Over the past few years, cyberattacks against financial institutions and those they serve have increased at alarming rates. But even as cybercrime constantly evolves and grows increasingly sophisticated, so does America First Credit Union’s approach to protecting those it serves.
Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer Andrew Qualls and his team spend their days making sure that happens. They shield America First, which prides itself on prioritizing its members’ financial well-being from cybersecurity threats, ensuring data confidentiality and integrity.
In addition to preventing system disruption, managing risks, and identifying abnormal behaviors that could give way to data vulnerability, the team stays ahead of virtual warfare by utilizing cutting edge technology.
Some of the credit union’s most notable security features include high-grade network traffic encryption, chip-enabled cards, and Card Guard, an app that allows members to manage their America First Visa from their smartphones. Users can limit transactions by geography, set spending amounts, define which merchants can process transactions, and more.
Individuals are also able to turn off their card quickly if they lose it. On top of that, America First members utilize two-factor authentication, advanced fraud detection systems, and identity theft recovery services.
To supplement those protections, the credit union has been working to give members greater control over their personal data by accepting Utah and Arizona mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) as a valid form of identification, a measure that’s only been successfully launched in a few other states.
In August 2022, the credit union launched this initiative for all 121 of its branch locations, enabling 930,000 members in Utah and Arizona to utilize mDLs to access their financial information for all banking transactions. The licenses allow information like name or age to be confirmed without a person having to show or hand over their phone. This move will be expanded to other states with mDLs as they become available.
In a press release, Jeremy Deamer, manager of branch technology and innovation, said the initiative came as a way to secure member’s data and to reduce fraudulent activity. “The support and adoption of mobile drivers’ licenses is one of many steps we continue to provide to our members for an additional layer of security and ease of mind for their futures,” he said.
This initiative isn’t the only way America First is both protecting and empowering its members. Education has played a key role in strengthening the credit union’s cybersecurity strategies too. Members are provided with numerous resources to learn how to sniff out fraudulent activity—what to do if they’re in a scammer’s crosshairs, and how to report scams or fraud.
When he isn’t working to keep America First members safe from cybersecurity threats, Qualls strategizes ways to find qualified security professionals and keep them. According to a 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study released in October by nonprofit (ISC)², the cybersecurity industry faces a global shortage of 3.4 million workers. In the US there are more than 700,000 unfilled cyber security jobs, Fortune reported.
This led Qualls and America First to turn to Legato Security. “Legato first started working with Andrew’s team when—like most companies—AFCU struggled to find, attract, and retain cybersecurity talent,” said Legato’s COO, Jen Greulich. “Legato was able to provide the additional expertise needed by Andrew’s team to fill a critical function. Andrew is one of those dream customers who cares about the partnership being a success and our teams work together to help protect AFCU’s information systems from cyberattacks.”