Build Up Security Policies and Budgets

Include the costs of security in your CU’s business plan and overall budget.

May 07, 2012
KEYWORDS budget , planning
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Knowing that your credit union is only as strong as its weakest link illustrates how important it is to have a strong security system in place.

A security breach can cost your credit union revenue, productivity, and member loyalty. Security problems can tarnish your reputation and result in a critical loss of funding.

Three CEOs describe here how their credit unions are being proactive—prioritizing security planning and protection to avoid security lapses.

Budget for top priorities

“Without adequate security policies and the willingness to invest in security, there isn’t a need for a business plan—we won’t be in business,” says Sterling Nielsen, president/CEO of $2.9 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah.

Mountain America stays up-to-date on best security practices and makes it a priority to implement them into its planning process. “Through that process,” says Nielsen, “the priorities are identified and the funds are budgeted to accomplish our security goals. We might not be able to complete our entire wish list, but we can budget funds for the highest priorities.

“One security oversight can destroy any trust our members have in us,” he adds. “Therefore, we go to great measures to secure our buildings, our networks, and our online services. The cost of protecting our networks is very high, but worth every penny.”

Mountain America has hired employees specifically trained in various aspects of security. It also has implemented employee training across the credit union and has enhanced its policies and procedures pertaining to security.

“Effective security is multifaceted—including security of the buildings, networks, online access, mobile access, member education, and other areas like social engineering,” says Nielsen. “But it’s easy to overlook social engineering—psychological manipulation of people you generally don’t see face-to-face in order to deceive them.

“This can be a significant security threat to credit unions, particularly as they grow and possibly become more vulnerable to scams like phishing, pharming, and other types of fraud.”

To pinpoint needed security improvements, he adds, you have to take a hard look at what you’re doing now. “For example, could a person pretending to be a phone company representative or a member of your information technology department talk his or her way into a sensitive area of your building?”

Updating security around social engineering includes several elements, Nielsen explains. Make sure staff don’t write down their passwords or place them where they can be found by others.

“We strive to maintain the trust of our members, but that doesn’t mean we should make online access easier than it should be,” he says. “If your online services are so convenient that your security is weak, you won’t be doing any of your members a favor.”

Next: Take prompt action as needed

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