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.


Hidden Ways Your Credit Union Data Is at Risk

 

The importance of protecting your credit union data can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, there are many ways your data can be stolen, corrupted, or lost. From less-than-vigilant password protocols to accidental deletions, malware, and more – each of these threats presents unique challenges and accesses specific vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity and other data systems and puts your data at risk.

There are also many undetected ways you put your data at risk. Many loopholes and vulnerabilities are often found after they’ve been exploited if you don’t know where to look or what to look for. Let’s discuss some of the hidden ways your credit union data is at risk.

Personal Device Usage

Personal devices are used for business projects and functions during working hours but are not company property. There are tons of different types of personal devices, and most of them are connected. This includes things like smartphones, laptops and tablets, smartwatches and accessories, and more.

When you allow your employees to use their own devices to carry out credit union business, you are putting your data at risk of being lost or stolen. Personal devices also aren’t held to the same security and update standards as your company-specific technology.

Device management is a major piece of post-COVID cybersecurity. Each device that connects to your credit union’s network is creating opportunities for breaches because it puts your CU and your member information in more hands, and not all of those hands will treat that data correctly. Whether the data is lost through malicious activities or unintentional employee mishandling, it’s important to think through the amount and types of devices that you want to be able to connect to your data and network systems.

Insufficient Backup Policies

Backups are diverse and indispensable tools for safeguarding your credit union data. But that doesn’t mean every backup works the same way.

When you are exploring and auditing your backup policies, it’s important to not only think about the time and convenience of the backup functions – making sure your backups are run regularly, capturing all your credit union data, and not hindering other network functions.

But it is also wise to think about how long it will take for your backups to restore your data. If an onsite server fails, do you know how long it will take for your offsite backups to restore it? Will it take a full 24 hours? Do you have adequate offsite backups?

The mistake here is installing backup software or protocols and then forgetting about it. These systems, though they should never fail, should be regularly checked to ensure that you are capturing all the data you need to be backing up. Business processes change, and IT protocols are always evolving.

IMS offers backup services tailored specifically to credit unions. That means these systems were built with your specific data types in mind. Your data backups are automated and your data is secured and stored offsite at an IMS data center.

Digital Supply Chain Weaknesses

The digital supply chain is essentially the network that is created throughout the supply chain to increase integration, dynamic processes, and predictive supply chain operations.

If you have third-party software that you used to create your credit union’s app, which then supplies products and services to your enrolled members, this is just one example of the different ways digital content and programming can intersect with and affect your cybersecurity and your credit union data. For example, a breach in 2021 involved the Kaseya supply chain. Kaseya offers remote management services that many credit unions in the USA use.

Understaffed and Overburdened IT Staff

Credit unions aren’t like big banks. Some are standalone small businesses with a handful of staff members that are diligently serving their communities. Other credit unions are large and can be run much like a corporation.

But right now, there are staffing shortages everywhere. The pandemic has caused what many are calling the Great Resignation, and that means more people than ever are overburdened at work.

And while this is a big hurdle to overcome no matter what industry or department you work in, IT shortages can be much more expensive than just the overtime and loss of productivity costs.

If your IT department isn’t able to keep up with all the day-to-day maintenance, employee and member requests, and other top priority items, something is going to eventually slip through the cracks.

The hiring shortages and issues aren’t going away quickly, and that means technology-based solutions should be your next step. Luckily, that’s what IMS has been doing for credit unions and credit union data for years.

Combat Known and Unknown Data Threats with IMS Today

IMS is the leading data management, backup, disaster recovery, and IaaS service provider for credit unions. Whether you are trying to increase protection from bad actors, unhappy employees, or unprecedented threats like staff mistakes and natural disasters, IMS can help.

Our private cloud services have been designed with credit union data in mind:

With these and other services, tailored specifically to your CU needs, IMS is the perfect solution to help assuage your data fears as we become increasingly reliant on technology and stored data solutions.


Why Your Credit Union Needs Offsite Backup

 

Is your credit union considering implementing offsite backup services?

An offsite backup is a tool used to replicate your credit union’s (or any business’s) data and store it on a server or medium that is housed in a different location. While local backups are a good start, those backups stored on a hard drive or other media and are more geared toward protecting your data in the event of a small issue, like corruption of a single file.

Cybersecurity threats have been on the rise for several years, and the pandemic exacerbated that. Here’s why your credit union needs offsite backup.

Disasters & Storage Space

Your credit union is a financial institution that is dedicated to its members. That means the space in your branches and physical locations is better utilized when your data backups are housed outside of that location.

Offsite backups offer the benefit of keeping your office storage space to a minimum so you can house more staff members and member-inclusive areas like lobbies and private meeting rooms.

Storing your data offsite also means any natural or other disasters that affect your credit union operations will not affect your backups. Fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake – your locations have their own specific weather threats that can disrupt or destroy data and data-housing hardware if all your backups are stored on-site.

Reduced Time & Cost

If you don’t have to pay for the technology that houses your data, and you don’t have to manage the backups, you can save time and money. That’s the beauty of offsite backup services.

You can outsource the purchase and upkeep of your data backup system by partnering with IMS to store your data safely offsite and to have it monitored and protected.

This also saves your IT staff and credit union managers and leaders time by removing some, if not all, of the data backup duties from their plates. Your credit union operations can continue efficiently and cost-effectively.

Increased Security

And speaking of protection, there are several benefits to offsite backup on that front, too.

Should your credit union or branch be hit with malware that affects your entire local network, your offsite backups are still safe. This can decrease the impact of things like ransomware and create great opportunities for near-seamless disaster recovery protocols.

You also remove the opportunity for human error by moving the data offsite. This way, files can’t be confused or stolen through employee error or malicious intent.

Offsite backups are disconnected from your main networks, so any issues you have with those networks will leave your backups completely unaffected.

Peace of Mind

Housing all your assets in one place is never a great business strategy, especially when those assets include sensitive personal and financial information. You and your members will be able to rest easy knowing that their information is protected in a data center with technology that was built to serve credit union needs.

Remote work and hybrid office spaces also mean that the availability of data has changed. Keeping all important backups in one place when your credit union may have people accessing it from unfamiliar homes and public networks has increased the chances of a malicious attack.

By incorporating offsite backup solutions into your business continuity and disaster recovery plans, you can ensure that the big disasters will have virtually no effect on the integrity of your data.

Cloud-Based Offsite Backup Solutions

IMS offers an automated, unattended backup solution that keeps your data from physical and virtual machines securely stored at an IMS data center.

Our could-based backup services are powered by Rubrik, the premier backup solution on the market. We provide fast and efficient backup that includes both on-premise backup and offsite replication.

Our Rubrik backup solution includes:

  • Backup & recovery
  • Continuous data protection
  • Ransomware Recovery Replication & disaster recovery
  • Virtualized environments
  • Windows & Unix protection

Your data is the digital backbone of your credit union operations. And more and more people are prioritizing security and continuity in their banking and other financial service providers. 


6 Benefits of Offsite Data Storage

 

Colocation is one of the big players when it comes to digitizing your credit union processes and keeping your data safe and secure. Renting offsite physical space to house your data is a great disaster recovery practice, which should be a part of every credit union’s business continuity plan. Here are some of the top benefits of offsite data storage.

Business Continuity & Connectivity

Let’s start with something we already mentioned. Colocation protects your data no matter what happens to the physical locations of any credit union branches by adding redundancy to your system. That means your data is available nearly 100% of the time, ensuring near-perpetual connectivity. The chances of losing access to your data, especially with offsite backups, means your products and services are never disrupted by glitches or natural disasters.

Offsite data storage has become a necessary addition to business continuity plans considering the recent push toward expansive digital banking. 24/7 availability of services and products is something your members have come to expect from their preferred financial institutions.

Cost-Effectiveness

Taking advantage of offsite data storage has comparably low setup costs, and the fees included in maintenance are nothing compared to the guarantees it brings your credit union in terms of uninterrupted service and data loss prevention.

Flexibility

Because your system’s data is backed up in a physical location that isn’t tied to your credit union properties, you have more flexibility in your locations.

Restructuring branches, shutting locations down or adding new ones – everything is possible with offsite data storage. Tying your data backups to a separate location also means that you can optimize your own space for other purposes. No need to save rooms for extra data storage or redundancies.

Support & Service

Your credit union’s IT department already has enough to handle, with the major shifts to digital services. And your tech employees are worth more to your business when they have the resources and the time to focus on assisting members. With IMS colocation and private cloud services, you have access to data and IaaS support every hour of every day, including holidays and nontraditional hours.

Onsite and remote emergency support ensure that your data is protected and optimized, so you can get back to fulfilling your credit union’s true purpose – bringing great financial services and advice to your members.

Scalability

Just like your locations can be scaled easily when your data is stored offsite, your infrastructure and digital needs can be scaled up or back to accommodate whatever phase of growth or consolidation your credit union may be currently going through.

Maintain Control over Your Data

Offsite data storage allows for your data to be managed in a secure secondary location, but you still get to keep control over it. Take advantage if its scalability, customize your data solutions to cover your credit union’s needs, and get the support you need, no matter where or when you need it.

Make Connections, Protect Your CU Data for Good

Colocation services are a core part of your business continuity plan, and your credit union members and employees shouldn’t have to suffer when an unplanned emergency happens. Keep your data safe and your business thriving with IMS’s colocation and private cloud services.

Contact us for more information.


Lending Trends in 2021 & Beyond

 

The benefits of digital lending are undeniable, and as more lending services enter your members’ market, it’s crucial to be aware of the latest trends in lending. Lending programs are being offered by more than just banks and credit unions – retail giants like Amazon are continuing to expand their financial services, aiming to create all-inclusive experiences for their current and potential customers.

Let’s discuss some of the latest lending trends in 2021 and beyond.

Lending-as-a-Service

With the emergence of fintech as a means to offer cheaper and faster online options for all banking needs, creating space in the industry for Lending-as-a-Service.

Lending-as-a-Service allows companies and brands to offer transparent, user-friendly financing solutions, rather than partnering with a financial brand to do it on behalf of the brand. This has recently made waves in the online automotive retail sector.

By using APIs to tie online applications to one another, your credit union’s lending services will need to continue integrating and streamlining lending services to capture more tech-savvy members of all ages who have embraced new digital solutions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes in Lending Trends Due to Member Behavior

As younger generations begin taking up more market share in the lending industry, your member needs also change. For Millennials and Gen Z, generations who spent much of their childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, avoiding debt is a top priority. And many of these people are willing to take out loans to consolidate and pay down their current debt. This means they are more debit card-forward than your credit union’s older members.

This change in member behavior comes with higher demand for offerings that provide lending opportunities with fewer features attached that also mitigate the incursion of additional debt.

Increased Solutions for Bridging Business Capital Gaps

According to FintechTris, another big shift in the lending world includes attempting to bridge the gap in business credit offerings: “Working capital loans, equipment financing, and lines of credit are now readily available for this user segment through non-bank alternatives.”

There’s also an increase in companies looking for partners willing to invest in unsecured offers. Companies are entering the lending industry by allowing borrowers to use refundable security deposits as collateral for loans, which then allows them to receive their deposit back after 6-12 months of on-time payments.

Fighting Fintechs for Market Share

Credit unions are faced with growing competition from fintechs, and the solution will have to be focused on transparency, flexibility, and peace of mind, according to CUNA.

The key to success in this changing lending climate is to leverage your credit union’s reputation and commitment to providing high-quality member experiences by creating great lending opportunities and offering sound financial advice as we move into 2022.

The Future of Your CU – Your Way

IMS knows CU-specific tech solutions the way that your credit union knows exactly what your members need – from financial advice to insight on lending trends. Let us help with your virtual desktop and private cloud needs.

Contact IMS to set up your consultation or call 888-356-6043 today to explore our solutions and services.


The Future of Credit Union Technology

 

The last year or so has become the catalyst for credit union technology growth and change, driving member services toward digital solutions faster than they have ever done before.

Streamlined service and cutting-edge digital experience is no longer a luxury for businesses, it’s a necessity. Let’s discuss the future of credit union technology.

2021 Priorities: Cloud, Data, and Analytics

Cloud, data and analytics are the top priorities this year for credit unions looking to make big changes to their member experience standards, says the Credit Union Times.

Cloud solutions are quickly becoming vital to businesses across nearly all industries, as work-from-home opportunities increase in popularity. The ease of storing data in an easily accessible place no matter your physical location is a big boon to a credit union’s tech future.

And since so much activity has moved to online platforms, data and analytics are being collected and leveraged in more useful ways. For your credit union to better serve its community, you must know who you are speaking to and working with. Analytics offer hosts of great insights that can help with everything from choosing or updating hours of operation to running multi-audience marketing campaigns.

Bridging Accessibility Gaps

Credit union technology also proves advantageous for individuals who are differently mobile and more digital-minded. By offering digital credit union solutions, you are improving the accessibility and safety of your brand. Whether your members’ ability to come into your physical branch locations stems from a handicap or illness, lack of vehicle access, pandemic restrictions, or a preference for online dealings, credit union technology offers new ways for people of all ages and from all localities the opportunity to take advantage of your membership and services.

Kirk Drake of Credit Union 2.0 says this: “In the credit unions, not that they don’t want to make money, it’s about member service, we really want to get the member value in that ecosystem and they really speak a very different language about their mission purpose, values, and what they’re trying to do.”

Preserving the Partnership

Members don’t choose credit unions for the fancy tech or big bank offerings – they do it because being part of a credit union means you have a partner for your financial life and wellbeing. While technology is changing how that partnership looks, it’s not changing the impact partnership has on the member experience.

By partnering with technology, credit unions can provide end-to-end services for their members. Multimedia resources, chat and video conferencing appointments, and so much more can be built into your digital presence, to help ensure that your credit union and its partnership with your members remain meaningful and provide quality interactions.

Contactless Trends

Pymnts.com reports that credit union members have a high desire for contactless payments. And though this trend started long before the events of 2020, due to the rapid digitization happening across all industries, 98% of POS devices being shipped out now are enabled with contactless functionality.

For CUs, this means focusing on streamlining. It also means taking the time to understand member preferences and offer personalization that suits a wide variety of member habits and requests.

Upgrade Your Credit Union Technology

Your credit union’s member experience is paramount to your success. Information Management Solutions (IMS) has years of experience providing data center services to credit unions all over the U.S., and we look forward to serving your unique needs.

IMS has virtual private cloud services and solutions like core hosting, virtual desktop, disaster recovery, and more for your credit union. Contact us today for more information.