Cybersecurity Ratings: The Third Party Cyber Risk Management Solution

BitSight Cyber Lock

So, you have identified your top partners.  You have thoroughly evaluated their cybersecurity services in order to keep your members’ financial data safe and secure. But before you sit back and relax, you have to ask yourself “what about tomorrow?”

The Pitfalls of Traditional Evaluation Methods for Cybersecurity

Traditional methods of evaluating your partners may include detailed questionnaires and conversations, audits, and maybe you have even conducted some vulnerability scans. These are all sound methods for establishing whether your partners are on the right track, but they are only a start.

  • One-time snapshot. The problem with this type of evaluation method is it only gives you a snapshot of the organization at one small point in time. It would be the equivalent of checking the locks on your doors once and then not doing it again in the future.
  • Expensive. Numerous questionnaires and audits can become very costly very quickly. If you are a small credit union, it may not seem practical to spend the cash or the manpower on these efforts.
  • Regulation struggle. In addition to an ethical obligation to your members, regulators are creating new legal obligations aimed at third party risk management plans. The sooner you can get in front of this issue, the easier it will be.

Vendors, especially high priority ones that have direct access to your network or your most sensitive data, really need to be monitored for their security practices all the time. This may seem daunting or even impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. The key to locking up holes in your partners’ security is through security rating and monitoring solutions.

How Cybersecurity Ratings Work

Cybersecurity ratings work essentially like a credit rating company issuing a FICO score, but instead it issues a security rating. For example, companies can be rated on a scale from 250 to 900. A high number indicates a strong security performance and a lower security risk.

A security rating platform gathers and analyzes publicly available information and noted incidents to create its security rating. It considers things like spam propagation, malware propagation, botnet infections, and then calculates a rating. You will also be able to see where the infections and incidents relating to a company’s security are occurring.

Utilizing Ratings as a Resource

BitSightRatings2Cybersecurity ratings can be a very useful tool in prioritizing which vendors require the most attention from your credit union. A company with a consistently high score probably doesn’t need a tremendous amount of your effort, so you can allocate your time and budget to the vendors that are creating greater risks for you and your members.

In addition, this rating can be a valuable resource when having a more sophisticated conversation with your vendors about cybersecurity. If you are grappling with what questions to ask or what risk vectors you should be focused on, the security rating information can give you a road map to do that.

web logo.bitsightNAFCU Services and BitSight Technologies have partnered to provide an independent security monitoring service that provides continuous data on outside vendors’ security practices. If you would like to learn more about BitSight’s solutions for credit unions, or formulating a third party risk management plan, you can check out our webinar here.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Confronting the Scariest Threats to Your Credit Union


October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month which means it’s an excellent time to make sure there aren’t any unseen forces within your credit union that have nefarious plans for your members’ money.

Earlier this year, Wired Magazine wrote about the biggest cybersecurity threats for 2015. Three of these are indeed scary prospects for the credit union industry, but the key is to make sure you are doing everything you can to prevent these scenarios:

  • Data Destruction: Malware exists that erases data and boot records, so it is vitally important to make sure you have an excellent data backup plan.
  • Bank Card Breaches: This is a threat that isn’t going away any time soon, so it is important to be moving towards tokenization technologies to prevent this. NAFCU has partnered with MasterCard to help credit unions move towards this. For more information you can check out this webinar from earlier this year here.
  • Third Party Breaches: The data breach at Target stores is an excellent example of why you need a strong Third Party Risk Management Plan. For more information on this, check our recent webinar or blog posts here or here.

The costs of cyber threats are no joke to financial institutions big or small. According to the National Small Business Association, 44 percent of small businesses have been the victims of a cyber-attack. Clearly, it is worth the investment to review how sound your security is. The following tips from the Department of Homeland Security are an excellent place to start.

Cyberattack Prevention Tips and Practices

  • Have a plan. According to, 59% of small and medium size businesses in the United States do not have a plan that outlines procedures for responding and reporting data breach losses.  A number of these plans are covered in various compliance frameworks that may already exist, but as shelf ware.  If this describes you, now is the time to formulate both short and long term plans.
  • Utilize the latest software. Make sure you have antivirus and antispywear and update it regularly.
  • Educate. Make sure that all of your employees are aware Cybersecurity_KCGof cyber threats and educate them on the steps they must take to help combat these attacks.
  • Invest in data loss protection software, use encryption technologies to protect data in transit, and use two-factor authentication where possible.
  • Passwords. Use strong passwords throughout your organization and have employees change them regularly.

Who Should You Call?

What should you do if you’re unsure if your organization is prepared to navigate this threat landscape? If you are not sure where your cyber security threats may lie or even where you should be looking, consider going to an outside vendor. NAFCU and Knowledge Consulting Group (KCG) have partnered to provide comprehensive cybersecurity solutions.

KCG provides expert services in penetration testing and cybersecurity advisory services. Their tests offer simulation of potential attack vectors and scenarios most likely to impact the overall credit union environment, from IT systems to social engineering. They provide risk management, governance, operations, and compliance services to help credit unions navigate the complexities of the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

So take an inventory of your practices, make a plan, and evaluate where your weak spots are.

Knowledge Consulting Group is a subsidiary of ManTech International. For more detailed information on penetration testing or cybersecurity advisory services, visit KCG’s preferred partner page.

Cyber Security Awareness Month: Third Party Cyber Risk Management

By: Jacob Olcott, VP of Business Development, BitSight Technologies

How not to become a “Target”
October is cyber security awareness month, and there are few things more haunting to financial or retail institutions than the security breach that affected Target stores a few years back. The attack resulted in more than $40 million in debit and credit card numbers being stolen, and more than likely affected at least some of your members.

The scariest part of the security breach may be where it originated: its HVAC supplier. The attack highlights how important it is for financial organizations to have a well thought-out program to mitigate third party cyber risk.

Regulators are taking a closer look at third party risk management so the importance of employing best practices is not just practical, but legal as well.

Five Key Steps to Develop a Third Party Risk Management Program

Developing a risk management program doesn’t have to be difficult. There are five key points to consider for a plan, and several vendors and services that can help you to do so.

  1. Organize Internally. This means bringing together all teams that have an impact on, or are impacted by your cybersecurity or dealings with third party vendors. This would most likely include your legal, compliance, IT, and procurement teams.
  2. Identify and Prioritize Key Parties. It is important for credit unions to consider any third BitSight_identify_critical_vendorsparty that has either direct network connections to your organization or has access to sensitive data. This would include, but is not limited to, looking at your primary payment processor, largest software vendor, law firms, consulting firms, and benefits administrator. When prioritizing vendors, approach this from the position of your most sensitive data, likely your members’ financial data, and the level of access a third party has to that data.
  3. Evaluate your vendors’ security. This is traditionally done a number of ways such as using questionnaires, vulnerability scans, and audits. If you are not sure where to start, Shared Assessments is a good source that charges a fee for common questionnaires to send your partners regarding their cyber security efforts. If you are interested in developing your own questionnaire, the NIST cybersecurity framework is a good place to start. You can also do your own audits of your partners, but often companies will share their own documentation of audits they have done.
  4. Communicate. The importance of clearly communicating your expectations to your partners should not be overlooked. This should be done not only in writing in forms such as contracts, but verbally as well. It is important to develop a strong dialogue regarding your security concerns that is not just once, when you launch a partnership, but ongoing. The cybersecurity landscape changes on a daily basis so it is important for you and your partners to discuss where you are headed and how to stay ahead of the curve.
  5. Continuously Monitor Vendor Performance. This is another point not to be overlooked. Questionnaires and audits can only give you snapshots of a company’s security profile at one point in time. Actual security is much more fluid than that. NAFCU has partnered with BitSight Technologies as a preferred provider of monitoring services. BitSight essentially works like credit rating service for cybersecurity. They provide a number that indicates how strong a company’s security practices are on a continuous basis. BitSight calculates Security Ratings using a continuous process that gathers, processes, and assigns security data to arrive at the top-level security ratings.

For more dBitSightLogoetailed information on developing a third party cyber risk management plan you can check out NAFCU’s webinar with BitSight Technologies here or  download BitSight’s white paper on the topic.

What Biometrics Can Do for Your Credit Union’s Security Strategy

Woman with fingerprint scanningIf you feel like there is always another security measure you need to consider, you’re right and this reality is actually a very good thing. The security landscape is indeed continuously changing and evolving.

You must constantly evaluate and revaluate your security processes because one single solution to satisfy all of your security concerns and needs does not exist.  Consequently, it’s wise to employ a multi-factor security (MFA) strategy.

Chris Amador, Product Owner with Q2, talked about the balancing act that your credit union faces when implementing biometrics solutions, in our recent webinar, “Biometrics: Enhancing Member Experience & Security.” He spoke about the challenges your credit union faces with providing secured online and mobile channels that guarantee compliance with regulations and deliver a satisfying experience for your members.

Watch Biometrics: Enhancing Member Experience & Security

We’re sharing some key highlights from the webinar and encourage you to watch the complete presentation where Chris shares timely insights on:

  • The different types of biometric solutions currently used within the financial services industry
  • What true multi-factor authentication (MFA) means and why the “third factor” is difficult to solve
  • The preferred biometric solution for online use among consumers
  • Barriers you need to consider when implementing biometrics features
  • How to evaluate whether or not your membership is ready to accept this technology

What is a True Multi-Factor Security Strategy?

A true multi-factor authentication (MFA) security strategy should include three key factors:

  • Something I “have” (e.g., your member’s laptop or mobile device like a tablet or a smartphone)
  • Something I “know” (e.g., your member’s user ID and password, pin, account number, or knowledge based questions)
  • Something I “am” (e.g., your member’s biometric data, a physical or behavioral attribute unique to your individual member)

You and your members are familiar with the “something I have” and “something I know” categories,  but those two factors alone have limitations in today’s complex security environment.

The physical devices your members use, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone were considered as an integral layer of security, but this is no longer thought to be true because these devices can be stolen. And, due to the rise of social media, your members may post all sorts of information that can be used by fraudsters to determine the correct answers to security questions. As an example, online quizzes on social media (e.g., Buzz Feed) can be used as tools for fraudsters to phish for information.

The “something I have” category is only available through the implementation of biometrics. Biometrics are an effective third-factor in a MFA security offering for your members because they utilize something fraudsters can’t duplicate, the unique personal and physical identifiers of your members.

It’s important to consider and assess to what degree your members will be comfortable and willing to adopt biometric security measures. Continue advancing your knowledge about these options and the biometrics landscape, by watching “Biometrics: Enhancing Member Experience & Security.

Q2 Online and Mobile Banking

Q2 is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for a single platform virtual banking solution, including online and mobile. Learn more about Q2 by visiting

Getting Homeownership within Reach for Your Credit Union Members

Homeownership for MembersDesigning Spaces™ airing on the Lifetime® Channel recently featured an educational segment about making the path to homeownership easier. During the episode, the desire for homeownership and the financial hurdles faced by a millennial couple were highlighted.

Debi Marie, the host of the show, interviewed Matt Young, Senior VP of Sales with Genworth Mortgage Insurance Corporation about private mortgage insurance (PMI), which could be a perfect fit for members of your credit union who are facing similar questions and challenges.

Watch the segment
“Mortgage Insurance and Buying Your First Home – Designing Spaces”

Here are some key points from Debi’s interview with Matt:

Removing the 20% Down Barrier for Potential Homebuyers

Any homeowner knows that accumulating the 20% down for their first home is often one of the biggest financial challenges of their lives. By using PMI, your prospective member homebuyers can purchase a home without having to accumulate the full 20% down payment. This is a big deal since this option can shave years off of the saving process, allowing your members to become homeowners sooner.

During this episode, Matt provides some helpful and specific examples about what payments for PMI would be given your members credit worthiness, down payment amount, and the cost of their targeted home.

Managing Risk with Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

As you know, loans with down payments less 20% are typically viewed as riskier loans. With PMI, a down payment as small as 3% is allowable. PMI protects lenders, like your credit union, against loss if a member defaults, making lenders more comfortable with making a loan.

Borrowers are required to pay premiums ONLY until they build sufficient equity in their home, which is typically when they reach 80% loan-to-value (LTV).  PMI is cancellable vs. FHA insurance which remains throughout the life of the loan. This can translate into thousands of dollars in savings for your member over the long-term.

“As we all know, first-time homebuyers often don’t know what their mortgage options are, and it could cost them,” said Matt. “It’s important for us to proactively educate borrowers on the benefits of MI.”

Defraying Costs and Risks of Homeownership

After answering questions about how mortgage insurance works and how it makes some loans possible during this episode, Matt also explained how Genworth Mortgage Insurance provides beneficial online tools for potential member home buyers: a revamped free online Homebuyer Education training course and Homebuyer Privileges®, a discounts program.

Homebuyer Privileges – A program that can help to boost your originations and build member loyalty. The program offers your members discounts and rebates—valued up to $3,500—on the things they need most for their new home. And, best of all, there’s no cost to participate.

Homebuyer Education Online Course (free resource) – An Educated member makes for a better homeowner and decreases the chance of member delinquencies. Through Genworth’s free self-paced online course, members will learn about the home loan process, tips on how to save for mortgage payments, home maintenance planning, and how you can help them along the way.

We’ll be posting more about helping your current and future member homebuyers in the near future; so stay tuned!

Good to CU Genworth Logo
For more educational resources and information from Genworth, visit Preferred Partner Genworth Mortgage Insurance. Genworth Mortgage Insurance is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Private Mortgage Insurance.