UW-Madison study advocates greater use of online banking security tools

MADISON - Recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) statistics indicate identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, and shows no signs of diminishing.

The FTC reported that 27.3 million Americans have been victimized in the last five years, including more than 10 million last year. The advent of online banking, combined with existing techniques for using networked electronics, is increasing the demand for identity management services.

"These statistics are alarming, and they lend credibility for the need to establish effective and proven techniques to manage all identities which may interact with a credit union's digital resources," said David Meunier, vice president and chief information security officer for CUNA Mutual.

Identity management (IdM) is rapidly developing as a dynamic electronic security tool to protect and control access to financial and personal information. However, it has yet to be fully implemented at many credit unions, according to a new research study titled, "Identity Management at Credit Unions." The study was produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison E-Business Consortium (UWEBC) in collaboration with credit union industry leaders.

IdM is an information security system and associated processes and policies used to create, distribute, maintain, and terminate the digital identifier that distinguishes a user or group of users on a computer network.

"New technology implementations, such as biometrics, are changing how identities are managed," said Alfonso Gutierrez, UWEBC associate director for research and education. "Credit unions are currently implementing these in varying degrees, and the implementations seem more experimental than mature. We'll likely see many changes before they become standard."

Other key findings in the study include:

  • Credit Unions perceive that the cost of IdM is far outweighed by the risks of not implementing IdM security measures.
  • The biggest vulnerabilities lie not in faulty software or hardware packages, but in how users protect their passwords and credentials outside the system.
  • IdM is being handled by high level governance bodies such as boards of directors, which tends to leave out more technically savvy IT staff.
  • Many IdM processes are performed manually, despite existing automated tools that reduce errors in creating and managing identities.
  • Regulations demanding multiple layers of authentication are slowing the validation of online users by seconds, adding up to thousands of hours annually.

The free research report is available online at www.uwebc.org. The survey builds on a series of successful collaborative research projects conducted by CUNA Mutual, CUNA, other credit union groups and the UW-Madison E-Business Consortium.

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UWEBC is Wisconsin's leading organization that helps companies gain a competitive advantage through e-business. Its members - business executives and senior managers from the Midwest's leading companies - tap into world-class university resources and the collective experiences of this business-to-business and business-to-consumer group on strategic e-business and information technology challenges. More information is available at www.uwebc.org

CONTACT: Alfonso Gutierrez, (608) 262-5690, agutierr@wisc.edu; Phil Tschudy, CUNA 608/231-7188, philip.tschudy@cunamutual.com

- Nancy Gores, (608) 265-3299 nagores@wisc.edu


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