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Info security needs improvements NCUA IG says

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (11/21/11)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has improved its overall data security and privacy programs, but there is still room to strengthen its overall personal information privacy program, security authorization packages, contingency planning program, intrusion detection policies and procedures, and remote access controls, according to the agency's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG engaged an outside firm to examine the agency's information security and privacy management policies and procedures, and to determine the NCUA's level of compliance with federal information security standards.

In the report, the OIG recommended that the NCUA work to reduce the "use, collection and retention" of personally sensitive identifying information such as employee social security numbers.

Reviewing and potentially reducing the use of social security numbers and other sensitive information "will reduce the risk of exposing [the NCUA's] sensitive data to a breach of confidentiality by an authorized or unauthorized entity" and "could prevent public embarrassment for the agency and a loss of trust by the public," the report said.

The OIG also recommended that the NCUA improve its contingency planning program for its Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) systems in its review of the NCUAs information systems, security program and controls for compliance with FISMA.

The report noted that the NCUA has improved its server and desktop computer security configurations, its automated information security processes, its contingency planning for FISMA systems, and its continuing education requirements for its own information technology employees.

The OIG in last year's review credited the NCUA with improving its overall IT security program by enhancing its policies and procedures, completing e-Authentication risk assessments for its two e-Authentication systems, and completing security control assessments for five of its six FISMA systems.

For the full report, use the resource link.

NFIP FHA language passed with minibus spending bill

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WASHINGTON (11/21/11)--Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and returned Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan guarantee limits to their previous ceiling when a minibus spending bill that would continue to fund the government was approved late last week.

The NFIP will continue to function until Dec. 16. Separate pieces of legislation that would extend coverage for another five years have been approved by both the Senate and the House, but there are differences between those two bills.

Language that was attached to the minibus spending bill allows the FHA to guarantee mortgages up to $729,750, or 125% of local median prices for single family homes, through Dec. 31, 2013.

The maximum conforming loan limit fell to $625,500 on Oct. 1 when a loan limit extension could not be agreed to by Congress. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 requires that Congress set maximum conforming loan limits each year.

The Credit Union National Association supported the NFIP extension and the FHA guarantee limit increase.

The NFIP and FHA related language was added to H.R. 2112, an appropriations bill for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that also funds the government until December 16.

CUNA Fin ed efforts must be part of any aid to unbanked

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WASHINGTON (11/21/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in a recent comment letter encouraged the U.S. Treasury to promote a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing financial access for all consumers, and added that any initiative focused on financial access "should include the concept of financial education as a core component."

The Treasury's Office of Financial Education and Financial Access is in the process of developing a multiyear program of grants, cooperative agreements, financial agency agreements, and other efforts in a bid to aid unbanked and underbanked Americans. Specifically, the Treasury has been tasked with increasing low- and moderate-income individuals' access to financial services from federally insured depository institutions.

This effort was prompted by Section 1204 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

CUNA encouraged the Treasury to consider financial institutions of all asset sizes as it assesses how it will distribute awards and grants and develop agreements.

Participating institutions should also have the option to offer economically appropriate products, such as free or low-cost checking and savings accounts with no minimum balance requirements, to increase access to financial services, CUNA added.

Classroom- and workplace-based education, as well as rewards programs, should be considered as viable ways to enhance consumer knowledge of basic and more complex financial concepts, CUNA said. The Treasury should also feature credit unions and banks equally in any promotional or educational material it produces as part of this endeavor, CUNA added.

For the full comment letter, use the resource link.

Inside Washington (11/18/2011)

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  • WASHINGTON (11/21/11)--Both Republicans and Democrats had high praise for Thomas Hoenig, President Barack Obama's nomination for Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. vice chairman, during Hoenig's Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the leading Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, indicated support for moving as a package of nominations Hoenig; Martin Gruenberg, nominee for  FDIC chair; and Thomas Curry, nominee for comptroller of the currency, to the Senate floor for a vote (American Banker Nov. 18). Such a move would leave room for the Senate to debate the confirmation of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and who would also hold an FDIC seat. Carla Leon Decker,  president/CEO of the $47 million District Government Employees FCU, Washington, D.C., awaits a hearing on her nomination as a National Credit Union Administration board member …
  • WASHINGTON (11/21/11)--Committees in both the House and Senate are working to schedule hearings on a bill that would prevent members of Congress from profiting from their inside knowledge. The bill's sudden momentum comes in the wake of a Nov. 13 60 Minutes report about congressional representatives from both political parties making trades after receiving non-public information (American Banker Nov. 18). Before the 60 Minutes report, the House version of the bill, which would prohibit trading of stocks and other investment vehicles based on non-public information about future legislative action, had 10 co-sponsors. By Thursday, the bill had 47 co-sponsors. Four senators--Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)--announced they would also introduce versions of the House bill. All four are up for re-election next year …
  • WASHINGTON (11/21/11)--In a joint letter released Thursday, 33 Democrats urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote on the Senate floor for the confirmation of Richard Cordray as the director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Cordray's nomination was approved by the Senate Banking Committee last month (American Banker Nov. 18).  He currently serves as CFPB enforcement chief. Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, was nominated by President Barack Obama in July. Without a director, the CFPB lacks full authority, the letter said, leaving consumers such as military families and seniors susceptible to unfair or deceptive financial practices …