Email Security Intelligence - Everything Credit Unions Need to Know to Protect Against Email cyber threats

Internet-based banking has become the norm as individuals and companies rely on the option for more robust financial security. However, this switch has allowed cybercriminals to develop and refine even more detrimental attacks that can steal login credentials and data from Internet bank users.

Unfortunately, credit unions tend to face these issues the hardest, as their small or medium sizes make them less equipped for phishing email attacks and other threats. Larger banking firms have a more extensive security team that can mitigate risks as they arise, but credit unions do not have that same luxury.

These cybersecurity vulnerabilities put countless businesses in the line of fire, facing phishing email attacks, business face baiting, and scam emails, all appearing trustworthy while deceiving employees. Since federal institutions do not install proper email security software on credit union sites, users miss out on various techniques that could keep their organizations protected. This article will discuss credit unions, their risks and vulnerabilities, and a few options to help strengthen and secure email from credit union attacks.

What is a Credit Union, and What Does it Do? How Is Their Email Security?

businessman typing wireless keyboardA credit union is a financial institution that offers services like shared accounts, credit cards, and online banking, just like a commercial bank. Credit unions are member-owned and nonprofit, so they are smaller than more widely known banks. Like a typical commercial bank, credit unions are responsible for accepting deposits, cashing checks, providing loans, and providing credit cards to users.

Credit unions must ensure they correctly configure email security to restrict email senders to authorized mail servers and domains. Cybercriminals wishing to pursue an attack through a credit union could infiltrate a server and send spoofed emails that imitate banking messages to trick users. These domain spoofing situations can have a threat actor create an entirely new, believable website that appears similar to the bank's server. Cybercriminals can include malicious links in spoofed emails, which users click on to prevent fraud on their servers.

Since victims tend to recognize sketchy messages that could be spear phishing emails, cybercriminals will work hard to imitate the original site as much as possible. Such efforts will prevent the cybercriminals from being caught. Federal Credit Unions have not yet bolstered their email security enough to recognize and stop phishing emails as quickly as they come.

How Do Cybercriminals Utilize Phishing for Attacks?

Since phishing emails impersonate accurate communications from well-known or crucial firms and enterprises, cybercriminals can manipulate their messages to trick users into disclosing account passwords and other sensitive information that the fake firm can use to hack the business' credit union Internet bank. 

Financial institutions and banks have faced more threats and assaults recently, with the number of attacks increasing dramatically. Over sixty-six percent of credit unions do not have effective email security software to stop phishing emails from tricking users into facing detrimental financial and data losses. To make matters worse, a survey by Intel Finder noted that ninety-two percent of credit unions lack adequate web and email security overall. Therefore, businesses utilizing credit unions must do everything possible to improve their security posture to combat any email threat.

Credit unions are particularly susceptible to threats since their email protection services lack strong enough abilities to prevent phishing campaigns from entering servers and harming businesses.

Credit Unions Receive New Warning from NCUA Alert

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) recently issued a statement explaining that credit unions should proactively increase their web and email security to prevent dangers. Different geopolitical locations can influence this risk as well.

This cybersecurity advisory cited two notifications from the Department of Homeland Security's CISA that discussed email threats involving Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks. The notice stated that credit unions of all sizes should adopt a heightened level of email security awareness, perform proactive danger hunting, analyze the two CISA notifications, and execute relevant best practices for email security. Here are a few suggestions the alert offered for handling detected suspicious behavior.

  • Isolate business systems immediately following any noticeable impacts.
  • Check that your backups are offline and safe to prevent data loss and virus installation.
  • If you need to bring the issue to a security professional, collect relevant logs, data, and artifacts demonstrating the email security issues.
  • Consider employing a third-party IT security firm that can reduce future risks through advanced threat protection and phishing prevention.

What Makes Credit Unions Vulnerable to Attacks?

business email securityPhishing campaigns aim to hit the most vulnerable and the least aware users. During COVID-19, phishing email attacks skyrocketed, exposing businesses to more risks. Unfortunately, credit unions face expensive, damaging impacts from these attacks, as clients might not trust them as much following a cybercriminal infiltration. Credit unions can lose between $190,000 and $1.2 million in profits if they do not implement email security policies properly.

Most Internet users know not to fall for fraud attempts that look like they are from larger institutions. Still, since credit unions tend to be smaller and more trustworthy, customers might not look at a message and assume it is a secure email without verifying it. Cyberattacks are the most severe threats to financial systems since cybercriminals can intercept online transitions and information exchanges, causing financial and data issues.

What Types of Social Engineering Attacks Exist?

Social engineering attacks refer to email threats that utilize persuasion skills to get victims to send sensitive information to cybercriminals. The data threat actors look for include login credentials, financial documents, account numbers, etc. Such information can help cybercriminals hack into your server and install malicious codes and malware ransomware that can severely harm your business's productivity and reputation. Here are a few of the types of email attacks to look out for when opening messages:

What Are Baiting Assault Attacks?

During a baiting assault attack, threat actors promise victims some kind of offering that can pique the victim's interest, whether that is financial gain or other means. Once the victim agrees, they send personal information to cybercriminals, who use it to infect victim computers with malware and various types of ransomware. Threat actors will use tangible forms of attack, like modified flash drives, that they leave in public for others to pick up and take advantage of. However, the cybercriminal attacks the victim when the cybercriminal gets their hands on data and login credentials from the flash drive holder.

What Is Email Spoofing?

Cybercriminals can manipulate social engineering tactics to enter a victim's contact list, which they can use to send malicious codes and ransomware to hundreds or thousands of clients. When a threat actor impersonates a business like this, it is email spoofing. A cybercriminal will use compromised email addresses to send spoofed emails or phishing campaigns to victims. Upon opening these messages, which could include a sense of urgency, recipients will act quickly and provide login credentials that can give threat actors what they need to steal data and crucial information from a victim successfully.

This type of threat can also work to a minor degree, where cybercriminals will send messages to friends and family who will quickly trust their relatives without pause. These phishing email attacks tend to be the chain messages you might receive where one person must send it to someone else, and so on, infiltrating countless servers with various victims' help.

What is Tailgating?

In a tailgating attack, unauthorized personnel gain physical access to corporate assets by following an authorized person into a restricted location. An attacker could pretend to be an employee who forgot their ID and needs someone to hold the door open or ask someone to borrow their computer to complete a quick task. Upon earning access, cybercriminals can install malware and other harmful threat types on a server.

What is Ransomware as a Business?

Cybercriminals have started to implement malware ransomware into their attacks more frequently since they can encrypt data, remove sensitive information from a server, withhold crucial documents, and demand payments in return from victim businesses and organizations. Such extortions can leave companies struggling to get back on their feet. Here are the main types of ransomware to keep in mind:

  • Locker ransomware uses social engineering techniques to compromise credentials and infiltrate systems, blocking access to an entire server until victims pay a ransom.
  • Crypto ransomware encrypts some or all files on a computer, demanding a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Crypto ransomware can spread through phishing campaigns, malicious coding, and infected downloads to destroy cloud email servers.
  • Double extortion ransomware exports data to blackmail victims after encrypting and stealing the information until they receive ransom payments. Attackers will still have control over the information even once they return the data to the victim, which is something to consider if you face a ransomware attack. Sometimes, the ransom payment does not guarantee the attacker will leave you alone.
  • Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) helps attackers rent access to specific ransomware strains that higher-level hackers create to infect systems. Attackers and their providers utilize previously agreed-upon terms for money distribution following a victim's payment.

Credit unions need to remember these types of ransomware attacks to recognize email security risks as they enter a server, keeping their clients safe and their email secure.

How Can I Prevent Phishing Attacks and Email Fraud?

Understanding the risk of email threats and CEO fraud can help organizations do what they can to prevent these pervasive, disruptive businesses. A survey in January 2018 found that fifty-five percent of IT decision-makers and responders thought their business was vulnerable to more attacks. The same study also found that fifty-seven percent of responders provide end-user web and email security awareness programs, and thirty-two percent intend on implementing one soon. 

cybersec tipsImplementing best practices for email security that focus on detecting and preventing phishing emails from clogging servers is essential for any company that relies on the Internet to exchange confidential data. Sixty-six percent of banking and professional services firms teach staff how to stop phishing emails from harming their servers. Here are a few suggestions to consider when improving your email security awareness and helping your business stay safe:

  • Avoid opening email attachments, links, and downloads from senders you do not recognize. Such messages could have malicious coding and malware ransomware in them that can infect and crash our server.
  • Implement 2-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication to secure email and prevent compromised email addresses from stealing information during an intrusion attack on your system.
  • Update servers frequently to have the most recent advanced threat protection services on your computer. Download recent signatures daily, so you have an up-to-date list.
  • Read through emails for spelling and grammatical errors that could indicate a phishing attempt, as cybercriminals often modify their language to get past malware URL scanners and other intrusion detection systems.
  • Keep an eye out for suspicious subject lines, signatures, and quarantine emails you do not trust, as they could be spoofed emails with malicious code.
  • Take your time considering how to respond to an attack. If a message requests urgency, it is most likely a social engineering phishing email attack, which focuses on getting recipients to act quickly without thinking things through.

Federal credit unions should also install and utilize email authentication protocols to boost basic web and email security and ensure that only authorized users enter a system. We have detailed SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email authentication so you know what options you have:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF) contains a list of approved mail relay services that can send emails on behalf of a domain. Recipients can then verify whether or not the message sender is authorized and quarantine emails that are not.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) ensures that cybercriminals cannot alter or change messages by interfering with the email between the sender and recipient. Recipients can validate digital signatures with their list of Domain Name Systems (DNS).
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) combines SPF and DKIM to ensure that business email security mechanisms have the proper configurations to prevent emails from violating SPF and DKIM tests.

Implementing these options into your server is one of the best practices for email security, so consider adding them as an extra layer for your cybersecurity platforms.

Keep Learning About Email Threat Protection

Credit unions must be aware of the various daily email security risks, which can harm businesses, employees, and clients by inflicting data loss, financial issues, and reputational damage. The right cybersecurity tools are essential to safeguarding your organization against email threats. Make your email security a priority as you continue to utilize a credit union for your business, and ensure that you are preventing phishing email attacks and malware ransomware from entering your server.

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