New! Artificial Intelligence for Business videos, podcasts, and more...

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Community Banks and Credit Unions 

Recent advancements in technology have made our lives easier, but they have also opened the opportunity for vulnerabilities, especially for financial institutions that handle sensitive customer data on a daily basis. Cybersecurity has been identified as the top internal risk for community banks. 92% of bankers cited it as either “extremely important” or “very important.” 

IBM reports that the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, a 15% increase over 3 years. According to the same study, 51% of organizations are planning to increase security investments because of a breach, including incident response planning and testing, employee training, and threat detection and response tools. 

We don’t share these numbers to scare business leaders; they are important to pay attention to because without the right cybersecurity strategy and plan in place, you risk becoming one of those businesses who is paying millions to rectify a cybersecurity incident.    

The Current Cybersecurity Landscape for Community Banks and Credit Unions 

In 2024, top threats for financial institutions include advanced persistent threats, supply chain attacks, phishing, unencrypted data, and ransomware attacks.  

Advanced Persistent Threats 
An Advanced Persistent Threat is a sophisticated cyberattack over a relatively long period of time where the intruder establishes an undetected presence in a network to steal sensitive data.  

Real world example of an Advanced Persistent Threat:  

PLA Unit 61398, known as APT 1 and Comment Crew, is linked to the Chinese Government and attacked more than 1,000 organizations as of 2012.  

An attack on the Coca-Cola company started with a spear phishing attempt and gave the group entry into Coca-Cola’s network, allowing them to collect and send confidential files back to China undetected.  

Supply Chain Attacks 
A supply chain attack allows the intruder to utilize implants or other vulnerabilities inserted prior to installation in order to infiltrate data or manipulate information technology hardware,  software, operating systems, peripherals, or services at any point during the life cycle.  

Real world example of a Supply Chain Attack: 

The Codecov supply chain attack is an example of an attacker breaching an upstream server or code repository and injecting malicious payload. It was carried out by sophisticated attackers who exploited a mistake in how Codecov built Docker images. 

Phishing is a technique for attempting to acquire sensitive data, such as bank account numbers, through a fraudulent solicitation in email or on a website, in which the perpetrator masquerades as a legitimate business or reputable person. 

Real world example of Phishing: 

Cybercriminals use text messages to get private information all the time. The U.S. Postal Service is so wary of these scams, they have a warning video on their website to keep people from clicking fake links and giving their sensitive information to cybercriminals. 

Unencrypted Data 
Encryption protects data from being stolen, changed, or compromised and works by scrambling data into a secret code that can only be unlocked with a unique digital key. Data left unencrypted is at risk for cybercriminals to gain access to and be able to read sensitive information.  

Real world example of an unencrypted data attack: 

In 2023, a cybersecurity researcher discovered a public, unencrypted database associated with a banking fintech that contained more than 1 million names, physical addresses, and phone numbers of consumers and business owners who used a certain invoice-creator app. It wasn’t a hacker this time, but that means an unauthorized third party had access to the information, which is a data breach.  

Ransomware Attacks 
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks a victim’s data or device and threatens to keep it locked – or worse, take over their accounts and use the information to steal their identity– unless the victim pays a ransom to the attacker.  

Real world example of a ransomware attack: 

In 2021, a ransomware attack on the U.S. Colonial Pipeline is considered to be the worst cyberattack on critical U.S. infrastructure to date. As a result, the pipeline supplying 45% of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel was temporarily shut down.  

How Can Community Banks and Credit Unions Defend Against Cybersecurity Attacks? 

As technology advances, financial institutions face greater challenges. It’s not enough to just come up with a plan anymore, businesses must know how to execute a strategy that will help mitigate cybersecurity risk.  

So, what are some best practices that senior IT in your financial institution can implement to keep the bad actors out?  

1 – Stay up to date on current regulations 

Knowing the laws and regulations that apply to your financial institution is the most important thing you can do to keep private information safe. One way to do this is by partnering with security professionals who understand the regulatory demands financial organizations face, as well as the nuanced customer service needs they have.  

2 – Make sure your employees understand the importance of cybersecurity  

If your employees aren’t on board when it comes to cybersecurity, it will be nearly impossible to keep sensitive data safe. Incident response training, anti-phishing campaigns, and real-world training are helpful tactics to get employees in the mindset of risk mitigation. 

3 – Assess and identify risks and gaps in your current plan 

If you don’t know where your gaps are, you can’t fix them. Outsourcing your IT to a cybersecurity expert can help you identify potential weaknesses and make immediate improvements to your current cybersecurity infrastructure. With InfoSystems, we’ll look at your business model and work backward to define what is needed from a security program, security tools, and best practices and processes. Then, we’ll take inventory of your business assets and activities so we can implement security measures that make sense. Finally, we’ll develop a long-term partnership focused on new capabilities, new services, and new solutions that will enhance security and reduce risk. 

4 – Have a plan 

Without a concrete plan that includes risk assessment, creating goals, technology evaluation, system testing, ensuring regulatory compliance, and planning for how to respond to worst-case scenarios, your community bank or credit union is at serious risk for vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. When you have an IT partner you can trust, you get services that make the most “business sense” for you and create value, not confusion.  

5 – Partner with an expert guide in cybersecurity, risk, and compliance 

InfoSystems can help you protect your customers, your business, and your reputation. With a complete IT services partner, you get cybersecurity assessments and testing, incident response & disaster recovery, cybersecurity consulting services, virtual security & compliance services training, and more.  

InfoSystems Cyber is Your Expert Guide for Cybersecurity, Risk, and Compliance  

At InfoSystems Cyber, we believe cybersecurity consultants should create value, not confusion. Most cybersecurity consultants will perform an assessment and leave you with a lengthy report to figure out on your own. Not InfoSystems Cyber. 

The most unique aspect of InfoSystems Cyber is that we are part of InfoSystems, Inc., a fully mature IT company with expertise in cloud, networks, storage systems, and all the end user technology and connectivity that powers today’s businesses. 

We don’t drop lengthy reports at your door and head for our next engagement. We lock elbows and create solutions that will address your issues. We believe all businesses deserve to have the best security delivered by a partner who cares. 

We will make sure you are 100% clear about your security, regulatory compliance, and risk – and 100% confident in the plan to protect your business. 

Share this post