Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox, Inc.

In military circles, they talk a lot about being “combat-ready” – words we don’t usually associate with our industry. But it’s time to take this term to heart, equipping our credit unions and training our members to defeat online thieves.

Just this year we’ve seen a billion-dollar, multi-bank cyberheist, three health insurance breaches, major hacks into military and government, and the list goes on. How did they get away with it? Improperly handled data transfer to a non-accredited data center, unencrypted health care data and employees duped into phishing schemes, to name a few. In every case the damage could have been prevented, or at least mitigated.

Cover and Conceal

Data security is a hot topic for all companies handling consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII). Still, many take a passive approach, almost as if getting hacked is inevitable. It isn’t. We need to act aggressively to defend members’ data against hackers, taking our lead from another military saying: “The enemy can’t hit (hack) what they can’t see or find.” The same is true for cyberattacks.

Element Federal Credit Union in Charleston, W. V. for instance knew there had to be more it could do to protect member information so, after researching options, management chose to partner with Virtual StrongBox. But EFCU went a step further, taking a two-pronged approach to data security: ensuring that documents exchanged between the credit union and its members have maximum protection, and giving members the ability to protect their own sensitive documents, like mortgage deeds, titles, tax returns and insurance papers.

EFCU set up individual, digital storage boxes (My Virtual StrongBox) for its members, which are hosted on secure servers and feature Virtual StrongBox’s patented encryption-at rest technology. A digital StrongBox is the 21st Century’s safe-deposit box but better, because if offers members four advantages over traditional boxes: redundant servers and alternate backup sites; quick and safe file exchange with the credit union; self-service access via the Internet; and file-sharing with other service providers using a time-limited code.

Sharpen Tactics

According to Element Federal Credit Union CEO Linda Bodie, when members execute transactions, the credit union’s staff asks them if they would like their receipt to be automatically sent to their StrongBox. When members ask what it is, the conversation becomes a “teachable moment” as frontline staff show them an easy way to secure their personal information.

People worry about having their accounts hacked. recently reported on a September study by the University of Phoenix showing that almost three-fourths of U.S. adults say they’ve changed their online behavior because of the threat of cybercrime. Providing a safe way to store and exchange members’ important documents provides members a strong defense against cyber-criminals – and it should be a basic requirement.

For credit unions, offering secure, online storage offers two more benefits: updated processes to capitalize on smartphone/tablet technology and usage trends; and reduced time to process loans and other member documents. While the average mortgage takes 40 days to process, eliminating the need to mail out loan docs and wait for members to come into the branch cuts this time to hours instead of days.

Stand Ready

Just over 10 years ago paperless offices and electronic receipts were unthinkable; now it’s commonplace. Companies realize the cost-effectiveness of digital processes and consumers enjoy the convenience and time savings of online access. People put out lots of data – so much that IDC’s Digital Universe study projects the amount of digital data produced by 2020 will equal 52 gigabytes for every person on earth! What’s more, IDC estimates as much as 33% of that data will contain information that might be valuable if analyzed – a potential goldmine for hackers.

Protecting data today demands best-of-breed security. A strong defense means peace of mind for members and their credit union because PII is safe from prying eyes – and backed up in case of emergency. Retrieving members’ data or documents whenever and wherever they want means members can enjoy easy access and greater convenience. In the war on identity theft, that’s a winning battle plan!