How Credit Unions Can Implement a Cybersecurity First Approach

approach to cybersecurityAccording to a Cybersecurity Ventures estimate, the global cost of cybercrime will topple $6 trillion this year, which is more than two times the damage in 2015 of $3 trillion. And credit unions can be especially vulnerable to cyberattacks as you undergo digital transformations to bolster the member experience. In fact, Black Kite estimates that 48% of credit unions and 58% of their vendors could have potential critical vulnerabilities directly related to out-of-date systems.

While alarming, these statistics raise awareness to the importance of having proactive cybersecurity measures in place. Fortunately, there are several proactive steps you can take to protect your data, credit union, and members. To commemorate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we've outlined three key principles of a robust cybersecurity program, as well as actionable steps you can take to secure your credit union's network, data, and systems. 

Access is key. Keep it under a tight lock.

When it comes to protecting your credit union and your members, it's imperative that only those who belong in the digital environment have access. Here are a few tips you can leverage to strengthen access to your credit union's digital workplace. 

  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to ensure the user is who they say they are. With phishing attacks on the rise in today's remote, work-from-home, virtual environment, leveraging tools like MFA couldn't be more important.  
  • Enforce high-quality password standards and secure credential management. Specifically, encourage users to employ unique, hard-to-guess passwords for all accounts. While seemingly simple and intuitive, the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report suggests that 61% of breaches are attributed to leveraged credentials.   
  • Use Single-Sign On (SSO) for applications to protect users from password fatigue and increase productivity. When coupled with MFA, SSO can create an added level of protection for sensitive applications and data. 
  • Stringently manage user access. Make sure to quickly access remove rights for users who may change roles or are no longer with your credit union. User access protocols should be ingrained in your culture and a part of your IT policies and procedures.
  • Always know who is on your network. Keeping an accurate log of network connections—such as vendors, business partners, user accounts, etc.—is paramount. This knowledge can be key for recognizing unauthorized access and swiftly taking corrective actions. 
  • Actively administer user rights on a need-to-know basis. Few—if any—employees need access to all of your systems. Instead, it's best to actively administer user rights based on job role and task responsibilities.

Data is digital currency. Manage it wisely.

Reliable, accurate data is the heartbeat of your credit union. As such, it's a best practice to regularly backup work to avoid the loss of data critical to operations. However, even the most robust security measures can be manipulated by a nefarious individual who is sophisticated and patient, such as an avid phisher. Make sure to implement data security measures wherever information is stored, processed, as well as transmitted. You should also plan for the unexpected, which means understanding how to recover networks, systems, and data from reliable sources.

  • Take inventory of your data. Always know what information is where and pay special attention to sensitive or critical data. You should also be clear on how your data is protected. 
  • Make backups automatic. Establish a regular cadence for automatically backing up data, as well as removing redundancies for key systems. Your protections should include encryption, physical security protocols, and offline copies. 
  • Keep a watchful eye on your data and network. You should always be in the know about what's happening on your network. Make sure to manage host and device components; network and perimeter components; implement data-at-rest and in-transit; and monitor user behavior for abnormal activities.  

Hope for the best. Plan for the unexpected. Limit damage. 

How do most best-in-class organizations approach cybersecurity? They hope for the best, but always have a plan to limit damage and quickly restore normal operations. For instance, you should be readily prepared with trained staff, documented communication procedures, and other business contingency plans. The goal is to prevent or thwart attacks; but if you're unsuccessful, your ability to quickly respond with a strategic plan will be the difference. 

  1. Create and test your incident response and disaster recovery plan. All employees should have clearly outlined roles, so each individual and business unit has transparent marching orders. 
  2. Develop business impact assessments that create a hierarchy for which systems should be recovered first. 
  3. Know who to turn to for help. In the event of a cybersecurity incident, every second matters. According to the Breach Level Index, hackers can siphon off 75 records with each second passed. To make the most of every moment, have a clear plan on who you'll call in a cybersecurity emergency.
  4. Communication and containment are essential. Create an internal reporting structure that can help your credit union detect, communicate, and contain cyberattacks. You can use your internal containment measures to mitigate the impact of incidents if they occur. 

When it comes to protecting your credit union, you are not alone. FLEX core technology offers a robust, multi-layer approach for repelling malicious cyberattacks from outside your network. Access the FLEX Security Services eGuide today to learn how FLEX's credit union software can help bolster your cybersecurity. 

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