Author: Marshall Jones

07 Nov 2019
How CEOs Can Ensure Continuity In their Bank or Credit Union With Network Management

How CEOs Can Ensure Continuity in their Bank or Credit Union with Network Management

How CEOs Can Ensure Continuity In their Bank or Credit Union With Network Management

The role of a community bank or credit union CEO has become increasingly complex with responsibilities including oversight of all operations and procedures—no small task in light of today’s rapidly changing technology and security landscape, evolving compliance, and shifts in consumer behavior when selecting a banking partner. Given this, many CEOs are struggling to ensure continuity in this environment, especially working with limited resources and increased employee turnover.

An effective way to do this is to partner with a managed services provider that has a comprehensive network management solution designed specifically for community banks and credit unions to provide expertise, services, IT support and add to the existing internal knowledge bases.

Sustaining Personnel Continuity

The reality is that today, community banks and credit unions must address succession planning, especially as it relates to their IT department. CEOs are tasked with thinking about and planning for redundancy to counter the consequences of key staff leaving and taking that knowledge-base with them—and away from the institution. But true continuity is not limited to a single employee resigning; there needs to be a continuity plan in place to account for when employees take vacation, are out sick, are on short-term disability, or are on maternity leave. Regardless of the situation, a managed services provider can help minimize uncertainty, prevent unnecessary stress, and assure continuity by acting as an extension of a bank or credit union and helping to augment internal IT resources.

Ensuring Technology Continuity

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In addition to human capital, technology continuity is a key component of a community financial institution’s success. The advancement of technology, online banking services, compliance, and regulatory requirements, plus the growing demand from customers and members to have 24/7 access to their financial lives, has made the business of banking that much more challenging as it has become more IT-focused. This has made it crucial for banks and credit unions to have a proven technology program and framework in place to ensure that operations continually run smoothly.

Working with a provider who offers IT network management solutions exclusively tailored for the community banking industry provides a level of continuity and expertise that can otherwise be difficult to maintain internally on a long-term basis. Doing so ensures that the financial institution’s network is properly adhering to its operational, security, and compliance policies and procedures.

Continued Adherence to Government Regulations and Compliance

The burden of understanding how an ever-growing list of regulations applies to IT operations is shared across the organization. This pressure can be alleviated by an outsourced provider that truly understands the industry and is able to help institutions better manage their processes in a compliant manner. Taking a proactive approach to network management, for example, gives community banks and credit unions the ability to better stay ahead of new and pending regulatory requirements while effectively managing costs through limited resources.

Change is inevitable for any institution. However, having the ability to withstand change and still meet (or better yet, exceed) customer and member demands and expectations in spite of personnel turnover, natural disasters, technology struggles, etc. is key in today’s marketplace. An experienced managed services provider that offers a comprehensive network management system can go a long way toward ensuring continuity.

24 Oct 2019
Reducing Risk for CEOs

Reducing Risk: Top 4 Things CEOs Can do to Reduce Risk in their Bank or Credit Union

Reducing Risk for CEOs

The role of a community bank and credit union CEO has expanded and now requires a much deeper understanding of technology issues, risks, and regulatory requirements. CEOs are ultimately responsible for the health of the institution, which requires effective oversight of all operations and procedures and ensuring the institution is efficiently managing and reducing risk.

Many risk events arise from preventable mistakes, including: the right security layers not being in place; flaws in transaction processing; flaws in IT solutions and processes; security breaches; and/or outright fraudulent acts.
The CEO is ultimately responsible for ensuring the institution manages and combats these risks. Some key things CEOs can do or implement to reduce risk include:

  • Attract and Retain Skilled Staff

The CEO must make sure that the staff has the knowledge to ensure the institution is both compliant and competitive in today’s market. Employees must understand the ever-growing complexity of regulations as they relate to IT operations and ensure the institution remains compliant with continuously changing regulatory requirements and is up-to-date with evolving technology to meet customer and member demands and expectations.

  • Implement Information Security Procedures

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The CEO must ensure proper technologies and solutions to thwart viruses, spyware, and other harmful threats are installed. This entails overseeing the creation of enforceable policies and processes to both educate employees and protect the institution’s computer infrastructure, networks, and data. Cybersecurity represents a large component of the risk prevention strategy. Ensuring security defenses fit closely with the institution’s long-term goals as well as support the IT and compliance strategies is vital to not only the health of the organization but also in remaining compliant with current regulations.

  • Understand Compliance and Regulatory Expectations

Regulators now pay more attention to issues around governance, security, and IT solutions than they have in the past, and they have made clear that it is on CEOs to make sure that the institution is adequately protecting customer or member data, are aware of the institution’s operations, and are following all FFIEC and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) requirements. The CEO must evaluate risk assessment efforts and security initiatives and establish policies regarding the management of key compliance and consumer risks to ensure the organization adheres to the correct policies.

  • Partner with the Right Managed Services Provider

More and more community financial institutions are turning to third-party providers for expertise, services, and IT support. Working with a provider who offers solutions exclusively tailored for community banks and credit unions ensures the institution’s network adheres to its operational, security, and compliance policies and procedures. Partnering with the right managed service provider can also help eliminate redundant resources, reduce existing fixed costs by maximizing capacity and leveraging economies of scale, and can add to existing internal knowledge bases.

CEOs of community financial institutions are continuously looking for ways to more efficiently and effectively manage risk. As a result, they are increasingly recognizing that partnering with a managed service provider that offers a comprehensive network management system, designed specifically for the financial services industry, helps them not only better manage their responsibilities and streamline processes, but reduces their regulatory risks as well.

To gain more insight into how CEOs can reduce risk, as well as other IT management issues for CEOs to be aware of, download our white paper, Top 3 IT Management Worries for CEOs in Banking.

29 Aug 2019
Capitalizing on Cloud Infrastructure

Capitalizing on Cloud Infrastructure: Everything Financial Institutions Need to Know About Moving to the Cloud

Capitalizing on Cloud Infrastructure

Capitalizing on Cloud Infrastructure: Everything Financial Institutions Need to Know About Moving to the Cloud

As financial institutions refine their digital strategy to keep up with market and regulatory demands, cloud computing is emerging as the future of banking technology. There are a myriad of reasons institutions should capitalize on cloud computing, including enhanced scalability, efficiency, reliability, risk management and regulatory compliance. Despite these and other appealing benefits, it can be intimidating for community banks and credit unions to move to the Cloud.

In this post, we examine some of the most important issues related to moving to the Cloud to help institutions streamline the decision-making process, determine what can and should be moved to the Cloud, and examine the cost and security issues of cloud computing. Hopefully, this will shed light on how beneficial cloud-based solutions can be and provide the information IT managers need to make the best decision for their institution.

Three Questions to Ask Before Moving to the Cloud

 
Hosting applications and systems on a cloud network can be appealing to community banks and credit unions as it allows them to reduce servers, internal infrastructure, and applications that would typically have to be hosted inside the institution, as well as the associated support each one requires. It also offers the benefits of system standardization, centralization of information, and the simplification of IT management. However, here are three essential questions financial institutions should ask before moving to the Cloud:

  1. Which applications can be moved to the Cloud? Evaluating which applications can be moved to the Cloud and which vendors offer cloud-based solutions is really the first step. This will help IT managers understand issues and elements that will be solved or created by the move to the Cloud. For example, even with cloud-based solutions, they will still need to manage user workstations, security issues, connections to applications, as well as switches and routers.
  2. Is the institution’s internet connectivity strong enough to support cloud-based solutions? Delays in loading cloud-based applications can be frustrating as well as costly. The increased use of cloud-based computing will place added demands on internet speed and connectivity, making a strong connection critical for the success and health of the financial institution. This is a very important consideration when determining whether to move to cloud-based services. Confirming the availability of the proper connectivity—including a redundant internet connection to ensure access at all times—will help streamline this transition.
  3. Are there additional compliance issues to consider when selecting a cloud vendor? Moving to a cloud-based application will mean giving up some controls to a cloud vendor. When selecting a vendor, institutions must evaluate their practices and strategies for user identity and access management, data protection, incident response, and SOC 2 Type II documentation. They should have a solid vendor management program in place to verify that their vendors are compliant and are following the service agreement.

Financial Implications of Migrating to the Cloud

 

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Migrating to the Cloud commonly requires an organization to move from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operating expenditure (OPEX) financial model. The difference in long-term costs can be difficult to measure as many of the internal costs of managing an IT network are not documented.

Most community banks and credit unions have a good understanding of their IT capital expenditures. The up-front, fixed costs, such as hardware and software, and the resulting amortized or depreciated costs over the life of the asset, are historically well tracked. Traditionally, an on-premise infrastructure is considered a capital expenditure since it includes the purchase of servers, computers, and networking hardware, as well as software licenses, maintenance, and upgrades.

What is not generally well documented are the internal costs involved with running the system, including the power, cooling, floor space, storage, physical security, and the time IT teams devote to the daily management and continual maintenance of these systems. In addition, the equipment and software will need to be upgraded or replaced periodically, making for on-going large capital costs in years to come.

The move to the Cloud means a move from a CAPEX financial model to an operating expenditure model, in which large capital outlays are replaced by monthly, quarterly, or annual fees an institution pays to operate the business. These periodic OPEX fees include license fees for software access, as well as all the infrastructure and maintenance costs associated with the technical environment. Hosting an application in the Cloud via a Software as a Service (SaaS) model can minimize required capital investments for the institution. It can enable them to be up to date with the latest technology which can lead to generating more profits and ROI. The OPEX model can also provide the IT staff more time to focus on strategic revenue-generating and customer-facing activities.

The evaluation of CAPEX and OPEX expenditures is not an apples-to-apples comparison. It is important for IT management to understand the differences between the CAPEX and OPEX models, perform an analysis, and be able to effectively communicate the pros and cons before presenting a proposal to leadership.

Four Steps for Moving Server Workloads to the Cloud

 

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Today, banking services are increasingly being hosted in the Cloud. Cloud outsourcing often begins with specific IT functions or processes such as disaster recovery, backup, and supporting servers. However, a financial institution can be strongly in favor of cloud computing without moving 100 percent to the Cloud. For example, a bank could easily have its ancillary systems and lending in the Cloud and maintain its core in-house.

There is a great deal of infrastructure involved in managing all the applications needed to run an efficient and successful financial institution. While cloud technology has proven to be beneficial for community banks and credit unions by enabling their limited in-house personnel to focus on core strategic initiatives, there are four important factors institutions should carefully consider before moving their data to the Cloud. They are:

  1. Support the financial institution’s business strategy
     
    Some organizations consider moving to the Cloud simply because they think it is the right thing to do; however, there is no set path that all financial institutions must follow.
    Each community bank or credit union has a unique strategy driven by its market situation, whether that includes business expansion, rapid disaster recovery, or replacing existing servers or hardware. An institution’s decisions about cloud computing ultimately must align with its business goals, strategies, and objectives.
  2. Identify the application opportunities
     
    Not all business processes and applications are suitable for the Cloud. Before moving to the Cloud, the IT team must understand the requirements of their business applications. They should evaluate the data footprint, transaction types, and frequency, as well as the IT infrastructure that is being used to host each application in order to determine which applications need to remain on-premise and which can be moved to the Cloud.
  3. Determine the best path to the Cloud
     
    Once the institution’s cloud and business strategies have been aligned, and its applications have been identified, it is ready to migrate supporting servers, applications and other assets to the Cloud.
     
    There are several approaches that institutions can use to facilitate their migration to the Cloud. They can simply move the physical servers they already have to a co-location facility or data center. This can be an attractive option since it does not require extensive configuration changes to applications and servers but moves these critical assets out of their building to a highly available data center.
     
    Or a financial institution can adopt an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model. This means that instead of physically moving the servers it owns, a bank or credit union can lease the server capacity that it needs from a third-party provider. The institution can then access the servers remotely to install, run, and maintain its applications.
     
    As a third option, financial institutions can implement the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. With this licensing fee and delivery model, software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted by the application software provider. This approach enables community banks and credit unions to run their applications from a browser that is supported by the developer, so there is no additional infrastructure to maintain.
  4. Develop a Phased Approach
     
    Long term, financial institutions should consider using a graduated approach to moving their applications to the Cloud. The migration should be completed in multiple phases to enable a smoother transition. However, the applications that are not technically ready should not be moved as this can cause unnecessary complications and technical issues.

Misconceptions About Cloud Security

 

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Many community banks and credit unions struggle with truly understanding the security differences of housing their sensitive data in the Cloud vs. keeping it housed on servers and hardware solutions that are located on-premise.

Having sensitive data housed in a cloud-based data center is uniquely different from maintaining on-premise resources for data storage. So, it makes sense that security-related issues and concerns would need to be addressed and considered prior to cloud migration. Understandably, some institutions might have lingering doubts about whether they can truly trust a cloud-based data center that they can’t physically see or control.

Let’s take a look at some of the common issues and misconceptions organizations have about cloud security:

  1. Misconception #1: The Cloud is not secure
     
    To the contrary, the Cloud can enable financial institutions to experience as much as or more security than with an on-premise environment—and without the hassle and expense of maintaining physical servers and storage devices. Major cloud service providers have the technical expertise and strict internal processes to physically secure their IT hardware against unauthorized access, theft, fires, flooding and other potential hazards. For example, Microsoft® employs thousands of cybersecurity experts and cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence to detect, respond to and thwart security threats.
     
    In addition, cloud providers often give their customers access to extra security programs and resources. This can make it easier for organizations to more effectively combat threats like data loss, leaks, and hacking. Of course, no security model—even one that uses a multi-layered approach—is perfect, but a cloud solution protected by substantial security measures can ultimately enhance a financial institution’s security posture.
  2. Misconception #2: The provider is responsible for keeping data secure in the Cloud
     
    A common concern for many financial institutions who are considering moving to the Cloud is determining who is responsible for data security moving forward—the cloud services provider or the customer? The short answer is both parties. Data security is typically a shared responsibility and requires banks and credit unions to continue monitoring the security of their solutions to ensure the data is secure and meets all regulatory requirements.
  3. Misconception #3: Data can be easily lost in the Cloud
     
    Information resiliency is a key differentiator for cloud-based services. These solutions help reduce the likelihood of data loss if key security features and backups are enabled and used appropriately.
     
    In addition, cloud services can help financial institutions recover quickly from business disruptions like equipment failure, power outages, and natural disasters. This provides financial institutions with continuous access to data and other critical applications, enabling business operations to run smoothly.
  4. Misconception #4: Anyone can access data in the Cloud
     
    The Cloud actually prevents unauthorized individuals from accessing data on the network because cloud providers use a variety of security processes to control points of access. Most cloud providers use data encryption to protect data while it’s being stored and during transmission as well as multi-factor authentication to require two or more forms of verification to access the system.
     
    Moreover, cloud services providers maintain detailed activity logs that show who accessed, created and modified data. Having this type of intelligence allows cloud vendors to better understand unusual activities, detect potential threats and more effectively protect the client’s data.

Final Thoughts

 
Building a strategy for cloud computing can be intimidating. All community banks and credit unions have a unique business strategy that will guide how they migrate to the Cloud, what type of cloud solution is best for their environment, and what specific technology assets should be moved to the Cloud.

Working with an experienced service provider such as Safe Systems can simplify the process. Safe Systems helps institutions design and install cloud solutions while also ensuring their systems are compliant and meet examiner expectations.

14 Nov 2018
5 Ways Cloud-Based Solutions Improve Disaster Recovery for Banks and Credit Unions

5 Ways Cloud-Based Solutions Improve Disaster Recovery for Banks and Credit Unions

5 Ways Cloud-Based Solutions Improve Disaster Recovery for Banks and Credit UnionsDisaster recovery is a concern for all banks and credit unions, regardless of size and location, but the hard truth is that a number of institutions are not adequately prepared for emergency situations and are unable to quickly recover from a disaster. This goes against FFIEC compliance regulations and can also equal significant revenue losses and reputational damage.

Implementing cloud-based solutions can help solve this issue by significantly speeding up the disaster recovery process and improving operations. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of using cloud-based solutions is its impact on disaster recovery.

5 key ways cloud-based solutions improve disaster recovery:

1. Improved access to data

Cloud-based solutions provide the flexibility of being able to access and restore systems quickly from any location. The cloud provides instant connection to critical data and servers, which prevents compliance and regulations issues and fines, reduces loss of revenue and increases customer or member confidence.

2. Eliminates the need for duplicate data centers and back-up locations

Banks and credit unions using the cloud eliminate the expense of having duplicate data centers and expensive back-up sites. Organizations access the servers remotely to install, run, and maintain applications. In addition, banks and credit unions do not have to worry that their data center or back-up facility will also be hit by the disaster. For many community financial institutions, their branches and offices are often all in the path of the disaster given their geography.

3. Quicker response times

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Using the cloud enables banks and credit unions to respond more quickly to a disaster, sometimes in as little as minutes, rather than hours or days. Cloud-based solutions eliminate the need for time-consuming manual administration and intervention.

4. Reliable and up-to-date backups

Cloud solutions automatically perform back-up functions on a regular basis. This ensures that updates are accurate and that banks and credit unions have the most recent version of documents and data at all times. This helps ensure disaster recovery operations are utilizing the most recent version of all solutions and data.

5. Scalability

Cloud solutions offer a high degree of scalability. As banks and credit unions grow and technology evolves, their systems grow as well. Instead of having to physically implement new servers to handle the growth and implement disaster recovery plans for all new systems, cloud based solutions can easily expand with the organization.

Because disaster recovery from the cloud provides a much more streamlined process, recovery times are much faster; data can be accessed from anywhere; and the time-consuming and error prone process of manually recovering from a disaster is eliminated.

Implementing cloud-based services can be challenging and even a daunting task for some community banks and credit unions. Working with an outsourced service provider, such as Safe Systems, can help with the process while ensuring the systems are compliant and meet all regulator expectations. We built our Managed Cloud Services solution specifically for community banks and credit unions to enable quick recovery from any disaster, as well as ensure your data is safe and secure.

07 Nov 2018
4 Misconceptions about Cloud Security in the Financial Industry

4 Misconceptions About Cloud Security in the Financial Industry

4 Misconceptions about Cloud Security in the Financial Industry

More and more banks and credit unions are either thinking about or already entrusting their IT solutions and data to cloud-based systems. While the allure of having applications and systems hosted on a cloud network is appealing to community banks and credit unions due to the ability to eliminate servers, internal infrastructure, and applications that would typically have to be hosted inside the institution, there are still some concerns with the transition, especially as it relates to security. Many organizations have some misconceptions and struggle with truly understanding the security differences of housing their sensitive data in the cloud vs. keeping it housed on servers and hardware solutions that are located on-premise.

Having sensitive data stored in a virtual environment is certainly different from on-premise resources, so it makes sense that security-related issues and concerns would need to be addressed and considered. It is understandable that you might have some doubts on whether you can really put your trust in something you can’t physically see and control in your own building or financial institution.

So, let’s take a look at some of the common issues and misconceptions about cloud security.

Misconception #1 – The cloud is not secure!

Cloud-based solution providers don’t take security lightly. In fact, the global cloud security market is predicted to reach $12.64 billion by 2024—up from $1.41 billion in 2016, according to Hexa Research. According to the report, the growth is driven by the increasing use of cloud services for data storage, and the rising sophistication of cyber attacks.

Misconception #2 – Once I move my data to the cloud, its security is not my responsibility

One of the main security-related issues when it comes to the cloud is determining who is actually responsible for data security. Cloud security is typically expected to be a shared responsibility. Just because a bank or credit union utilizes cloud-based solutions doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for monitoring the security of the solutions, ensuring the data is safe and meeting compliance and regulation requirements. IT professionals and cloud vendors should share cloud security duties.

Misconception #3 – My data can be lost in the cloud

Cloud-based solutions excel in one critical security area and that is information resiliency. Utilizing the cloud will prevent the loss of data while also reducing the likelihood that it will be susceptible to corruption. Cloud-based solutions can recover quickly and continue operating even when there has been an equipment failure, power outage, natural disaster or other disruption, providing a bank or credit union continuous access to data and vital information.

Misconception #4 – Anyone can access my data

The cloud actually reduces the surface area of possible penetration attacks because the entry points into the cloud are very well defined and are locked down with multi-factor authentication and other mature and trusted security tools and processes. While physical security is no longer a worry, banks and credit unions will still need to manage user work stations, connections to applications, and switches and routers, to name a few. In addition, cloud-based solutions provide users with detailed reports of all activity– who has logged in, who accesses certain information, etc., which provides the ability to audit unusual or potentially harmful actions on the network.

Cloud services offer many benefits for financial institutions, including system standardization, centralization of information, the simplification of IT management and the built-in ability to stay current with technology and hardware updates. Deploying these tools in an on-premise environment and ensuring the entire network is secure enough to combat the growing cyber threats seen today would require not only large investments in infrastructure, but large teams to manage them as well. This can be extremely costly for small to mid-sized banks and credit unions. Ultimately, moving assets to the cloud enables banks and credit union’s IT executives to focus on the key capabilities that support the institution’s unique strategy while having the confidence all assets are secure.

14 Sep 2018
American Pride Bank Partners with Safe Systems to Successfully Launch New Institution

American Pride Bank Partners with Safe Systems to Successfully Launch New Institution

American Pride Bank Partners with Safe Systems to Successfully Launch New Institution

An efficient network environment is important to ensure that bank operations run smoothly, especially for new financial institutions. Preparing a bank for a grand opening involves setting up workstations, equipment, servers and software for the entire organization – all of which can prove daunting for an institution with limited IT staff.

Nicole Rinehart, vice president of Macon, Ga.-based American Pride Bank, quickly found herself in this situation when managing the launch of the de novo bank. She realized she needed assistance and support with the bank’s IT initiatives to get the institution up and running as soon as possible.

“As the only IT person in the bank, I had a big assignment to accomplish getting the bank open and ready for business,” said Rinehart. “I had never dealt with a company like Safe Systems before, but with their professionalism and expertise in the banking industry, I felt that they were a great partner to help us with this project.”

Streamline IT Operations and Compliance Processes

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American Pride Bank implemented Safe Systems’ IT network management service, NetComply® One, allowing it to automate a variety of IT functions to ensure its network would be secure and compliant. With NetComply One, the bank can monitor and manage IT compliance and security from one centralized platform; easily receive alerts; provide detailed reports to examiners and Board of Directors; receive network updates; streamline patch management and other manual tasks and obtain expert support from Safe Systems’ team. Rinehart is also able to access the bank’s network remotely to monitor and manage day-to-day maintenance issues that arise.

After the initial set up, the bank switched locations seven months later, and Safe Systems was right there to transfer all of the equipment, servers, and workstations to the new building. The support from the technical engineers made the transition seamless and stress-free for the entire organization.

“NetComply One is a one-stop-shop for technology, compliance, and security,” Rinehart said. “When examiners come into the bank, our audits are flawless because we have thorough, real-time data to share that meets regulatory expectations and shows that our network is functioning securely and efficiently. The platform streamlines our IT processes and reduces the amount of time I spend on manual IT tasks, allowing me to focus on more valuable activities for the bank.”

For more information, download the full success story, American Pride Bank Enhances IT Network Management Processes.

12 Sep 2018
Streamline Network Reporting to Better Meet FFIEC Requirements

Streamline Network Reporting to Better Meet FFIEC Requirements

Streamline Network Reporting to Better Meet FFIEC Requirements

Annual exams and regulator expectations continue to change and become more cumbersome for financial institutions, regardless of size. The entire exam process, starting with the preparation, can be an extremely time consuming and stressful process to complete given the amount of reports and information the bank or credit union is required to provide. To manage this process efficiently, community banks and credit unions must understand what examiners are looking for and be able to streamline processes to ensure the proper documentation is prepared prior to the exam.

The Compliance Challenge

Regulatory agencies are requesting an increasing number of documents and reports even before the exam begins. Financial institutions are usually asked to prepare between 40-100 items for each exam or audit and institutions have between 11-20 exams per year, making exam preparation alone a cumbersome, full-time task, and one that can be overwhelming for a financial institution with a small IT department. This doesn’t even take into account the amount of time spent providing accurate responses to requests and reviewing and remediating findings.

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Some of the reports requested by government agencies include:

  • Documentation of patch management programs;
  • Vendor management program reports;
  • Network Vulnerability Scan reports;
  • Back-up verification and reporting;
  • Inventory and auditing logs;
  • Remote Control Logs;
  • Training logs;
  • Detailed Executive Summaries; and
  • Security Control Logs and Verification.

With limited resources, many community financial institutions struggle to efficiently meet examiner expectations and provide reports that are timely, accurate, complete, and consistent.

Automate the Network Reporting Process

Community financial institutions are looking for ways to better manage their regulatory reporting requirements. To help streamline this process, financial institutions are implementing a network management system with an automated reporting function that allows institutions to easily configure, customize and generate reports to meet examiner expectations.

A comprehensive network management system designed specifically for financial institutions can help the IT department quickly produce and effectively manage custom reports for exams. Having a solution that automates IT reporting based on FFIEC requirements, helps banks and credit unions to more efficiently prepare for exams. In addition, increased visibility to the network helps IT managers simplify processes and provide proper documentation to examiners.


Remaining in compliance with government regulations is a consuming responsibility for institutions of all sizes. Regulatory agencies are continually changing and increasing the amount of reports they require. To help ease this compliance challenge and streamline reporting activities, financial institutions should adopt applications that will increase efficiencies with automation.

05 Sep 2018
8 Key Requirements of the CAT to Consider

Does Your Network Management Comply with the CAT? 8 Key Requirements to Consider

The threat to network systems has increased significantly over the last few years, and the consequences of a breach can be potentially disastrous for organizations and individuals alike. Due to the volume and sophistication of cyber threats, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) Cybersecurity Assessment Tool (CAT) plays a major part in helping financial institutions identify risk and understand their cybersecurity preparedness. To better protect the network, financial institutions must understand where their security practices fall short and how to effectively address those gaps. The CAT provides a clear set of standards to ensure an institution’s network systems are managed efficiently and compliantly.

 
Some key areas of network management that are addressed in the CAT include:

  1. Risk Identification
  2. There must be documented processes that outline potential threats and vulnerabilities. Risk identification activities that determine the institution’s information security risk profile, including cybersecurity risk, must be documented and evaluated on a routine basis.

  3. Network Border Protection
  4. There must be effective preventative controls in place to adequately protect the network from attack. This includes firewalls, anti-virus protection and anti-malware software.

  5. Inventory of Assets
  6. An updated inventory of technology assets including hardware, software, information, and connections should be maintained. The inventory should include where all assets are stored, transmitted and processed.

  7. Auditing of the Network
  8. Download PDFSuccess Story: American Pride Bank Get a Copy

    Financial institutions must have the ability to identify what devices are present on a network; the ability to monitor at the device level to determine the health of network components; and the extent to which their performance matches capacity plans and intra-enterprise service-level agreements (SLAs). It also includes the ability to track performance indicators such as bandwidth utilization, packet loss, latency, availability and uptime of routers, switches and other Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) enabled devices.

  9. Dual-Factor Authentication
  10. The system must have more than one form of authentication in order to access it to ensure a secure log-in.

  11. Patch Management
  12. An effective patch management program is a must in today’s environment. All software applications require updates from vendors to remedy weaknesses. Updates should be rolled out to all devices in a timely manner, updates should be tested to ensure they don’t create an issue for the institution’s applications and all patches must be well documented.

  13. Remote Control Access
  14. Remote access to a network allows employees to connect to any machine in their network via encrypted and logged sessions. It gives administrative personnel the tools to administer and manage a network, enabling increased productivity, heightened security, greater flexibility and centralized control that’s accessible from anywhere they have an Internet connection. While this is beneficial, it must be monitored and protected from outside attacks.

  15. Reporting
  16. Financial institutions must be able to generate and provide easily configurable, customizable and accurate reports for all exams and audits in a timely manner.

Consequences of Not Being in Compliance

Failure to comply with FFIEC guidelines puts a financial institution at risk of doing poorly on exams, being written up for not following protocols and spending large amounts of time remedying violations, which can all lead to reputational damage and loss of revenue. Regardless of location and size, banks and credit unions are all subject to largely the same regulations. Governing agencies have become more stringent in their exams in the last several years and have been liberal in issuing citations to community financial institutions that have lapses or are not meeting regulations.

Automating Network Management

To help ensure community financial institutions operate more efficiently, securely and compliantly, IT professionals are implementing network management systems designed specifically for financial institutions and their compliance needs. These systems help to further decrease costs, increase performance, and improve their compliance posture by automating the myriad of tasks associated with exams and regulatory requirements. Systems with built-in automated intelligence eliminate the need for IT staff to directly administer challenging and time-consuming tasks such as patch management, anti-malware updates, and reporting.

Automating IT activities helps ease the burden of maintaining network compliance. Remember, while compliance requirements can be cumbersome and time-consuming, these standards are in place to ensure that sensitive, financial data is protected from the malicious threats and attackers who seek to exploit it.

29 Aug 2018
Often Overlooked Component of a Patch Management Program – Patch Testing

An Often Overlooked Component of a Patch Management Program — Patch Testing

Often Overlooked Component of a Patch Management Program – Patch Testing

A strong patch management program has many important components. It starts with identifying the right patches, implementing a patch schedule, deploying patches, and ensuring all patches are effective and working correctly. However, one critical but often-overlooked component of patch management is the actual testing of all patches. Testing patches before they are implemented is crucial to ensure that they will not wreak havoc on your machines, servers or networks and cause disruptions in your IT environment, not to mention impede customer service.

Patches are constantly being released, making testing an on-going action item for financial institutions to ensure their network and organization are protected. Testing can be a time-consuming task, requiring, hours, days or weeks, depending on the updates provided and criticality of the system to be patched. On the other hand, the cost of having to repair damaged software and network systems due to untested patches can be significant.

Effective Patch Management and Testing

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Financial institutions cannot blindly install patches without understanding the potential impact the update will have on the institution’s network. Doing so can result in the elimination of key features in bank systems, incompatibility with critical functions, and even the removal of important data and financial information. Once patches are installed, it can be difficult to revert back to the older version.

All software applications require updates from vendors to remedy known vulnerabilities or security weaknesses, not just operating systems. This includes updates for third party software programs such as Adobe Acrobat®, Adobe Reader®, Adobe Flash®, Java™, Chrome™, and Firefox®. All patches should be tested in an environment that hosts the same critical applications, including business applications, servers, network systems and all the key applications unique to the financial institution. The goal is to replicate the whole environment as much as possible to determine the potential complications and outcomes for each patch.

Streamline Patch Testing

To help streamline the testing process and ensure all patches are thoroughly tested, Safe Systems has established one of the largest test groups in the United States focused on the financial services industry. The test group consists of more than 1,000 devices in real-world environments, ensuring that when a patch is approved for full deployment, the financial institutions system’s operations and applications are not impacted and business is not interrupted.

Having the support of an outsourced service provider testing all patches crucial to your institution ensures you have a comprehensive patching program that is guaranteed to deliver quick, accurate, and secure patch updates to all workstations and servers. This process will help mitigate the multiple risks associated with running unpatched and untested programs and automate the time-consuming process of testing and deploying new patches.

A lack of effective patch management and testing has contributed significantly to the increase in the number of security incidents in financial institutions. Adequately testing every possible configuration is a necessity for all financial organizations to protect against data breaches and other malicious attacks. Working with a third-party service provider to assist in the testing phase can save your organization countless hours; eliminate the headache of having to fix incompatible patches; and ensure software is up to date, resulting in a secure environment.

22 Aug 2018
2018 The Peoples Bank of Georgia Enhances Compliance and IT Network Management Processes with Safe Systems’ NetComply One Solution

The Peoples Bank of Georgia Enhances Compliance and IT Network Management Processes with Safe Systems’ NetComply One Solution

2018 The Peoples Bank of Georgia Enhances Compliance and IT Network Management Processes with Safe Systems’ NetComply One Solution

When The Peoples Bank of Georgia’s outsourced IT provider retired and sold the business to another company, the staff was faced with the challenge of working with a provider who did not specialize in banking. This led Jessica Keller, Information Technology Officer for The Peoples Bank of Georgia, to search for a service provider who truly understood her bank’s IT operations; one that could successfully manage its compliance requirements; and one that had the expertise to monitor and manage the bank’s network efficiently.

Experienced and Knowledgeable Third-Party Provider

Keller learned about Safe Systems through attending banking industry conferences and through recommendations from her peers. The bank selected and implemented Safe Systems’ NetComply® One IT network management solution to efficiently manage all important network tasks and provide proper documentation to regulators for IT examinations. NetComply One also enables the bank to automate patch management; receive qualified alerts; and obtain detailed reports.

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“As a small community bank, we needed a service provider who could guide our institution’s IT projects, efficiently manage compliance, regulatory requirements, reporting and act as an extension of our organization,” said Keller. “Safe Systems’ expertise in the banking industry, their ability to work with regulators, and the automated reports they provide, made them the ideal partner for our bank.”

Compliance and Regulatory Expertise

After NetComply One was installed, the bank’s staff was able to more efficiently manage all important network tasks, ensuring proper documentation to regulators for IT examinations. “Implementing the NetComply One solution has made significant improvements in examination preparation and management for our entire network,” said Keller. “I no longer have to spend time on manual processes and can now focus on more valuable tasks and activities. Safe Systems is a true partner who understands the banking industry and acts as an extension of our organization, enabling us to ultimately better serve our customers.”

For more information, download the full success story, The Peoples Bank of Georgia Enhances Compliance and IT Network Management Processes with Safe Systems’ NetComply One® Solution.