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5 Cybersecurity Risk Factors for Credit Unions

08.16.2022
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Recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has brought home the importance of cybersecurity for credit unions. These financial institutions may get less attention than big banks, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean their risk is any lower for malicious incidents and cybersecurity attacks.

To keep your members protected, ensure the longevity of your business, and safeguard your ongoing compliance with both regulatory and governmental agencies, credit unions must protect their network security. The best safety measures are those that take a proactive stance against threats, providing staff and customers with peace of mind even as threats against American credit unions intensify.

Determining the best ways to approach credit union cybersecurity begins with a complete understanding of the risk factors unique to this industry. Let’s delve into a brief overview of the industry’s current cybersecurity trends, as well as relevant risk factors to keep in mind.   

Current Trends in Credit Union Cybersecurity

In January 2022, the Department of Homeland Security issued a cybersecurity advisory warning operators of critical infrastructure in the United States about the risks of Russian state-sponsored cyber operatives.

They encouraged the professionals tasked with ensuring our cybersecurity to be on high alert and to proactively hunt for threats around their perimeters. They also provided recommendations to help strengthen organizations’ cybersecurity posture, including:

  • Patching all systems
  • Prioritizing the resolution of known exploited vulnerabilities
  • Implementing multifactor authentication
  • Using antivirus software
  • Developing a plan and contact list for surge support

Recent cybersecurity incidents perpetrated against credit unions in Canada show the potential for damage that can occur even from an unsuccessful attack. In June 2022, numerous credit unions across the country found evidence of attempted access by an unauthorized individual. While no access to their internal systems was granted, many customers could not access in-person or online banking services while the issue was being resolved. 

These incidents and the warnings issued by the Department of Homeland Security show just how high the stakes are for credit unions in the United States. With billions of dollars in jeopardy and many credit unions limited by a lack of resources, following cybersecurity best practices and staying on top of risk factors is critically important.

5 Credit Union Cybersecurity Risk Factors

According to one recent report, financial institutions are 300 times more likely to be attacked by cybercriminals. This has led this sector to be awarded the unfortunate title of “most attacked industry” three years in a row.

Learning about the potential risk factors can help IT professionals working with credit unions become more aware of the threats they may face and the dangers inherent to the industry they serve.

Here are some of the most urgent cybersecurity risks credit unions face.

Supply chain interruptions

Ongoing supply chain interruptions have affected a variety of products and services across the globe. Unfortunately, the IT industry has not been immune. A lack of availability of semiconductor chips has affected everything from cars to computers, which poses a challenge if your business needs to upgrade server parts or install a backup.

To minimize this risk, businesses should prioritize regular updates and maintenance to help keep their existing equipment serviceable for as long as possible.

Potential for financial rewards

Unfortunately, there’s little that credit unions can do to change the reality that the financial sector is a prime target for bad actors. The potential for financial rewards is high, which means that this will continue to be a lucrative industry for cybercriminals to target.

All credit unions can do is continue to prioritize their cybersecurity by adopting a proactive approach that automates enforcement, detection, and analysis.

Regulatory compliance

Unlike many other American businesses, financial services companies are subject to stringent public regulations and compliance requirements. These vary depending on where the credit union is based but can include anything from national acts like Sarbanes Oxley and GLBA to regional examples like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These acts are designed to ensure Americans can put their trust in these institutions without reservation, and satisfactory compliance is often evaluated by audits.

Businesses that do not prioritize their cybersecurity will quickly find themselves out of compliance, a risk that comes with severe financial and reputational penalties. Maintaining strong cybersecurity best practices is the best way to ensure ongoing regulatory compliance.

Limited budgets

While credit unions are undoubtedly crucial to the financial services sector, they typically have smaller operating budgets than larger regional or national banks. This can put them at risk since they must comply with federal and state regulatory compliance requirements without the same resources as larger financial institutions.

To help take the burden off your core team, automate as much of your credit union network security as possible. This could include deploying a platform like ThreatBlockr, which strengthens your firewall without altering or slowing down your existing technology stack.

Geopolitical tensions

As we mentioned earlier, geopolitical tensions between the United States and Russia in particular have ratcheted up the pressure on our critical infrastructure. In response to sanctions, state-sponsored cybercrime against American businesses has increased, and the financial sector is a particularly vulnerable target.

Credit unions must prioritize their cybersecurity by staying aware of potential risks and taking steps to protect their technology, network security, and infrastructure.  

Let ThreatBlockr Help Protect Your Credit Union

Staying on top of risk factors and managing your ongoing security and compliance with a small core team can be challenging. This task doesn’t leave much room for error and may mean that certain necessary responsibilities like ongoing maintenance or software updates fall by the wayside.

Instead of relying on your busy team and a network of different technologies to protect your credit union network security, why not opt for intelligence-driven threat protection that sits as a protective layer over your existing technology stack? The ThreatBlockr platform was designed for businesses that want to enhance their security to neutralize risks without making drastic changes to their existing infrastructure.

Want to know how ThreatBlockr can be deployed by a credit union just like yours? Check out our recent case study on Cybersecurity in the Financial Industry to learn more.