Staples, Minn.,
23:30 PM

Protecting Data with Sourcewell's Cyber Liability Solution

Spyware. Malware. Adware. It's difficult to know where, or ware, to begin

By Jenny Holmes

Cyberattacks are as real and often as common as someone stealing mail right out of a mailbox. Unfortunately in a world with a perpetual increase in technology and online private data, so follows the risk of having highly confidential information stolen.

In a proactive approach, Sourcewell recently collaborated with all Minnesota service cooperatives to research and provide a way to help protect members -- within Minnesota and beyond -- from cyberattacks.

Ryan Donovan, manager of insurance and employee benefits at Sourcewell, said this was a first-of-its-kind collaboration among service cooperative entities to work toward a common solution for a growing problem.

Just last October, the U.S. Department of Education alerted schools of a cyberthreat where criminals were seeking to extort money from school districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records.

The alert also noted that, in certain instances, hackers have threatened violence, shaming, or bullying students until they are paid the ransom.

Specifically in Minnesota -- Sourcewell's home state -- schools have already been the victims of cyberthreats and attacks. In December 2016, leaders at Spring Lake Park Schools said the district was the victim of a ransomware computer virus attack designed to extort money in exchange for regaining access to its hacked computer system.

In February 2017, the South Washington County school district was forced to tighten security after a high school student hacked into the district's server and took names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. Files for more than 15,000 people were downloaded. Of that number, 478 files were opened, providing complete access to individuals' private data. In the same month, 2,800 current and former Bloomington Public School employees were robbed of tax forms in a phishing scam.

“This is very real,” says Donovan. “It's not just about hackers in hooded sweatshirts living in their grandparents' basement. This can be accidental stuff, like clicking on a phishing email. Any device carries a liability.”

To address the increasing occurrence of cyberattacks on school districts and municipalities, the consortium of Minnesota service cooperatives created a powerful tool to help protect members of all sizes.

“This is a risk management solution, not just an insurance solution,” Donovan noted. “We're working to be more proactive versus reactive.”

A partnership was secured earlier this year with Wisconsin-based agency Hausmann-Johnson Insurance.

“We're trying to protect all of our members by providing front-end proactive practices,” says Donovan. “We're also working with those same members to provide the proper security systems to keep cyberattackers out.”

The Minnesota Service Cooperative Cyber Program offers a cutting-edge cyber insurance program to its thousands of members -- within the state and throughout the United States. Policyholders receive industry-leading cyber insurance coverage available only to cooperative members, with preferred pricing and access to a robust online portal filled with tools and training to help identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks.

“We've tried to make this easy, easy, easy,” says Donovan. “It's easy to understand, easy to connect with the service provider to shore up shortfalls in the system, and easy to apply.”

Additionally, Sourcewell provides member access to other vendor contracts for services such as firewall implementation, data backup and disaster recovery, security auditing, server infrastructure, and more.

“We used all of our collective power to provide volume discounting and specialized pricing and coverages that are not currently available in the public marketplace,” says Donovan. “This program is only available for the public and nonprofit sector within the United States. It's something they can't even get from their local agent. Members can easily go online to apply for and receive coverage. We've also created a slot rating table that allows members to estimate their premium based upon number of students if they're a school, or population if they're a city or county.”

For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions, highlights for school districts and municipalities, as well as a breach cost estimator, visit  Sourcewell-awarded vendor Hausmann-Johnson Insurance at

About Sourcewell

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 200 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.