Cyber-attacks Targeting Community Banks

Cyber-attacks are targeting more than top-tier banks and Fortune 500 businesses. Increasingly, community banks and credit unions, as well as other small businesses, are more likely to be targeted by cyber-attacks because hackers believe small businesses present easier targets. One of the dangers that affect many smaller businesses is self-inflicted because in many cases community banks feel like they’re not large enough to be an enticing target to hackers and other cyber-criminals. It’s this type of thinking that poses one of the greatest threats to community banks and credit unions.

Cybersecurity and cybercrime are both fundamentally about cost-benefit relationships. Bankers are always considering the cost and benefits of security controls they implement. It’s the same situation with cybercriminals who often find that it’s less expensive and more profitable to target smaller institutions, rather than top-tier banks that may have a more robust security infrastructure in place.

It’s important that banking institution executives and boards of directors don’t get too focused on the big attacks that make headlines. The key is for executives and directors to recognize ongoing threats, such as ransomware, that pose the most risk to their institutions and customers. The type of cybercrime that smaller financial institutions are exposed to most commonly is ransomware, where a piece of malware gets into a computer network and encrypts valuable information. Institutions that lack mitigation strategies, such as employing offline backup drives and servers, as well as stronger security controls, run the risk of losing money, data, and consumer trust.

There are two essentials that will help ensure that community banks and credit unions are prepared and protected. One is education. CISOs and CIOs must ensure that executives and boards of directors understand the risks their institutions face. One of the most effective ways to get that buy-in from the executive team and board of directors is education. There will always be threats, so educating the board about what the actual risks are is really valuable to get buy-in and helps ensure that the institution is prepared.

The second essential breach prevention strategy is ensuring vigilant vendor management. All banks should be aware of the risks associated with their vendors. For smaller institutions, where the general model is often to outsource its core processing and electronic banking processes to large vendors, there may not be much interest on the part of the vendor to meet the bank’s security goals, at least not without a high price tag. Make sure that your bank’s vendors are taking proactive steps to ensure that your information is secure and your customers are protected.

If you have any questions about the unique IT security challenges that community banks face please call ITPAC today. ITPAC offers a variety of IT security solutions that fit the needs of community banks in a dynamic threat environment.