ID fraud and is part of a package, called ALLOW Protect, that helps people manage their privacy and personal data.

Mind you, it's not the first insurance policy to offer protection against internet-conveyed harm.

For businesses, there are plenty of cyber insurance policies that cover, for example, fees associated with data breaches, such as security consulting, legal assistance, assistance with notification of affected customers, and IT forensics/response.

Jake Kouns, director of cyber security and technology risks underwriting for Markel Corporation in the US, was in Boston for the SOURCE security conference this spring.

He made a convincing case for data breach insurance coverage for companies - currently, typical costs for minimum premiums can be $1,500 for $1 million worth of coverage, which includes many risk management services.

General liability doesn't cover this type of thing, mind you - something that Sony found out when it tried to get its insurer, Zurich, to cover the costs of its massive PlayStation breach.

Insurance is well worth considering, but most particularly for businesses.

Some of the expenses that a business might incur after a data breach:

  • Lawsuits, including fines and penalties
  • Transmission of malicious code to other networks
  • Loss of the use of your own network
  • Cost to notify affected individuals
  • Credit monitoring for affected parties
  • Identity restoration services
  • Security consultants
  • Legal notices
  • Restoration of system and data
  • Expenses to remain functional, including new hardware and/or services
  • Payment of extortion demands
  • Lost time
  • Lost monies
  • Lost business

ALLOW logoWhether or not a much more limited, low-cost approach for private individuals such as that offered by ALLOW is warranted will depend, I suspect, on the type of work most of us do, including the exposure to trolls it might entail and the value of our reputations.

Journalists who write about technology with any pretense of knowledge, for example, have a reputation that forms a substantial underpinning of their livelihood.

Tarnishing that is a painful ordeal, as was evidenced by the recent case of Gizmodo writer Mat Honan getting his digital life hacked to pieces.

I'm not sure whether I'd buy it if such a social media policy were available in the US. But at such a low cost, I'd certainly think it over if it does become available.

What do you think?

Hacker and evil troll images courtesy of Shutterstock

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11 Responses to Would you insure your Twitter or Facebook account against trolls and hackers?

  1. Kahomono · 1111 days ago

    Or... try this radical new idea.... use strong passwords... one per site... and stay off sites that don't hash+salt.

    How f*ing hard is THAT?

    • Secure Guy · 1111 days ago

      ...and use 2 Factor Authentication.

    • Lisa Vaas · 1110 days ago

      Well, yes, but how many sites actually admit to, for example, storing passwords in plain text?

      • @CybercrimeForum · 1110 days ago

        Too True. We aren't yet at the stage where the password encryption algorithm used is a highly important feature to the mainstream user. Most websites just state that they are secure without feeling any need to go into the details of what that entails.

      • daniellynet · 1110 days ago

        This is an issue. As previously said, many sites just write that they're secure, but won't give out any details at all.
        Which is why I use a different password for every site now.
        Then there's also the issue that a lot of people use the same password for most things.
        I know several people who have one password for socially related websites (Facebook, Twitter etc.), another for banking and so on.
        When mentioned that this is a security risk, people don't seem to care, though.

    • Madincroydon · 1110 days ago

      Good advice, but In the Brookes case one of this issues was the setting up of a false Facebook account in her name. The fault here would be with Facebook's checks on during registration rather than the security of the passwords.

  2. john · 1110 days ago

    Surely this would only serve to create a profitable market for trolls?

  3. A_pleb · 1110 days ago

    It should be "the bully's identity", not "the bullies identity" (singular)

  4. DavidF · 1110 days ago

    Personal Identity insurance is a very dangerous idea that must be shutdown immediately and permanently worldwide. Else God help us in the very near future

  5. TrishB · 1109 days ago

    I use bitdefender for facebook. so far so good. and it's free too.

  6. Miss_Rarity · 1087 days ago

    Step 1 register for this
    Step 2 Make another account
    Step 3 troll your account.
    Step 4 PROFIT

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.