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Leagues CUs eye Hanna and Ike and Josephine

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MADISON, Wis. (9/4/08)--With tropical storms lined up across the Atlantic like ducks in a shooting gallery, leagues and credit unions are taking precautions to make sure they're prepared for any situation. Fresh from weathering Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf, credit unions' next area of concern is Tropical Storm Hanna, which was already strengthening Wednesday and was expected to resume hurricane status before the weekend, when it will hit the Southeast coast of the U.S. Behind Hanna lurks Hurricane Ike, which could strike the Caribbean by Sunday, followed by a weaker Tropical Storm Josephine. South Carolina Credit Union League President/CEO Gen. Garry Parks sent an alert to member credit unions Tuesday about Hanna. At that time Hanna had hurricane status and had been responsible for 25 deaths in Haiti. With the possible hurricane bearing down on the southeastern coast, credit unions must orient their attention to the potential impact of the storm, Parks said. He reminded credit unions of several league resources and CUNA Strategic Services disaster preparedness and recovery services (see resource links for services) and that the league would assist them in any way possible. The Georgia Credit Union Affiliates also sent out a "severe weather watch" alert Wednesday afternoon, said Anita Paul, director of communications. "Based on recent weather reports, it appears that Georgia could avoid the worst of these storms. However, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates advises all Georgia credit unions to take this opportunity to review your disaster and business continuity plans with your staff," said the alert. The alert noted that now is the time to set up voice messages using the VoiceGard system, a CUNA Strategic Service that is free to all credit unions regardless of their affiliation with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) or the league. Credit unions with other alert systems to advise members and staff of the credit union's status were encouraged to include the information on their website, their outgoing voicemail messages and any upcoming publications, statement stuffers and other materials, said the Georgia alert. The Florida Credit Union League is also monitoring the storm. "At this time, we're just monitoring the situation," Amy Jowers, league vice president of communications, told News Now. "The governor has issued a State of Emergency declaration for Florida to be 'on guard' and ready to assist should Florida be threatened by Hanna." The Florida league planned to have a conference call with federal and state regulators and Southeast Corporate this morning and would know more at that point, said Jowers Wednesday. "Fortunately for Florida, it looks like Hanna is skirting around us, but as always, we'll stay on top of this due to the unpredictable behavior that these storms have." Hanna's potential has leagues as far inland as Pennsylvania advising credit unions to review their business continuity plans and prepare emergency kits in advance of the storm in case there is significant flooding. Many credit unions' business continuity plans got a workout with two major storms: last month's Hurricane Fay, which caused flooding in Florida, and Monday's Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall on Louisiana soil as a Category Two hurricane.

Shared branching providers to assist in hurricanes

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ATLANTA, HAGERSTOWN, Md., and SAN DIMAS, Calif. (9/4/08)--Shared branching is helping credit unions provide service to members in hurricane-affected areas. On Monday, Hurricane Gustav made landfall west of New Orleans. Tropical Storm Hanna is expected to hit near Georgia and South Carolina this week. The storms have prompted several vendors to help credit unions with shared branching. “Having shared branching in place before an emergency situation is ideal,” said Carroll Beach, CO-OP Shared Branching president and chief operating officer. CO-OP Shared Branching staff have been in contact with credit unions in the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Gustav began threatening the area last week. The vendor has helped implement offline procedures and emergency rules as needed, the company said in a release. CO-OP’s network services team and information technology staff also have been on alert status to provide continuous service. The company’s Next Generation Network is available to assist credit unions not on shared branching. Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) and Ongoing Operations (OGO) also helped credit unions in the Gulf Coast. “The benefit of shared branching is evident during disasters, but our connections allow us to assist non-shared branching credit unions as well,” said FSCC President/CEO Sarah Canepa Bang. OGO and FSCC are helping a non-shared branching credit union in the Gulf Coast rebuild its ATM activity. “We are able to leverage [FSCC’s] connection to assist a credit union in Harahan, La., that has declared disaster mode. Their members may currently be displaced or in different areas of the country; therefore, this strategy simplifies the way credit unions bounce back,” said OGO President/CEO Kirk Drake. FSCC also offers the Emergency Shared Branch program, which provides credit unions and their members a way to complete deposits and withdrawals at FSCC shared branch locations. FSCC is waiving the set-up charge for the program and is not requiring credit unions to sign onto full shared branching. Credit unions also are using FSCC’s emergency hotline service, which is operated by Digital Dialogue--a subsidiary of PSCU Financial Services. The program gives credit union staff and members a phone number to call for information. FSCC’s virtual private network is helping credit unions connect their disaster sites to shared branch services. FSCC offers the Shared Branch Network, with more than 5,000 full-service deposit-taking locations in the U.S. and overseas. OGO is a credit union service organization providing software and processing solutions for credit unions.

2008 breaches already break 2007 record

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SAN DIEGO (9/4/08)--The number of data breaches for 2008 so far has surpassed the final total of 446 reported in all of 2007--more than four months before the end of 2008. That’s not good news for credit unions and other financial institutions forced to reissue credit and debit cards to protect their members from identity theft and fraud related to data breaches of other companies. As of Aug. 22, the number of confirmed data breaches in 2008 was 449, said the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). The actual number of breaches is likely higher due to under-reporting last year and because some of the reported breaches affecting multiple businesses are listed as single events, the ITRC said. ITRC is a non-profit organization established to support victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public education and awareness about identity theft. ITRC recognizes that 449 breaches in less than a year is a small number when compared with the total number of businesses, government, health, banking and educational institutions that have databases. The growth in the number of breaches from year to year can no longer be solely attributed to required reporting laws and media investigative work, the ITRC noted. Part of the growth of the ITRC’s breach list is due to the ability to access state attorney general notification lists, which contain breaches that were not reported via media or other sources, noted Linda Foley, ITRC founder. “If more states would publish breach notification lists, there would be more information to study and to help us understand this growing concern,” Foley said. “At this time, only three states publish such information. “Additionally, more companies are starting to audit their security and network systems and use readily available security measures. This pro-active approach means that breaches are being identified that might otherwise have gone undetected,” Foley added. “The number of attacks, in addition to publicly disclosed breaches, continues to escalate as criminal networks mushroom around the world, while economies weaken,” said Avivah Litan, vice president and analyst, Gartner Inc. “A more concerted effort is required among companies to secure and protect customer data, regardless of regulatory oversight.” The ITRC breach list is a compilation of breaches confirmed by various media sources and notification lists from state governmental agencies. ITRC uses several websites to help search for verifiable breaches, such as pogowasright.org, phiprivacy.net, The Breach Blog and attrition.org. To qualify, breaches must include personal identifying information that could lead to identity theft, especially the loss of Social Security numbers. The purpose of the ITRC breach list is to study:
* What are the weak links in security that might lead to a breach? * What policy changes need to be considered? * What protocols need to be established and then taught to all employees, including the highest ranking executive? and * Can risk levels be predicted or reduced?

California CU-supported data breach bill sent to governor

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (9/4/08)--California consumers attained a legislative victory with the Sunday passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 1656, legislation that aims to protect consumer debit and credit card information from hackers and identity thieves, according to the California Credit Union League. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until Sept. 30 to act on the legislation. AB 1656, authored by Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones, seeks to ensure that California retailers and government agencies protect consumers’ sensitive financial data and take responsibility for any unauthorized access of that information. The legislation is sponsored by the league. “This has been a two-year battle to pass legislation that provides consumers substantial new protection from retail data breaches,” said Bill Cheney, league president/CEO. “We urge the governor to acknowledge the solid vote of approval from the California legislature by quickly signing the bill into law.” The bill passed by a 34-3 margin in the Senate, and a 74-1 margin in the Assembly. AB 1656 would require retailers to adopt security standards based on industry best practices when storing consumers’ credit and debit card information, and give consumers better information about when and where their personal financial information is stolen during a data breach. In 2006, the nation’s largest data breach of TJX Cos. data resulted in the theft of 46.5 million consumers’ credit or debit card information. While credit unions and other financial institutions worked to replace the breached cards, they were not able to inform consumers of where the breach occurred--leaving many consumers frustrated at retailers’ lack of attention to security measures. “Consumers should be able to feel confident when making purchases that their personal data is kept safe and secure,” Cheney said. “Passage of this bill will help strengthen consumer confidence and require full transparency for any future breaches that may occur.” Last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar league-backed bill--AB 779--also authored by Jones, after intense opposition from retailers and bankers. At the time, Cheney pledged the league would renew efforts to pass a data protection bill to aid California consumers (News Now Oct. 16). AB 779 had required retailers to reimburse customers for replacement costs of debit and credit cards. AB 1656 removed that provision (Associated Press Aug. 31).

CU System briefs (09/03/2008)

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* ODESSA, Texas (9/4/08)--Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) Political Action Committee (PAC) Chairman Jim Minge, left, gets a close
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
haircut from TCUL President Dick Ensweiler, after Minge threw down the gauntlet and challenged the league's board of directors to join the PAC at the League Capitol Club level. Minge, of Randolph-Brooks FCU in Live Oak, promised he would shave his head at the next board meeting in Odessa Aug. 27. The board took up the challenge. Minge, shown with his new look, says the look is quite a PAC conversation starter. He is not planning to keep the new length. In the meantime, the intranet at Randolph-Brooks FCU is receiving its share of internal hits with an article called "extreme PAC makeover." There, employees can vote on who Minge most resembles--Lex Luther, Mr. Clean, Dr. Evil or Kojak. The league says that as of Wednesday morning, Dr. Evil had pulled ahead by 4%. (Photos provided by the Texas Credit Union League) … * MADISON, Wis. (9/4/08)--Credit union consultant and presenter Mark Lynch, who moved to the U.S. four years ago from Australia, has become a U.S. citizen--an experience he says will help him assist credit unions in developing immigrant outreach programs. Lynch has spoken to more than 150 credit union audiences in 47 states about the impact of taxation on Australia's credit unions and the lessons U.S. credit unions could learn from that experience, and on board governance strategies. The past two years he has been a field coach with the National Credit Union Foundation's REAL Solutions Program and spoken to audiences about serving the underserved. He said that experience helped him become a citizen. "As part of the REAL Solutions program, we help credit unions develop programs to serve new immigrants and new citizens and what better way to speak from experience than go through the process yourself," Lynch said … * SACRAMENTO, Calif. (9/4/08)--The Golden 1 CU, a $6.9 billion asset, Sacramento, Calif.-based credit union will merge with the $19 million asset, San Jose, Calif.-based 1st United CU, The Golden 1 announced Aug. 28. The date the merger would be completed was not announced in a Golden 1 press release. Golden 1 has 75 branches with more than 690,000 members. 1st United has two branches with 2,850 members (sacbee.com Aug. 29) … * AUSTIN, Texas (9/4/08)--The A+ Education Foundation at A+ FCU has awarded almost $40,000 this year through its Educator Grant Program, designed to help teachers improve their students’ classroom experience. Forty-two area teachers received grants for projects such as iPod tutorials, recycling clubs and help for dyslexic students. Since its inception in 2005, the foundation has awarded more than $121,000 in grants. A+ FCU is based in Austin, Texas, and has $611 million in assets (statesman.com Aug. 29) … * TUCSON, Ariz. (9/4/08)--Tucson (Ariz.) FCU, a $249 million-asset credit union, was robbed twice last month. The most recent robbery occurred Aug. 27, with no injuries reported and no weapon displayed during the incident, according to police. After walking into the credit union and handing the teller a note, the robber left with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber was described as a 17- to 19-year old, wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap and a black shirt. On Aug. 1, the credit union also was robbed (Arizona Daily Star Aug. 28) … * CHARLOTTE, N.C. (9/4/08)--An armed man, holding a cell phone to his ear the entire time, robbed the Hamlet (N.C.) FCU on Aug. 27, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Charlotte field office. The man entered the credit union just before lunchtime and pointed a gun at a teller. He demanded money from the drawer and forced the teller to get money from the vault (US Fed News Aug. 28) … * WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (9/4/08)--Daniel R. "Dan" Abbate of Wethersfield, Conn., died Friday. He was 81. Abbate, a former deputy fire chief, was a past president of the Hartford Firefighters FCU, Hartford. He is survived by his wife, a son, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and one brother. Funeral services were Tuesday. (The Hartford Courant Aug. 30) …