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.


Protect Data When Working from Home

With so many people working from home during this time, virtual desktops have become the norm for credit unions today. Remote connections provide workers with the ability to access data at home, on the road or a remote office. However, the increase in remote work has also led to an increase in cyberattacks. As end-user applications are evolving, so are the techniques bad actors are using to attack your data system. 

Credit unions should ensure they have the proper security protocols in place to stay safe. There are multiple vulnerabilities where remote desktops are exposed to malware attacks, including email and user-installed applications. Attackers like to gain control over a personal and work laptop and impersonate the user.

Additionally, there may be logistical challenges with assessing hardware needs, privacy and managing multiple devices. But, adopting the right security practices will protect data across all endpoints. Taking a comprehensive approach to security will allow you to easily manage the status of these areas.

Since employees are connecting to your system through a corporate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), it’s important to have security solutions in place to work across different platforms. Everything from transferring data to personal devices to using unsecured networks are common mistakes employees make when working from home. Here are a few things to keep an eye on with your team:

  • Using an insecure network. It’s possible employees are using home networks that are less secure compared to being at the office with WiFi acting as the biggest offender. That’s why your credit union should use a secure, virtual desktop environment to access sensitive information and apps. 
  • Transferring data to personal devices. Your credit union may have issued workers with a company laptop but your team may also be using a personal computer to work. It’s not uncommon for employees to move documents from work computers to a home computer, smart device or personal cloud service for ease of use. Unfortunately, the security mechanisms in place are far less secure than a business laptop or a VDI. 
  • Sharing access credentials. Bottlenecks often occur when one employee has to wait for another colleague to complete a task. To expedite the process they might share their login credentials to an application or database so their colleague can access what’s needed and reduce that bottleneck. Not only is this an unapproved action it becomes problematic when done over an insecure network. 
  • Inadvertently sharing private information with friends. While teams have transitioned to hosting meetings via video chat and using social media as an outline to stay connected, workers may be leaking sensitive information without knowing it. This may be leaving a comment on Facebook about what it’s like working from home, taking a photo or video of your home office or displaying a computer setup. These are all risk factors to causing data leaks.

To avoid these pitfalls, your IT team should implement additional security controls and set up guidelines on what to install, download or share to avoid security breaches when working from home. They should also retrain staff on the most appropriate ways to handle sensitive information. Performing continuous security testing will reduce the possibility of malicious attacks on your system.

Financial institutions are always a target for cyber attacks, so it’s critical you identify any vulnerabilities. The most effective thing to do is enable our private cloud to deliver easily managed services. IMS provides a complete virtual workspace that allows your credit union to rapidly transform desktops and applications to users on any device, anywhere in a secure way.


Leveraging the ACET to Advance Cybersecurity

 

People choose credit unions because of their customer service, accessibility and focus on its members. Credit unions instill a sense of trust and loyalty by creating customer-friendly relationships and ensuring members their money is safe. To nurture that trust, it’s essential for you to do everything possible to keep information safe. 

Examining protections and operations

Credits unions are still financial institutions that must have the same protections as any bank. In setting standards and controls to install safeguards against bad actors, more credit unions are embracing the Automated Cybersecurity Examination Tool (ACET), provided by the National Credit Union Administration. The ACET assesses how each institution prevents and prepares for cyberattacks and threats through a standardized examination of nearly 500 questions and 200 documents required for submission. 

Based on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC) Cybersecurity Assessment Tool, the ACET improves and standardizes how the NCUA supervises cybersecurity for all federally-insured credit unions on a rolling basis. It basically helps determine a credit union’s exposure to risk by identifying the type and complexity of operations, as well as the level of risk and corresponding controls. The ranking ranges from baseline to innovative.

Last year, NCUA used the ACET to assess credit unions with more than $250 million in assets and will continue to deploy an updated version this year for credit unions with assets over $100 million. Ultimately, the exam will be scaled to the size and risk profile of the financial institution. Starting in 2022, maturity assessments will be done once every four years.

Improving the maturity of your cybersecurity

A lot of attention has been focused on how to prepare for the assessment, but your team should also be focusing on ways to improve cybersecurity maturity. The ACET uses the same maturity levels as the CAT: Baseline, Evolving, Intermediate, Advanced and Innovative.

Business people analyzing financial dataThe question becomes, what technologies are you implementing to move beyond the baseline and into an advanced and innovative tier. What technologies are being used to reduce risks and attacks while also increasing ease of oversight and collaboration. Additionally, what practices and processes are in place to protect data, infrastructure and information? 

Resilience entails everything from planning and having continuous, automated backup protection to mitigation and recovery during a cyber incident. 

What steps are you taking to ensure your systems and data centers are hosted offsite and within cloud environments? What type of ransomware recovery is in place? Is your IT team spending more time managing complex legacy systems?

The ACET is an opportunity to do more than answer questions but also take steps to evolve your backup and recovery process. Ultimately, an investment in the right system will go a long way in building trust and strengthening relationships with members.

We understand that cybersecurity compliance can be costly, which is why specialize in providing the best and most cost-effective services for credit unions. Let’s find the right solutions for your credit union.