While most insurance IT executives have been doing their part to detect terrorist-related activities such as money laundering through USA PATRIOT Act compliance, Craig Zottola, deputy leader of e-commerce for Swiss Re's Americas Divisiona US Naval Reservist who has specialized in counter-terrorism for the past four yearshas answered a more immediate call from Uncle Sam. Zottola, based in Swiss Re's Armonk, NY, offices, has spent the past year actually countering terrorism.
Currently on active duty for Homeland Security and assigned to the United States Joint Forces Command (Norfolk, VA, one of nine unified commands in the department of defense), Zottola has been spending most of his post-9/11 days heading a team that performs counter-terrorism analysis intelligence assessments and senior briefings for captains, admirals and generals in the military.
While he is fulfilling a tour of duty that is expected to last until November, the Swiss Re team that Zottola headed before he was called up is "maintaining its battle rhythm and going ahead with projects," he reports. He has top secret clearance, for which he is subjected to extensive moral and financial background checks.
Zottola hopes to be able to leverage the skills acquired in his counter-terrorism reservist experiences when he returns to Swiss Re later this fall (although he does expect future calls). "Since 9/11, terrorism has had a really large impact on the reinsurance and insurance industries," he says. "There is no doubt that I'd like to be able to leverage my experience and knowledge as a counter-terrorism analyst to help identify potential threats and mitigation strategies" for Swiss Re. He plans to discuss how to best apply his skill set at Swiss Re when he returns to his "day" job. "That will take sitting down and hashing out with clients, as well as folks internally," says Zottola. His main goal is to help prevent "astronomical premiums and claims down the road."
Although his military title is counter-terrorism agent, the US Joint Forces Command takes advantage of Zottola's IT skills on a consultative basis. Technology used for Homeland Security includes proprietary intelligence analysis software and secure Novell (Provo, UT) networks for classified information running on Windows NT.
Although he doesn't expect it to happen before his active duty status is up, Zottola's gut feeling is that the US will eventually catch Osama Bin Laden. "I think we have done a very good job disrupting his support structure, specifically his nodes overseas," says Zottola, who also thinks the US has done a good job of locking down the flow of terrorist funds. "In the most well-organized crime outfits, leaders have eventually been caught down the road. We are approaching this in a combined fashion between law enforcement and intelligence channels, which is sort of a first. I think we eventually will catch him. If not, we will at least disrupt the network enough so that the severity of threats against the US will be diminished."