Cybersecurity Best Practices For Credit Unions 

With the rapid shift from physical banking to online transactions, even credit unions are pushing for digital transformation to better provide financial services to their members. However, making the move to digital entails that they should also be prepared for different cyber threats and breaches to their network. 

So what are the best practices to strengthen the cybersecurity health of credit unions? To ensure the protection of members’ data and transactions, credit unions should ensure that their security protocols comply with the industry standards on cybersecurity planning. They should also regularly perform a risk assessment and management, implement security controls, install antivirus software, execute patch updates, use 2-factor authentication, and conduct security awareness training. 

6 Ways To Strengthen Cybersecurity Protection For Credit Unions  

Financial institutions like credit unions are constantly faced with the looming threat of cyberattacks which can put their members’ data and information at high risk. When their security systems become compromised, it can lead to large amounts of financial losses and legal penalties and they can even damage their reputation and lose the trust of their customers. 

When planning their cybersecurity measures, credit unions should consider several factors such as the scope of their operations, current technologies and IT capabilities, and budget for outsourced security programs and solutions. They should also keep in mind the following reminders to better improve their cybersecurity posture: 

1) Set up security protocols that follow industry guidelines

Cybersecurity generally doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach. The risks can be different for various businesses across industries so it’s important to employ a customized strategy that addresses the specific security needs of the company. 

For credit unions, it’s essential that they comply with the standards and rules that are set by certain governing bodies such as the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). This specific organization mandates that credit unions should have board-sponsored policies and procedures that can help identify and reduce the impact of cybersecurity risks. 

It’s also crucial for cybersecurity risk programs to follow the security framework prepared by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NIST cybersecurity framework is a useful tool to assess the strength of your current cybersecurity strategy. It contains a uniform set of guidelines that can help credit unions review their existing plans, recognize their weaknesses, and address gaps in their protocols to fortify their cybersecurity defenses. 

2) Perform cybersecurity risk assessment 

Risk assessment is the process of investigating and identifying internal and external threats that can disrupt a company’s operations and harm its customers. It typically includes the evaluation of the different information assets, resources, and network and spotting potential risks that may compromise their security.

There are 5 main steps to conducting an effective cybersecurity risk analysis: 

  • Identification: The first step is to determine which assets they should prioritize to evaluate. For cybersecurity purposes, credit unions should focus on looking for vulnerabilities in their IT systems, network infrastructure, and security policies.
  • Analysis: After determining their important assets, they should analyze the likelihood that a cyber threat can occur. During this step, the security team can also assess the possible impact of the risk on their organization.
  • Evaluation: Upon listing the potential cybersecurity risks, the next step is to rank them according to the probability of their occurrence and the magnitude of their consequences. Naturally, the threat that has greater levels of impact and a higher chance of happening would be prioritized. 
  • Treatment: An important part of risk assessment is planning for risk response and contingency actions in the event that a threat occurs. It’s important to define solutions so that the team would be more efficient in controlling and reducing the impact of the risk. 
  • Monitoring: The company’s cybersecurity plans should also be constantly reviewed and monitored to keep up with the new threats and risks in the credit union industry.  

3) Prepare security controls 

Security controls are important measures and safeguards that are put in place to minimize your network’s vulnerabilities and protect it from breaches. There are three common types of security controls: 

  • Preventive controls – These refer to security measures that are intended to detect and stop a threat from occurring. Some examples of preventive controls for credit unions are malware defenses and security firewalls, and endpoint detection tools. 
  • Detective controls – These controls are designed to help identify an existing threat or ongoing suspicious activity in the network. Some examples include auditing and log monitoring, security alerts, and SEIM solutions. 
  • Corrective controls – These refer to security countermeasures that will mitigate the impact of the cyberattack and help the credit union to recover with minimal losses and downtime. Some examples are automated or offline data backups, incident response plans, and contingency actions.  

4) Invest in a good antivirus software 

An antivirus software provides an added layer of protection to boost your network’s security defenses. It’s a good investment especially for credit unions that may not have enough security personnel at the moment. 

It usually acts as your first line of defense against hackers and data thieves who are attempting to infiltrate the network system. It can also help scan files and information shared over the network or internet and filter out any incoming data and remove potential phishing scams and bad links. 

5) Implement two-factor authentication 

Some bigger credit unions also have online banking sites and mobile apps for the convenience of their members. For this reason, they should also put up two-factor authentication (2FA) to strengthen the account security of their customers. With 2FA, users are usually asked to provide proof of their identity before they can gain access to their credit union account. Some common forms of 2FA include SMS verification, app-generated PINs or codes, or email authentications. 

6) Regularly update security programs and download patches 

It’s also important to make sure that your security systems and tools are in good health. Most cases of cybersecurity incidents stem from outdated programs and software which is why credit unions need to make sure that they have the latest patches and updates installed. These patches are usually issued to address a flaw or weakness in the current software that may be increasing your vulnerability to online attackers.

Importance of Employees and Members’ Security Awareness 

Credit unions should also arm their employees and members with knowledge on how to avoid such harmful online threats. Cybersecurity training offers many benefits such as ensuring the readiness of the organization in handling security attacks, lessening costly breaches, and fostering a culture of security where all stakeholders feel safe and empowered to avoid security risks. 

Here are some of the essential topics that can be included in cybersecurity training:  

  • Basics on how to identify phishing scams, malware, and ransomware attacks 
  • Methods to safeguard accounts by creating strong passwords
  • Best practices for safe and secure web browsing 
  • Ways to perform safe online transactions 
  • Proper use and management of sensitive data and information 
  • Quick recovery and remedial actions in case of security alerts 

Strengthen Your Network With Abacus IT Managed Solutions

Credit unions should be proactive in implementing and reviewing their cybersecurity measures to protect their resources and employees as well as retain the trust of their members. Here at Abacus, we can work with you to create a comprehensive security plan that will strengthen your defenses against modern online attacks. 

We have a highly-skilled team of IT professionals and reliable support personnel who can help resolve security issues and address your business needs. Feel free to browse our website to know more about services or call us at (856) 505 – 6860 to talk with one of our specialists. 

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The Abacus Blog Team
At Abacus IT, our blog is authored by a team of IT experts with a wealth of experience in various facets of technology. Our primary blog author is a seasoned IT professional with over 20 years of experience in the industry. With a deep understanding of cybersecurity, cloud solutions, network infrastructure, and IT management, our author provides valuable insights and actionable tips to help you optimize your IT operations.

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