Cybersecurity encompasses all aspects of protecting a credit union’s data, network, and processes. It is made up of a variety of controls and policies centered around the organization’s security and, more importantly, the members.
Several models and frameworks exist that provide detailed explanations of the many areas of cybersecurity (NIST, CIS, FFIEC). Reviewing these models is a good step towards understanding what is involved in cybersecurity, and what controls should be implemented. At the end of the day, however, the organization needs to determine what level of cybersecurity is required and feasible to maintain.
Why is it important?
Cybersecurity is vital to credit unions because it safeguards their members’ sensitive information, ensures compliance with regulations, protects their reputation and financial stability, and helps them stay resilient against evolving cyber threats.
By prioritizing cybersecurity, credit unions can maintain a secure environment for their members’ financial transactions and protect their overall business interests.
Are you secure?
Understanding the basics of cybersecurity is the first step. Even after implementing the recommended controls, there is additional work required in this realm. Maintaining proper levels of protection is a never-ending task. A few recommended steps to help in this process are third-party audits, internal controls review, and IT strategic planning.
Third-party audit and assessment
Annual IT audits and assessments are recommended, if not required, for most credit unions. These engagements should be conducted by an independent organization to ensure an unbiased review of the controls and systems in place. Ensure the organization performing the review is not only reviewing existing controls but is testing them as well. This additional step is invaluable in determining the true level of cybersecurity in place.
All results and findings from these assessments should be carefully reviewed by the credit union for remediation or documentation of accepted risk. Not every finding needs to be fixed immediately, but all should be understood and a response documented for how the credit union will respond.
In addition to third-party assessments, the IT/Operations personnel within the credit union should routinely evaluate all controls. The ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity means that something implemented even months ago might have a missing update, setting, or feature that negates whatever protection was intended. Regular control evaluation can help identify vulnerable spots and provide a chance for resolution before an examination or possible security event.
IT strategic planning
Some areas of cybersecurity will seem tedious, overly complex, prohibitively expensive, or too time-consuming to implement in every scenario. This is why internal IT strategic discussions are important.
The credit union should be aware of emerging risk trends and newly available controls so that they understand what might be required in the future and can prepare for it. They should also be aware of new trends so that an informed decision can be made on whether implementation is appropriate for a specific control, or if there are alternative methods of mitigation. Sometimes the proposed control will be unfeasible, but an alternate method can provide similar levels of protection.
What this all means
Understanding, implementing, and maintaining cybersecurity for your organization is an ongoing task that will need attention and careful consideration to ensure proper levels of protection are in place and working. Regular evaluation of controls should be conducted by internal and external parties, and routine discussions should be held to plan for future preparations.