Ransomware Recovery: Strategies for Ensuring FI Business Continuity

 

In December 2023, a devastating ransomware attack targeted the cloud services provider Ongoing Operations, causing a widespread outage that impacted numerous credit unions. This incident served as a wake-up call for financial institutions and credit union leaders, highlighting the urgent need for robust business continuity strategies in the face of evolving cyber threats. Today we will explore the key steps credit unions can take to establish business continuity in the aftermath of a ransomware attack, ensuring the resiliency and security of their operations.

Understanding the Impact of a Ransomware Attack and the Importance of Business Continuity

A ransomware attack is a malicious cyber attack in which cybercriminals infiltrate a network, encrypt data, and demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. The consequences of a successful ransomware attack can be severe, ranging from financial losses and operational disruptions to reputational damage and legal liabilities. For credit unions, the impact of a ransomware attack can be particularly devastating, as it can compromise sensitive customer data and disrupt critical financial services.

The Ongoing Operations Ransomware Attack

In December 2023, the credit union industry experienced a major ransomware attack targeting Ongoing Operations, a prominent cloud services provider. This attack resulted in a widespread outage that affected numerous credit unions, causing disruptions to online banking services, member communication, and internal operations. The incident served as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by credit unions in the digital age and the need for proactive measures to mitigate the risks associated with ransomware attacks.

Building Resiliency Against Ransomware Attacks

To establish business continuity in the aftermath of a ransomware attack, credit unions must adopt a multi-layered approach that encompasses robust cybersecurity measures, comprehensive backup and disaster recovery solutions, and proactive incident response strategies. Let’s explore these key elements in detail.

1. Strengthening Cybersecurity Measures

Effective cybersecurity measures form the foundation of any business continuity strategy. Credit unions should implement a comprehensive set of cybersecurity controls to protect their networks, systems, and data from ransomware attacks. These measures may include:

  • Endpoint Protection: Deploying advanced endpoint protection solutions to detect and block malicious software before it can infect the network.
  • Network Segmentation: Implementing network segmentation to isolate critical systems and data from potential threats, limiting the spread of ransomware.
  • User Awareness Training: Conducting regular cybersecurity awareness training programs to educate employees about the risks associated with phishing emails, suspicious links, and other common attack vectors.
  • Patch Management: Keeping systems and software up to date with the latest security patches to address known vulnerabilities that can be exploited by ransomware.

By strengthening their cybersecurity measures, credit unions can significantly reduce the risk of a successful ransomware attack and enhance their overall resiliency.

2. Implementing Anomaly Detection Systems

Anomaly detection systems such as IMS’ Polaris Radar play a crucial role in early detection and prevention of ransomware attacks. These systems use advanced machine learning algorithms and behavioral analytics to identify abnormal patterns and activities that may indicate the presence of ransomware or other malicious activities. By monitoring network traffic, user behaviors, and file activity, anomaly detection systems can quickly detect and respond to potential threats, minimizing the impact of a ransomware attack.

3. Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions

Having robust backup and disaster recovery programs is essential for establishing business continuity in the aftermath of a ransomware attack. Credit unions should implement regular, automated backups of critical data and systems. These backups should be stored in secure, offsite locations to ensure their availability in the event of a ransomware attack or other data loss incidents.

Additionally, credit unions should regularly test their backup and disaster recovery processes to ensure their effectiveness and reliability. Conducting mock recovery exercises can help identify any gaps or vulnerabilities in the backup strategy, allowing credit unions to make necessary improvements and adjustments.

4. Incident Response and Recovery Planning

In the event of a ransomware attack, a well-defined incident response plan is crucial for minimizing the impact and restoring normal operations as quickly as possible. Credit unions should develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the roles, responsibilities, and communication protocols for responding to a ransomware attack. This plan should include:

  • Incident Identification and Reporting: Clearly defining the process for identifying and reporting a ransomware attack to the appropriate stakeholders, including internal IT teams, management, and external incident response partners.
  • Containment and Mitigation: Outlining the steps to contain and mitigate the impact of the ransomware attack, such as isolating affected systems, disconnecting them from the network, and implementing temporary measures to restore critical services.
  • Communication and Notification: Establishing communication channels and protocols for notifying affected parties, such as employees, customers, regulatory authorities, and law enforcement agencies. Timely and transparent communication is crucial for maintaining trust and managing the reputational risks associated with a ransomware attack.
  • Recovery and Restoration: Detailing the procedures for recovering encrypted data, restoring affected systems from backups, and implementing additional security measures to prevent future attacks.

By having a well-prepared incident response plan in place, credit unions can minimize the downtime and financial losses associated with a ransomware attack, allowing them to recover and resume normal operations swiftly.

Securing Business Continuity: Resilient Strategies

In today’s digital landscape, credit unions face increasing threats from ransomware attacks. Establishing business continuity in the aftermath of such attacks requires a comprehensive approach that combines robust cybersecurity measures, effective anomaly detection systems, reliable backup and disaster recovery solutions, and well-defined incident response and recovery planning. By prioritizing resiliency and taking proactive steps to mitigate the risks associated with ransomware attacks, credit unions can protect their operations, safeguard sensitive data, and maintain the trust of their members.

At IMS, we understand the importance of establishing business continuity in the face of evolving cyber threats. Our comprehensive suite of anomaly detection, backup, and disaster recovery solutions are designed to help credit unions increase their resiliency and protect against ransomware attacks. Connect with us to learn more about how IMS can support your credit union’s business continuity efforts.


10 Strategies for Boosting Credit Union Cyber Hygiene

 

As we recognize Cybersecurity Awareness Month, there’s no better time to reflect on why cybersecurity matters to the credit union community. Today’s interconnected world means there are near-infinite possibilities for credit union growth and member engagement. However, it also presents vast challenges, especially regarding credit union cyber hygiene. Threats from cybercriminals targeting financial institutions are constantly escalating, posing significant risks to sensitive member data and financial operations.

This blog aims to empower credit union leaders and IT professionals with effective strategies to bolster their institution’s cybersecurity efforts. By taking a proactive approach, you can considerably reduce the likelihood of a breach and protect your credit union.

Credit Union Cyber Hygiene: Safeguarding Member Data

The stakes are undeniably high. Did you know that the annual financial risks due to cyber threats can range from $190,000 for small credit unions to $1.2 million for large credit unions?  

Business email compromise schemes are by far the costliest financial cybercrime. According to research, victims of email compromise reported approximately $2.4 billion in losses in 2021 alone. These numbers underscore the importance of robust cyber hygiene practices for credit unions. Beyond the financial impact, consider the cost to your institution’s reputation, the potential loss of members, and the operational disruptions.

These trends cannot be ignored, and while daunting, they serve as catalysts for every credit union to prioritize its cybersecurity posture and scale up its defenses. Let’s take a look at 10 strategies for boosting your credit union cyber hygiene:

1. Perform Regular Audits and Assessments

Implementing rigorous audits and assessments will help identify vulnerabilities in your credit union’s security infrastructure. Routine assessments ensure proper security measures are in place and protocols remain updated when changes are made to the IT environment. Also, continuously examining server and workstation logs can effectively identify suspicious activities.

2. Educate Employees on Cyber Hygiene

Employees often constitute the first line of defense against cyber threats. Training is crucial to equip them with knowledge and practical skills to recognize and prevent phishing attacks, ransomware, and malicious downloads. Encourage safe practices, such as strong password management, to mitigate risks arising from human error.

3. Develop a Comprehensive Security Policy

Develop a comprehensive security policy addressing the credit union’s IT infrastructure, user authentication protocols, and data classification. This policy should outline procedures for reporting security incidents, handling sensitive information, and monitoring third-party service providers to ensure they adhere to data protection standards.

4. Deploy Multi-layered Security Measures

Implementing a multi-layered security approach enhances your credit union’s ability to withstand various threats and attacks. Deploying a combination of firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), email filtering, and spam protection reinforces security measures and ensures the swift detection of cyber threats.

5. Keep Hardware and Software Up-to-date

Software and firmware updates are essential to patch vulnerabilities and exploit loopholes that hackers use to infiltrate networks. Implement a systematic approach to managing updates, establishing clear patch timelines, and prioritizing the most critical vulnerabilities.

6. Optimize IT Utilization

Cyber resilience in credit unions can be substantially improved through the diligent use of technologies. While certain programs or infrastructure such as Microsoft 365 can bring significant benefits to credit unions, there is always a need for a proper understanding of security recommendations and best practices.

7. Secure The Cloud

The transition to cloud computing offers significant benefits, such as cost-saving on data storage and streamlined operations. However, the security of digital assets in the cloud remains a top concern. Credit unions should securely configure cloud services, encrypt sensitive data, and restrict access to authorized personnel to mitigate cloud-related risks.

8. Monitor Vendor Security and Risk Management

Credit unions often rely on third-party vendors to provide essential services and support operations. It’s crucial to diligently assess vendors’ security standards and risk management practices to ensure they align with your credit union’s expectations. Regular vendor audits and thorough risk assessments will strengthen your institution’s overall cyber hygiene.

9. Implement Robust Authentication Practices

Implement strong authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) to bolster access security for members and internal employees. MFA provides an additional layer of security beyond passwords and significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information.

10. Plan for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

The ability to quickly recover from a cyber attack or security incident is crucial to maintaining a credit union’s operations and reputation. Develop a comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity plan that includes frequent data backups, off-site storage of critical data, and protocols for resuming operations in case of a breach.

Elevating Credit Union Cyber Hygiene with Virtual Private Cloud Services

Protecting your credit union from cyber threats is an ongoing and evolving endeavor, necessitating a comprehensive and proactive approach. Implementing these strategies will help to significantly improve your credit union’s cyber hygiene, reducing the likelihood of a cyberattack and mitigating its impact if it does occur. By continuously monitoring and evaluating your institution’s security posture, you can stay ahead of threats and protect sensitive member data, ensuring trust and confidence in your credit union.

Partnering with a leading IT service provider like IMS can significantly streamline your credit union’s path to robust cybersecurity. Our Virtual Private Cloud Services — including backup, disaster recovery, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, compliance, and more — provide a comprehensive solution tailored specifically for credit unions. Connect with IMS to explore how we can help safeguard and empower your credit union with our industry-leading IT solutions.


Detecting and Preventing Financial Fraud: Safeguarding Credit Unions

 

As the financial services industry faces an unprecedented surge in attempted fraud, credit unions must strengthen their defenses to protect their assets and members’ data. Fraudsters continue to evolve their tactics, making it crucial for credit unions to adopt advanced technologies that can effectively detect and prevent fraudulent activities. In the battle against financial fraud, IMS’s Anomaly Detection service is a powerful tool, empowering credit unions to stay vigilant and combat fraudulent behavior effectively.

Let’s explore the current landscape of financial fraud and the key technologies credit unions can use for detection and prevention.

Addressing the Rising Tide of Financial Fraud

A TransUnion report has shed light on the alarming increase in attempted fraud within the financial services industry. Fraudsters have diversified their tactics, including money laundering, counter-terrorism fraud, synthetic identity theft through mule schemes, and peer-to-peer payment fraud. The constantly evolving market conditions contribute to the ever-increasing financial fraud risk, making it critical for credit unions to adopt proactive measures to detect and prevent fraudulent activities.

Recognizing the need for heightened security measures, 93% of credit unions have started funding security, authentication, or digital identity initiatives since 2021, according to research from PYMNTS.com. However, credit unions still lag behind other financial institutions in leveraging advanced technologies to combat financial fraud effectively. Traditional fraud prevention methods are no longer sufficient to counteract the speed and complexity with which fraudsters operate.

To fight this rising tide of financial fraud, credit unions and other financial institutions must leverage advanced technologies equipped with real-time monitoring capabilities. 

The Current Financial Fraud Landscape

Financial regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have identified several prevalent fraud types that credit unions need to be vigilant about:

  • New Account Fraud: Criminals target accounts opened online or by phone to exploit vulnerabilities in the onboarding process.
  • Imposter Schemes: Fraudsters impersonate government agencies or other entities, offering fake services to deceive individuals and steal money or information.
  • Small Business Administration Loan Fraud: Schemes related to government initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans have become a breeding ground for fraud.
  • Business Tax Credits Fraud: Criminals exploit tax credits intended for businesses for personal gain.

To address these incidents effectively, credit unions are increasingly focusing on key areas of risk mitigation. A PwC report highlighted data privacy and cybersecurity, the use of new technology, digital identity authentication, Anti Money Laundering (AML) efforts, Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures, and local regulatory pressures as key concerns for financial institutions.

Enhancing the Credit Union Business Model

While credit unions have historically been valued for their member-centric approach and personalized relationships, it is crucial to complement this model with a strong emphasis on digital solutions. Implementing strong authentication measures and investing in fraud prevention technology are important steps to prevent account takeovers and financial fraud. Unfortunately, many credit unions have been slow to adopt these technologies, making them prime targets for criminals.

Technologies Tackling Financial Fraud

To support their defenses against financial fraud, credit unions can leverage a range of advanced technologies, many of which rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies play vital roles in fraud detection and prevention:

  • Member and Corporate Onboarding and Screening: AI-powered software can analyze member and corporate data in real time, identifying suspicious activities during the onboarding process.
  • Transaction Monitoring and Screening: Machine learning algorithms can monitor transactions in real-time, flagging unusual activities and potentially fraudulent behavior.
  • Transaction Fraud Detection: Advanced analytics and AI help detect fraud patterns, uncover hidden relationships among criminals, and reduce false positives. IMS’s Anomaly Detection solution, Polaris Radar, uses machine learning to actively monitor and generate alerts for suspicious activity. 
  • Sanctions and Watchlists Screening: AI-driven screening tools ensure compliance with regulatory requirements by identifying individuals or entities on watchlists.

By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, credit unions can achieve seamless, reliable, and strategic fraud and AML sanction compliance, significantly enhancing their ability to combat financial fraud.

Anomaly Detection: Empowering Credit Unions with Real-Time Fraud Detection

Detecting and preventing financial fraud is an ongoing challenge for credit unions and other financial institutions. With the threat landscape constantly evolving, embracing advanced technologies for real-time monitoring is crucial.

IMS’s Anomaly Detection service leverages the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze large volumes of transaction data. By establishing baseline behavioral patterns, the service can detect anomalies and deviations that might indicate fraudulent behavior. This proactive approach enables credit unions to identify potential threats swiftly and take decisive action to protect their members and financial assets.

Protect your credit union from the escalating threat of financial fraud. Explore IMS’s Anomaly Detection service today and connect with us at this link to find out how we can help meet your specific needs.


Ransomware Attacks are Only Getting Faster: How to Secure Your Credit Union

 

In cybersecurity, it’s a constant race with bad actors often seeming to be in the lead. But, with smart strategies and tools, credit unions can still effectively safeguard themselves.

Ransomware attacks are gaining momentum and complexity. These harmful software programs lock down access to computer systems or encrypt files, with attackers asking for a ransom to restore access. For credit unions that handle sensitive data, this threat is particularly concerning due to the potential monetary and reputational harm an attack can cause.

Ransomware Attacks: An Escalating Threat

Ransomware attacks have witnessed a steep rise in recent years. A shocking 75% of organizations reported being targeted by ransomware within the last year, with 38% experiencing multiple attacks, based on a survey from Barracuda Networks, Inc. The study further shared that email was the primary source for 69% of these ransomware attacks.

As ransomware continues to evolve and proliferate, new strains appear. One such example is the recently discovered Rorschach strain, one of the fastest on the market today.

In a trial conducted by Check Point on a 6-core machine with 22,000 files, all files were partially encrypted within 4.5 minutes by Rorschach. This rapid encryption speed dramatically reduces the available reaction time for a user or IT organization to a security breach, increasing the chances of a successful attack. Once successful, Rorschach can extend the ransomware to every machine in the domain, even if the initial attack targets just one machine.

Is Your Credit Union Equipped for This?

Despite the mounting prevalence of ransomware, more than 25% of companies do not feel adequately prepared to handle an attack. This feeling of unpreparedness tends to amplify as an organization grows larger, primarily due to the increased need for data protection and a larger surface to defend.

For credit unions, the aftermath of a ransomware attack can be catastrophic. Apart from the immediate financial setback from paying the ransom, there can be considerable costs associated with recovery, investigation, and system hardening post-attack. Plus, there’s the potential damage to reputation. Members trust credit unions with their sensitive financial data, and a breach could severely erode that trust.

6 Ways To Secure Your Credit Union Against Ransomware Attacks

So, how can credit unions protect themselves against this escalating cyber threat? Here are some practical strategies:

  1. Access Controls: By implementing strategies such as RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) or ABAC (Attribute-Based Access Control), you can ensure that each user only has the required level of access, preventing unauthorized data access.
  2. Password Policies: Adopt proper password policies that align with industry standards like NIST 800-63B and check for previously compromised account passwords.
  3. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Incorporate two-factor authentication (2FA) or MFA to help reduce the risk of account compromises. MFA becomes particularly crucial for privileged accounts, as it bolsters account security even if a password gets stolen.
  4. Zero-Trust Architecture: Transition to a zero-trust architecture where every connection and action must be authorized and authenticated, eliminating the default trust granted to everything within a network.
  5. Penetration Testing: Carry out penetration testing to proactively identify and address potential security gaps.
  6. Data Backup: Maintain comprehensive data backups that cover your entire infrastructure, ensuring you can quickly recover your infrastructure and restore services and functionality even in the event of a ransomware attack.

Amplify Your Ransomware Defense with IMS’s Anomaly Detection

For credit unions aiming to boost their readiness and prevention against ransomware attacks, IMS offers Anomaly Detection powered by Polaris Radar technology. This advanced tool enables you to bounce back faster while enhancing your system’s intelligence. With Polaris Radar, you can track how your data evolves and moves, utilizing machine learning to identify and alert you of any unusual behavior. Enhance your cybersecurity strategy with the power of intelligent anomaly detection.


2023 Credit Union Cybersecurity Predictions

 

As technology advances, so does the need for heightened credit union cybersecurity measures. When it comes to cybersecurity, credit unions must stay up to date with the latest threats in order to keep their members safe and secure.

As the world of technology continues to evolve, so do the challenges of keeping our data secure. Credit unions in particular face a unique set of cybersecurity threats that must be anticipated and prepared for. We will discuss how credit unions can leverage digital transformation to protect themselves and their members from malicious cyberattacks as well as explore emerging technologies that may be used to combat potential threats.

In this article, we will take a look at what experts predict are some of the major credit union cybersecurity predictions for 2023.

Credit Union Cybersecurity Will Be a Top Risk Management Concern

According to a recent NCUA article, the top 4 risk factors affecting the financial industry in 2023 include interest rate risk, liquidity risk due to inflation concerns, credit risk due to housing and loan market concerns, and cybersecurity risks due to geopolitical issues and growing dynamic threats.

In July 2022, NCUA approved a rule that requires credit unions to notify NCUA no later than 72 hours after they reasonably believe a reportable cyber incident has occurred. They have created and optimized their ACET (Automated Cybersecurity Evaluation Toolbox) and offer many free resources and checklists to credit unions aiming to adjust and evaluate risk management concerns for the new year.

“Passwordless” Solutions Are at the Forefront of Financial Cybersecurity Solutions

“Passwordless” solutions like MFA (multi-factor authentication) will continue to be a powerful tool in every credit union’s cybersecurity best practices toolkit. As the use of cloud computing and hybrid work and customer service solutions rises, so does the need to ensure all data, no matter where it is stored or sent, is protected by more than a password.

Password auto-fill options like the Google Smart Lock system continue to be popular in both personal and professional settings, and that can create rifts in security. But with MFA, those rifts can often be closed or avoided completely due to the hacker’s need to have more access and devices in order to complete the authentication process.

Because apps and cloud usage have exponentially expanded the attack surface for credit unions, these new technologies require advanced solutions that look much different than the ones that previously governed in-house servers and networks.

Phishing & Email Attacks Among Top Cybersecurity Threats for 2023

A recent article from Forbes outlines the top 5 scams that businesses should be watching for in 2023. They include:

  • Business email compromise (BEC): this includes the use of fake email accounts to harbor or spread threatening software and includes phishing attempts, ransomware, and more.
  • Malware and Ransomware: due to the current geopolitical climate surrounding the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, many political cybersecurity experts believe Russia will use its resources to continue launching ransomware attacks against those governments and entities that do not agree with its current political agenda.
  • Crypto Scams and “pig butchering” scams: Named for the phrase “raising a pig for slaughter,” these attacks start with a friendly message that entices the recipient to create an online relationship with the sender (hacker). As that trust grows, the hacker will then start questioning the recipient about their interests in crypto in an effort to get them to buy into a website that is reputed to have made someone a lot of money, only for that crypto to be stolen from the recipient’s accounts.
  • Cybercrime cash-out process innovation: This is an evolving scam that started with hackers and bad actors asking unsuspecting and uneducated individuals to send gift cards or cryptocurrency in an effort to get around the “cash-out,” where payments that surpass $10,000 and other high-value transactions can be tracked and flagged for suspicious activity.
  • Scamming as a Service: Virtual marketplaces in underground websites are creating and selling end-to-end services that “enable low-skill threat actors to fill their carts and pay with crypto,” Forbes says. These services include full sets of stolen credentials, ready-to-deploy ransomware, phishing, other attacks, and more. Even the bad guys love a good package deal.

Multi-Year Strategic Plans Work Best for Cybersecurity Success

Because cybersecurity threats are ever-changing, credit union and financial industry leaders must be prepared to put their money and their time into multi-year strategic plans. Cybersecurity is a complex beast, and everything and everyone that interacts with a network can create potential threat opportunities.

A mix of internal and external threats are often already beginning to make their way through secure areas, files, and devices throughout the year, and an improvement in key performance metrics, like a decrease in ransomware or phishing attempts, is no reason to ease off or to decrease your institution’s budget for cybersecurity personnel, services, and software.

Organizations with Cybersecurity Network Architecture Will Reduce Financial Security Costs By 90%

Does that sound too good to be true? It’s a certainty by 2024, according to Gartner’s cybersecurity predictions for 2023-2025. Those organizations that switch to a more holistic cybersecurity approach that encompasses not just their devices and network, but all technology that has access to or is integrated with it, are expected to see a 90% reduction in the final costs of security incidents.

Credit union cybersecurity threats are serious and should be caught early to minimize damage and data theft. That’s why IMS offers Polaris Radar, an anomaly detection software that enables your system to recover more quickly and easily from an attack on your credit union network security. Don’t get caught unawares, especially when your members’ personal and financial information may hang in the balance.


National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2022: 4 Major Takeaways

 

October was National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and we wanted to share some of our favorite insights we found throughout October. The importance of cybersecurity should include several focus areas.

Your network health and security should be a priority all year. As threats evolve and emerge, so should your cybersecurity strategies. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about the state of your credit union’s security, but there are so many tools and experts ready to elevate your networks and provide you with powerful solutions.

The Human Element is Paramount

The theme for the 2022 National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “See Yourself in Cyber,” which focuses on the human element of cybersecurity strategy. Because you can have the best protection and tools for your network, but more than 90% of cyberattacks are initiated (usually unintentionally) by human error.

From tellers to your CEO, and IT professionals to branch managers, the human element of cybersecurity is made up of everyone using your networks. And because credit unions are responsible for holding the life savings and other monetary assets of their members, it’s important to have all your employees trained on the most up-to-date cybersecurity practices.

Teaching your employees about the importance of cybersecurity includes showing them how to secure their everyday operations (with passwords, multifactor authentication, logging off computers instead of leaving them running or unlocked, etc.), how to recognize malicious content, emails, and more, as well as informing them how to report and react to cybersecurity breaches when they occur.

Learn about Your Members’ Habits, & Correct Them If Necessary

“Think before you click” is another way to underscore the importance of cybersecurity, especially after National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s a catchy phrase that packs a punch.

Many of your members are using their credit union information in third-party payment apps and on a host of diverse retail websites. The current “Tiktok made me buy it” trends have sparked innumerable spam accounts that are pretending to carry products that have gotten popular on social media and other platforms.

Your employees and members aren’t IT experts, but you can give them the tools to help recognize when and where they should be sharing credit union account information, or personal information in general.

Check to ensure that websites are PCI compliant, and teach your members how to recognize warning signs and scam accounts, emails, and sites.

Passwords, Passwords, Passwords

Weak passwords are often the downfall of an individual or credit union network. Sharing passwords, keeping them taped to your computer monitor at work or at home – we’re all tired of changing our passwords and finding out that we need uppercase, lowercase, special character, and minimum character length requirements.

But all these elements underscore the importance of cybersecurity: it’s in the details. Strong passwords are a great primary line of defense for several reasons. When you add each of these infuriating characteristics to your passwords, it would take a hacker nearly two decades to figure out what it is and leverage your data and networks in their favor. With that kind of security, it makes the hassle of creating these complex passwords worth it.

Update Your Software

The cyber threat landscape is always changing, and your software should be updated to keep up with those changes.

Cyber attacks aren’t growing because people refuse to put safeguards in place, they’re growing because more people than ever are carrying out core business and personal functions completely online, and the tools you had in place last year or even last month are already being circumvented by the latest threats.

Many credit unions (and businesses in general) hate losing productivity to time-consuming updates, but the importance of cybersecurity often lies most heavily in the preparation, not the reaction.

Here are a few tips:

  • Try to schedule disruptive or in-depth updates for downtime – stay away from business hours if possible.
  • Remind your team and your members early and often if you have updates that will render parts of your system unavailable for any amount of time.
  • if possible, turn on automatic updates – this prevents you and your employees from missing or skipping an important software patch or update.
  • Evaluate your software regularly – are there other products that could do things better or more efficiently? Look into them or create a review program to ensure your current solutions are the best solutions for your credit union.
  • Listen to IT department recommendations – costly mistakes can be made if you dismiss your resident cybersecurity experts. They’re not being alarmist, they’re telling you what will happen if you don’t take preventative action.

It’s Not “If,” It’s “When” – Why Your CU Needs Cloud-based Backups

Automated and unattended, IMS’s Rubrik backup solutions allow you to prepare for the worst without co-opting crucial hours of your management and IT teams’ time. Securing your data when there is a breach or data loss incident can be quick and easy.

IMS Rubrik includes backup and recovery, continuous data protection, ransomware recovery, replication and disaster recovery, virtualized environments, as well as Windows and Unix protection.

Reach out to us today to learn more about our solutions and the importance of cybersecurity. 


Ransomware Concerns: Why You Should Be Fixing Data Management Problems

 

Ransomware concerns are often categorized as cybersecurity issues rather than a result of data management problems. But there are emerging insights from the cybersecurity industry that underscore the importance of data management and other proactive technology programs and software in the fight against ransomware threats.

Here’s why you should be using data management to combat ransomware threats.

The Cost of a Ransomware Attack Is More Than Just the Ransom

Ransomware costs businesses more in the resulting downtime than it does in the ransom payment, according to TechCrunch.

Downtime causes a ripple effect that can be felt throughout your organization. From incident response measures to legal fees and support, not to mention the impact to customer experience, downtime caused by ransomware can get pricey fast.

Depending on the size of your business, that ransom amount can also be quite high. Your data management problems are only exacerbated by a successful ransomware attack.

Credit unions and other financial institutions are seeing a huge uptick in ransomware attacks, and that trend doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon.

IMS can help set you up for success and save up to 80% of primary storage costs, leaving you with more capital to run your business.

Good Data Management Is Always Learning

If your credit union were a smart house, data management is the technology that runs all your settings and cycles. Imagine your smart thermostat, for a moment. You can set it to learn how you manage your home’s temperature throughout the day. Pretty soon, the system will use these patterns to create a schedule that best fits your usage.

That’s how IMS’s machine learning works with your data. The software learns how your credit union employees and executives use data and where it travels, and it will notice when things go off track, like when someone tries to hack into your servers or gain access to sensitive data without authorization.

As your data management problems emerge, your IMS software can help you navigate to the most comprehensive solutions through compliance and data discovery tools.

Don’t Forget about the Big Picture

Your data is likely housed across physical servers, cloud systems, and other legacy processes. But because these fragmented processes can’t give you a good idea of how much data you have, or what it looks like in its entirety, you are setting your credit union up for failure.

To continue the house analogy: imagine you are at home, and a fire breaks out. When you submit your losses to your home insurance, you also submit photo and video evidence of your assets that were in the home – televisions, gaming systems, children’s toys, clothes, furniture, kitchen appliances, etc. Your insurance company then cuts you a check for your loss of those items.

If you don’t have this big picture view of your home, you may miss important things that were lost.

Your credit union data is the same. If you have no concept of the scope of your data, where it is, and how much exists, ransomware attackers can steal and corrupt files that are crucial to your credit union operations, but that you didn’t realize were missing until much later. Data management problems often require looking at specific data items and areas, but also need the context of your big picture data usage and storage to use as a framework or blueprint.

Visibility and pattern analysis (like those solutions offered through IMS Data Discovery) can show you what’s happening in every part of your data management system. Once you have this framework, you can see how your data is being used, who is using it, and when. And with machine learning, those patterns we talked about earlier – and any disruptions that happen within them – are easily traceable and visible.

The Role of Data Backup & Recovery

Preventing attacks should be at the top of the list of ransomware concerns. Much like driving a car or keeping your house locked, it’s easier to use defensive tactics to prevent issues, rather than to wait until the issues arise to address them. Even so, your credit union data is still likely going to be targeted by bad actors, and that means your reaction to an attack has to be as stronger or stronger than your attempts at prevention were.

Two important pieces of pulling yourself out of data management problems include data backup and disaster recovery.

Because ransomware often targets the data that will halt operations and cripple your credit union’s business, your data backups need to be housed safely, and at least one copy should – by best practice – be housed offsite.

And disaster recovery is your failsafe. Once the cybersecurity walls have been breached, disaster recovery is your most important next step.

Ransomware cripples people and businesses by leveraging the lifeblood of their operations – digital data. If you don’t set up ways to get that data back without going through the hackers, your credit union could face huge issues, up to and including the shutdown of your business operations.

Invest in the Best Credit Union Data Management Solutions

Data management problems require multi-faceted solutions. And IMS is your guide for cohesive and comprehensive data management strategies that fit your credit union.

For those looking to increase your effectiveness at preparing for and preventing ransomware incidents, IMS offers Anomaly Detection through a technology called Polaris Radar. You’ll be able to recover faster while increasing your system’s intelligence. See how your data moves and changes and let Polaris Radar use machine learning to detect and alert you of anomalous behavior. 


Cybersecurity Best Practices for Credit Union Lending

 

Your credit union members are likely more worried about making sound and safe financial decisions, especially as housing and living costs rise with an unprecedented hike in inflation. In the last several decades, these costs have quadrupled in most areas of the country, while wages have yet to even double. That means your members and prospective members are looking for smart and secure lending options.

July through September is the peak lending season for most financial institutions, and you don’t want to alienate prospects by employing less-than-optimal lending cybersecurity.

There are several ways to incorporate cybersecurity into your credit union lending process and practices.

Start with a Good Foundation – Or Build It

Large, for-profit banks are the only organizations in the financial sector that can afford to create a proprietary system for loan processes. The rest of us, including your credit union, must rely on strategic planning, and smart tools.

Lending cybersecurity, like cybersecurity in other high-risk industries, can’t successfully rely on DIY programs to create a solid digital wall of protection around networks and systems within it.

Your cybersecurity program should have all-encompassing strategies, not just piecemeal solutions. Think of it this way: while you can build a boat with several hundred pieces of wood or metal and create a strong enough hull for the boat to float, you’ve now got hundreds of seams and potential cracks just waiting to be breached. Whereas, if you create the hull using something more akin to one seamless piece, your chances of water seeping in are much lower.

A good foundation includes things like reviewing your current digital landscape and cybersecurity. The first step is looking for potential security gaps. These gaps can be interwoven throughout this landscape: in data collection, storage, and encryption protocols as well as third-party vendor interfaces, mobile apps and platforms, servers, cameras, social media accounts, and more.

These things need to be audited regularly, starting from the first days of your newly integrated systems.

Simplicity is Key – But There’s a Limit

Lending cybersecurity mainly relies on the implementation of practices, education, and technology solutions that minimize the risk of a cyberattack. If you have fewer holes in your systems, that a hacker will find a way through them is going to be much smaller.

That’s why simplicity in your lending practices and tasks is key. The loan process is complicated by nature, but the more seamless you can make it for your members and your staff, the better the outcome will be.

User error is often touted as one of the most common causes of data breaches. The goal of your loan programs and the steps you employ to carry them out should be to create a user-friendly experience without skimping on network security and other precautionary measures.

For example, employing multi-factor authentication in parts of your data and lending information collection process is inherently more complicated than single-factor authentication, but you are trading safety for convenience. Two-factor authentication is still the best choice when it comes to collecting and storing lending data.

Finding the balance between “easy-to-use” and “optimal protection” should be the simple target you aim for in credit union lending cybersecurity.

Here’s a great article from Medium about cybersecurity in the mortgage process. It goes into more detail about how complexity is the “worst enemy of security.”

Automating Compliance Increases Lending Cybersecurity

Lending cybersecurity is not the only way to protect your credit union loan processes. In fact, much like the risks for cyberattacks have increased, lending compliance issues are also on the rise.

Because compliance is crucial to the efficacy of your credit union, maintaining that credibility should always be a top priority regardless of whether your credit union is growing, merging, or simply focused on optimizing current business operations.

There are several benefits to automating your compliance tasks. Automation is primarily used to ensure that there is no impact to normal operations and production. There is also no learning curve – compliance automation means machine learning drives for you – it is constantly improving and identifying potential violations of internal compliance policies by tracking sensitive data nd where it goes.

By automating your compliance processes with tools and software like IMS’s Polaris Sonar, you can quickly reduce sensitive data exposure without having to add to your current infrastructure or allot employee time towards completing these tasks.

Anomaly Detection – Recover Faster

Cyberattacks on financial institutions are inevitable – your credit union holds a wealth of assets and hackers are always looking for ways to exploit your security systems to take some of those assets for themselves.

And with ransomware on the rise, it’s important to implement the most effective strategy for recognizing ransomware attacks early and defending against them.

IMS has anomaly detection solutions with Polaris Radar to track your data changes over time, replace manual recoveries for minimal business disruption, and increase intelligence with machine learning.

Make sure your credit union lending and all financial data is never used against you for ransom. Learn more about partnering with IMS today by requesting a consultation.


Data Security Best Practices for Credit Unions

 

Credit unions often serve some of the most vulnerable businesses in their communities. About 50% of small businesses that have a data breach in their operations will close permanently in the following 6 months. While credit unions may not fold so easily in the midst of a cyberattack, it’s still important to have excellent data protection protocols and contingency plans in the event that your data is hacked or compromised, and it’s not just for the benefit of your IT managers. Adopting credit union data security best practices can curb the risks associated with the storage and curation of sensitive customer data.

Data security is an ever-evolving and often underestimated superpower in the financial world. There are many great ways to improve your data security. 

Barriers to Entry and Enhancement

Protecting your data, while always a worthy investment, is often very expensive, especially for smaller institutions. Onsite data protection is a great start, but the events of 2020 have also shed light on the many business’s shortcomings in the online data security arena. Without proper training and monitoring, employees can also easily perform unsafe data handling. As email scammers and hackers get more creative, the chances you or your business will be a victim of a cyberattack only grows.

Recognize potential threats

The first thing you should do is check your weak spots: gather a list of information that is most valuable to scammers. Knowing what the high-risk data is, and where it’s stored, is half the battle, as they say. Creating protocols and programs that scan for these valuable tidbits is a great way to pull this information together quickly and precisely.

Potential threats can also include older technology, like employees who leave login credentials or other access information somewhere easily accessible or noticed. Just because it’s not stored in a sophisticated and expensive device doesn’t mean it can’t be used to wreak havoc on your business.

Put Your Guard Up

Once you’ve identified your top targets, it’s time to reinforce them. Encryption is a common tool for protecting sensitive information, and it can be used on many fronts. Leverage tools like the ACET to set standards and controls that install safeguards against bad actors on your systems.

Diversify your approach using malware defenses, continuous monitoring systems, employee procedures, and the like. Your outside vendors are also common entry points for cyberattackers. Make sure your protections extend to these dealings as well. 

Don’t forget to test your systems. Remember school tornado drills? It’s wise to practice these protocols in a controlled environment to be sure your institution is prepared for the real deal.

Conclusion

Credit union data security is an industry that evolves at breakneck speeds. A system that worked perfectly last year could leave dangerous gaps in your cybersecurity offerings this year and it is wise to keep an eye on new trends both in cybercrime and in the tools industry leaders are using to mitigate the risks.

Cybersecurity maintenance is a continuous and all-encompassing endeavor. Contact us for help, we can protect your data and meet your cybersecurity needs.


Using IaaS to Grow Your Business

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is an instant cloud computing infrastructure provisioned over the internet. In an IaaS model, a cloud provider hosts the infrastructure components that’s normally present in an on-site data center, including servers, storage and networking hardware. 

IaaS provides a range of services to accompany infrastructure components, such as billing, monitoring, security, backup and recovery. These services are policy-driven, allowing users to automate and orchestrate important tasks. In general, credit unions benefit from IaaS because they don’t have to maintain the hardware, networking or maintenance involved with physical assets like servers and data centers.

For many credit unions, especially small and medium-sized institutions, IaaS is an affordable, high-performing tool that keeps costs low. Managing IT resources on-premise can be cost-prohibitive, so IaaS makes you more competitive with larger companies.

Here’s what IaaS can do:

  • Enhance business continuity by maintaining access to your applications and data during a disaster or outage. Organizations are better equipped to handle unpredictable and growing storage needs, especially for the management of backup and recovery systems.
  • Accommodate specifications on-demand. Teams can quickly set up and dismantle test and development environments, expediting the process to bring new applications to market. Essentially, it’s easier to scale up development-test environments with IaaS. 
  • Increase stability, reliability and support on an ongoing basis without having to upgrade software or troubleshoot equipment.
  • Support new Software as a Service (SaaS) applications for call centers, customer portals and e-commerce solutions – anything that makes it easier and more efficient to do business. 

Advantages

Powered by VMware vCloud technology and accessed through vCloud Director, the IMS cloud is designed to support development, testing, disaster recovery and production.

We offer a self-service, enterprise-grade cloud IaaS solution for your specific needs. Our latest offering reduces capital expenses by eliminating upfront costs that comes with setup and ongoing maintenance. The IMS pay-as-you-go model allows you to pay for only the components you need. 

We invite you to make the most of your virtual data center and optimize cloud costs. Contact us when you’re ready to free up your team to focus on growing your credit union.