The threat of ransomware at a credit union - Member Access Processing

Keeping member information and savings safe is a top priority for credit unions. Members trust their financial institution with their most valuable resources: their earnings and life savings. Falling victim to a ransomware attack would not only cause a credit union to lose money, but also their members’ trust.

Information from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center showed that there were 2,453 ransomware attacks in 2015. These are just the ones that were reported, as likely many other attacks went unreported. This cost victims a total of $24.1 million. This is an increase from 2014, and the problem is not expected to slow down, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Unlike data breaches, ransomware locks users out of their database, computer systems and files, and demands payment to be let back in. These attacks can target individuals as well as companies of all sizes, and most only demand small amounts of money. However, there have been instances when large organizations have agreed to pay thousands of dollars to get their information back.

Fortunately, there are some actions that businesses, financial institutions and even individuals can take now to avoid the costly effects of these attacks later down the line.

Make copies

First and foremost, everyone should be protecting their data. Since ransomware attacks usually just hold information as a means to manipulate victims and extort a payment, having the information on hand can make their demands less persuasive. Be sure at least one backup is kept offline to keep it out of the hacker’s reach, wrote Marc Laliberte, an information security threat analyst at WatchGuard Technologies, for Help Net Security.

The Wall Street Journal explained that the decision to make a payout is entirely up to the company. However, the FBI typically advises against it. The fact that so many people do give in to the threats is what enables hackers to continue this trend. Having a backup that is properly safeguarded and kept away from cybercriminals will make it easier to just say no.

Update and upgrade

When the software you use has an upgrade, it can be easy to tell yourself that you’ll implement it later. However, it’s critically important to stay on top of these upgrades. They are created to keep your information safe and to deter criminals from accessing your data.

Having the best antivirus solution in place is also important for anyone who uses a computer, but especially any organization that holds important member information in its system. Laliberte pointed out that a signature-based antivirus system can detect some ransomware, though a more recent heuristic-based endpoint protection system will improve your defenses even more.

Credit unions aren’t the only organizations that could be holding your member’s valuable information. Your business members could also have some sensitive information on their computers, not to mention those of your members themselves. Once you are sure your credit union is safe, focus your attention on educating your members about the ramifications of ransomware, and what they can do to deter it.