Protecting Credit Union Assets from Hackers on the Dark Web

In today’s fast-paced world, our internet use has increased at a higher rate than ever before. As a result, hackers have become a real concern for financial institutions when it comes to cybersecurity, which makes the reality hard to ignore. As reported in a Fortunly article, 71 percent of all data breaches are financially motivated. Additionally, the United States experienced 1473 cyberattacks in 2019 resulting in 164.6 million stolen records. Credit Unions house millions of network accounts whose data includes private information – it is imperative that the data is continuously monitored and protected. 

Dark Web: A Hacker’s Paradise

The Deep and Dark web is a network of websites, forums and communication tools that are undetected through regular browsing activities. According to Norton, cybercriminals find refuge on the Dark web because a large amount of their activities are dedicated to the buying and selling of stolen financial and personal information. Hackers are able to gain access through the collection of large databases with stolen social security numbers, usernames, passwords and more. Once a criminal is able to gain access to your information, they have the resources and power to open things like new credit cards and loans in your name or on a company’s behalf.

The Dark web cannot be accessed through ordinary browsers like Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. Therefore, hackers have to access the darknet through URL strings that are unmemorable and accessible only by using an open source like a TOR browser.

Credit Unions and Hackers

Credit unions face considerable challenges when protecting sensitive personal and financial data from breaches; as non-profit entities, they tend to run lean IT teams and reduced technology budgets to balance expenses. As stated in a 2019 Bitglass report, the financial services industry contributed 62 percent of exposed data; however, it only accounted for 6.5 percent of data breaches.

Hackers realize that legacy security tools are unable to properly protect today’s dynamic infrastructures. Firewalls and penetration testing can no longer keep sensitive data and assets safe. They have moved beyond ransomware and malware and have identified new methods for infiltrating networks to steal the identities of employees. Hackers then use those identities to roam the network without the network owners ever knowing.

Some credit unions are looking to advance detection technologies that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence. Next generation security platforms include the ability to make cognitive detections and decisions based your network traffic and activity. This includes anomaly detection and malicious action that have superior processing power and continuously scan large volumes of data to identify risks.

Next Steps: How to be Protected Against Hackers

Credit unions looking to outsmart hackers and ease the burden of compliance should consider reassessing their security strategies and identify the right blend of people, technologies and programs necessary to protect themselves and their members. Below are a few options to consider:

  1. Invest in Third-Party Security Automation Platforms: These platforms provide extra layers of security (e.g. security code texts, security questions, security puzzles and more).
  2. Darknet Exposure Modules: It is important that you look for platforms that include darknet exposure modules. This will allow for constant monitoring of your network’s credentials and alert you when they are leaked on the Dark web.
  3. Sanitize Your Identity Ecosystem: This will require a thorough understanding of the complexity of the constantly changing IT environment. Companies should prioritize platforms that have the ability to know what sensitive data is being accessed by every account on the network. 

In 2020 and beyond, credit unions should make protecting member’s financial and personal information a top priority. In doing so, the main focus should be on outsmarting hackers and trying to stay one step ahead. Hackers are constantly looking for new opportunities and platforms to strengthen their attacks. The Dark web just one of these platforms they use to remain anonymous and disguise themselves as a secured member of various organizations looking to do harm. With no expectation of internet use decreasing in the upcoming years, it is important to remember that cybersecurity is not a luxury, but a necessity.