Credit Unions Under Attack

by Henry Meier

Not that you would know it from the media these days but the largest banks are under an organized cyber attack aimed at taking down their services.  If you think I’m exaggerating, then here is a quote from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as reported in the Hill last Wednesday:

“Right now, financial institutions are actively under attack.  We know that.  I’m not giving you any classified information,” she said. “I will say this has involved some of our nation’s largest institutions. We’ve also had our stock exchanges attacked over the last [few] years, so we know … there are vulnerabilities.”

In early October, several banks were confronted with “denial of service” attacks.  The New York Times has reported that the attacks are being orchestrated with the assistance of governments, including Iran, with a degree of sophistication that has surprised analysts.  Finally, the American Banker is reporting that the cyber-attackers expect to try their hand at data theft.

Why should credit unions care?  Although the cyber attacks are being directed primarily against large institutions, sophisticated groups are already looking for more vulnerable targets.  The FBI issued a warning in September that the employees of small to medium-sized banks and credit unions are being targeted by hackers with bogus emails containing programs that read key strokes.  Once hackers get the right information, they can access third-party data bases such as that maintained by credit reporting agencies.  In addition, this excellent post in the ever informative InfoSecurity Blog details how hackers were able to commit nationwide identity theft by stealing internal passwords of a West Texas Credit Union.

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