By Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox

Remember the old saw about hindsight being 20/20? Or, as filmmaker Billy Wilder put it, “Hindsight is an exact science.”

Yes, when something goes wrong, we generally know what we should have done … looking back. But people aren’t especially good at predicting the future. That’s why Hong Kong-based Deep Knowledge Ventures elected VITAL – a computer algorithm – to its board of directors last year. “VITAL” helps the company avoid pitfalls mere humans may have missed.

So, here’s my question: Do we need an algorithm to tell us there will be more and bigger cyberattacks on banks and other financial service providers? Through November 10, the Identity Theft Resource Center, a national, non-profit organization that tracks cybercrime, has reported 650 U.S. breaches this year. Nearly half of those were in the bank/credit/finance and business sectors – all involving personally identifiable information (PII). The ITRC defines a data breach as an incident in which “an individual name plus a Social Security number, driver’s license number, medical record or financial record (credit/debit cards included) is potentially put at risk because of exposure.”

And the news is just getting worse. This fall, Experian – the largest consumer credit monitoring firm in the world – reported the personal information of some 15 million consumers was exposed as those individuals applied for T-Mobile service. It’s no wonder identity theft has led the FTC’s list of consumer complaints FTC for the past 15 years!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider the story one of our clients shared with us.

Taking action

A medium-sized bank with a reputation for strong customer support and innovative services decided to take a stance against cybercrime. This bank has a local reputation for superior service, so it’s no surprise that its customer care extended to wanting to help consumers protect their own PII – not just the data in its files.

Like the physical, in-branch safe-deposit boxes of old, our client wanted customers to rest easy knowing their wills, tax returns, property deeds and other personal documents would not be compromised. Management had heard about online storage boxes but knew they needed a solution that went beyond easy fixes, like companies that offer free space in the cloud but don’t take strong measures to secure the contents.

For a solution, the bank turned to Virtual StrongBox, which recommended offering a value-added safeguarding service: a personal, digital safe-deposit box that could protect their own sensitive documents, could not be seen by anyone else (including the service provider), yet allow private access anytime, anywhere they wanted.

Creating smart solutions

Late last year, the bank began offering online StrongBoxes to its customers, placing the service behind online banking. It also is taking advantage of Virtual StrongBox’s secure, automated file exchange, which has resulted in operations, cut costs and make back-office tasks like loan processing easier and safer. Instead of relying on snail mail, email, scans or faxes, the bank and its customers can safely transfer documents to each other, as well as share files. Customers also can share personal papers with outside service providers, such as tax preparers, attorneys or wealth managers by granting them time-limited access to specific documents. Customers’ files never leave the protection of state-of-the-art encryption-at-rest technology and are stored in SSAE 16 certified data centers with 24-hour monitoring, securely backed up on redundant servers.

Making customers happy

Since implementing the StrongBox solution, management says customers have happily begun using their personal storage and the bank has peace of mind by having the newest, patented-protected security.

To encourage usage, management has incorporated its security solution into the onboarding process. Customers are asked, “May we place your receipt in your Strongbox?” to which the customer typically asks, “What’s a Strongbox?” This allows frontline staff to offer a short, online demonstration and educate customers on the need to safeguard their personal papers and while reinforcing the bank’s value.

Seeing clearly tomorrow

With the escalating number of cyber schemes, relying on yesterday’s technology to protect your customer data isn’t just a lapse in foresight, it’s ignoring what’s in plain view. According to last month’s Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, consumers in 17 countries surveyed spent an average of 21 hours and roughly $150 billion over the past year dealing with the fallout of online crime. The report also found that consumers worried twice as much about having their PII stolen online than having their credit card snatched from their wallet.

Security is on everyone’s mind. Your customers are waiting for you to demonstrate how your bank is more secure today, as well. Providing a safe way to store and exchange their important documents isn’t simply an added benefit – it should be a basic requirement.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’” How many hacked banks and retailers are thinking the same thing today?