American Family Insurance, one of the largest auto and home insurers in the United States, is currently experiencing a major system outage that is impacting customers, agents, and employees. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company has shut down several of its business systems after detecting “unusual activity” in its network. This article provides an in-depth look at the American Family Insurance outage, what may have caused it, who it’s impacting, and when systems may be restored.
Overview of the American Family Insurance Outage
On October 19, 2022, American Family Insurance posted a notice on its website alerting customers that some of its online systems and services were unavailable due to system maintenance and upgrades. However, an inside source revealed that the issues stemmed from the detection of unusual activity that forced the company to abruptly shut down multiple systems.
According to American Family Insurance, the following services are impacted:
- Online and mobile access for customers, including the ability to pay bills, view policy information, and manage claims
- Agents’ ability to access customer information and policies
- Various internal computer systems used by American Family employees
As of October 20, American Family has not provided an estimate for when services will be restored. The company says its investigation is ongoing and involves internal tech teams along with third-party cybersecurity experts.
This outage comes just days after Wisconsin-based convenience store chain Kwik Trip experienced a cyberattack that forced it to shut down a number of systems, including its website, mobile app, and rewards program.
What May Have Caused the Outage
While American Family has not confirmed the cause of the issues, the timing aligns with the early reports that its network security team detected unusual activity, which typically points to a cyberattack. Based on American Family’s statements, the most likely scenarios are:
Malware or ransomware attack: Malicious software could have infected American Family’s systems and spread quickly, encrypting files and making systems inaccessible. Ransomware attacks have crippled many organizations’ networks.
Data breach: A hacker may have gained access to American Family’s network and stolen sensitive customer or business data. The company then could have proactively shut down systems to prevent further compromise.
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack: Attackers could have bombarded American Family’s websites and apps with junk traffic, overloading them and causing temporary unavailability. DDoS attacks don’t access systems but disrupt operations.
At this time, there is no evidence that customer data has been breached or stolen. American Family stated that critical systems for data storage and processing remain secure. The company will likely provide more details about the cause of the outage once its investigation concludes.
Who the Outage Impacts
According to American Family’s notices and employee accounts, the outage is severely impacting customers, agents, and employees:
- Unable to access online account portals or American Family’s mobile apps
- Cannot pay insurance bills, view policy documents, file claims, or check claim status
- Customer service phone lines likely overwhelmed with call volume
- Cannot access customer accounts and policy information through American Family’s agent portals
- May be unable to assist customers with changes, bills, claims, and inquiries
- Loss of a critical tool for serving American Family policyholders
- Internal systems used for operations, communication, data access down or inaccessible
- Significant slowdown and disruption to workflow
- Majority of employees unable to perform normal work activities
The full impact depends on how long American Family’s systems remain offline. Prolonged outages that stretch days or weeks can severely hurt productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction. However, if systems can be restored quickly, the business impacts may be minimal.
How American Family is Handling the Outage
American Family’s public communications indicate that the company is taking proactive steps to address the outage:
- Notifying customers through website banners and social media posts
- Providing regular updates on progress of restoration efforts
- Offering apologies for inconvenience and service disruptions
- Keeping affected systems shut down to prevent threat actors from causing further damage
- Working with internal security experts and external cybersecurity firms to investigate
- Determining extent of any compromised data or vulnerabilities
The company has not provided specific timelines for resolution or restoration of services. American Family states that its technology teams are working diligently to bring systems back online safely. Maintaining the security of customer data is likely its top priority during analysis and recovery efforts.
When Systems May Be Restored
There is no estimate yet for when American Family will have its various online, mobile, and internal tools up and running again. The time required depends heavily on:
Cause of the outage – If it was a ransomware attack, systems could remain down for 1-2 weeks. Other cyber attacks may require a few days minimum to fully recover from.
Extent of the damage – If threat actors gained deep access into American Family’s network, remediation will take much longer than if they breached only a few systems.
Backup availability – Restore times depend on American Family’s backup systems and processes. Modern cloud backups make full recovery more seamless.
Based on recent cyber attacks and outages, a reasonable estimate is that American Family’s consumer-facing systems will be online within 1-3 days. However, complete internal restoration may take several additional weeks. Communication lines and social channels will be critical for keeping customers apprised of progress.
Steps Customers Can Take
While American Family works to restore its systems, customers should:
- Check the company’s social media and website regularly for updates
- Locate paper copies of policy documents and ID cards if immediate assistance is needed
- Contact independent agents directly for help with policies they manage
- Avoid clicking links in emails or texts related to the outage, as these may be phishing scams
- Contact American Family’s customer service phone lines with urgent needs
- Follow guidance from American Family on protecting accounts
American Family Insurance outage
Why are American family insurance systems down?