How To Implement An Integrated Security Solution-& Why

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For many credit unions, the Internet has quickly become one of the primary tools for conducting business. As a result, credit unions that lack the necessary security solutions to protect their institutions and their members are vulnerable to a large and growing number of potential security threats.

With the dizzying array of security hardware and software tools on the market today, it can be challenging for any credit union to choose, implement and maintain the right solutions. Network security systems that don't communicate with one another are not as effective as integrated systems in detecting and preventing potential attacks. And managing a comprehensive security solution in-house can be a daunting task for most credit union personnel.

In this article I will try to provide readers with a better understanding of how an integrated security solution can provide superior protection for your institution and your members, as well as provide numerous other benefits.

With its myriad applications and uses, Internet connectivity has become a mission-critical communications tool for credit unions. Most credit unions today use some type of Internet network connection to access and manage member account information, transmitting everything from loan applications to share-draft deposits to calculated CD interest, and to communicate internally.

When determining which security measures your credit union should take, it's important to consider the wide range of threats facing today's network security. With so much valuable information to be had, permeating network security-particularly the network of a financial institution-is a potentially lucrative action.

As a result, the list of potential security threats continues to grow at a rapid rate. There are several different types of breeches among today's common network security threats-each targeting its own area of the communication continuum, carrying its own unique set of potential consequences. At a minimum, credit unions should be aware of and prepared for the threats related to spam, phishing and denial of service attacks.

Most credit unions understand the need to protect their network. In the old days, installing a firewall was enough to give credit union leaders and auditors peace of mind that the credit union's data was secure. But as the number and level of sophistication of threats increase, so does the need to implement a variety of security solutions.

Five Reasons To Be Integated

There are several security solutions to choose from, each focusing on a different type of threat. A firewall is still a good first step in protecting credit union information. Virus protection software, spam filters, web content filtering tools, intrusion detection solutions, and anti-spyware software all bring additional protection. Unfortunately, when those solutions are chosen and installed a la carte, the credit union may still be vulnerable to a wide range of risks.

An integrated network security solution offers the best possible protection against today's mounting network security threats. An integrated network security solution is one cohesive system built on a select group of best-of-breed applications that address a series of potential threats and issues. The multiple applications used to create an integrated network security solution are incorporated into a single system via one interface. Because of the integration factor, a comprehensive, integrated network security solution cannot only further mitigate security risks, it can also deliver a range of cost-saving, efficiency-boosting benefits for CUs.

Providers with credit union industry expertise are ideal because they won't try to sell you a one-size-fits-all solution that is used by organizations of all shapes and sizes. As a financial institution, your needs are quite different from a technology equipment manufacturer, a consumer goods corporation or other organization that is not focused on serving members and protecting the privacy of their personal financial information. The best integrated network security solutions leverage a combination of technologies that addresses each of the threats outlined above.

Look for a provider who can deliver ongoing management, monitoring and support. Outsourcing these functions not only takes the burden off of your staff, it also gives you the benefit of having trained professionals watching over the security of your institution's confidential information. And while this function is not part of the technical package of an integrated network security solution, it plays a critical role in maximizing the effectiveness of the solution you choose.

An integrated solution not only offers the most effective defense against potential security threats, it also provides distinct business advantages in terms of resources, efficiency, costs, and leveraged expertise.

Five Reasons To Be Integrated

There are five reasons why integrated network security solutions are superior to non-integrated solutions. Below is a look at each.

1. Avoid a drain on resources. Using multiple protective applications can help credit unions combat security threats. But the time and resources involved in selecting, installing and maintaining a comprehensive security solution can be daunting for your in-house staff. Information Security Magazine's2003 Buyer's Guide featured more than 1,900 products from 850 vendors in 66 categories. An integrated network security solution reduces the amount of resources needed by providing a complete solution designed to combat a full range of potential threats.

2. Gain full network security coverage. Network security is like a chain. It is only as good as its weakest link. To be effective, each link within a credit union's network security chain must be able to communicate with the other links. When a credit union attempts to select and install disparate security solutions, establishing integrated communications between those solutions is challenging at best. And connecting a variety of security products, such as virus protection, firewalls, spam and web content filtering tools, creates abundant opportunities for error-potentially compromising the network by making it more vulnerable to threats or even decreasing its overall performance.

3. Experience maximum efficiency. Even if a credit union successfully installs disparate security tools that combat the full range of threats, the ongoing administrative management for those solutions will remain complex. With unique tools for firewall, virus protection, web filtering and more, credit unions will find themselves with a wide spectrum of user interfaces, management tools and reporting functions. Not only does this facilitate inefficiency in terms of the time required to sift through multiple documents to determine ongoing security results, it also prevents credit unions from viewing the "big picture" when it comes to how their security measures are performing across their enterprise. Integrated security solutions are designed to be efficient and easy to use. An integrated security solution uses a single administrate interface.

4. Reduce overall costs. An integrated solution also offers credit unions distinct advantages when it comes to cost. With a non-integrated solution, each network security component must be purchased and licensed-a process that can quickly result in mounting, up-front costs to protect the institution. And then there are the training costs.

5. Leverage professional expertise. When you create your own comprehensive security solution, you rely on the limited experience of in-house personnel who are not likely well versed in the latest security measures that can help you protect your credit union. And establishing a managed services relationship can give your credit union the added support of trained professionals who understand today's complicated IT security landscape and will keep pace with changes so your institution remains secure-both now and in the future.

The volume and variety of security solutions can be overwhelming for any credit union leader. But with so many possibilities for your credit union's operations to be compromised, selecting the best security protection is truly a mission-critical decision. Choosing an integrated security solution and adding a managed service relationship to maintain that solution can give your credit union maximum protection with minimum investment, resources and headaches.

Todd Allison is Senior Network Security Analyst with IntegraSys, a Fiserv unit. Mr. Allison can be reached at 469-287-3661 or todd.allison

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