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AUSTIN, Texas – The technology purchasing cooperative just launched by the Credit Union Information Security Professionals Association is one of several signs of progress the organization can cite in its young life. Formed last fall, the CUISPA now has about 200 credit union members, 17 chapters in cities around the country, about 15 affiliate vendor members and is working on its next big initiative – security vendor certification that would be acceptable to regulators and trade groups such as NCUA and CUNA. “A vendor certification like that is something that everyone seems to believe is needed,” says Kelly Dowell, executive director of CUISPA (www.cuispa.org), a peer networking group for credit union IT professionals. Dowell argues that having certification authority rest in a group such as his would allay concerns that trade groups, most notably CUNA, has expressed over such authority resting with NCUA, which he says has approached Congress about the need to expand its reach into that arena. The need is there, Dowell stresses. “The credit union is responsible for performing due diligence on any vendor that has access to or hosts member information, and our members have seen some very serious issues at that third-party level, including a lot of data in plain text sitting on networks or going across them,” he says. “In their defense,” he adds, “It’s really hard for the vendors, too. And they have hundreds of customers and simply can’t afford to have all of them doing assessments against their networks. “But if we create a criteria based on the best practices of the technologists within our industry, we can create a certification, do testing against vendor systems on an annual basis, and consolidate a lot of that.” Dowell says CUISPA has approached the NCUA and CUNA about the idea and is in the final stages of drafting proposed criteria. “Soon after that, we’ll probably begin approaching vendors with it, too,” he says. Meanwhile, the organization hopes to add more vendors to its group purchasing plan, the first steps of which already have saved CUISPA members a few thousand bucks. For instance, Tamara Hudson at $152 million Community Resources Credit Union in Houston says she saved about $2,000 using her CUISPA membership discount for an intrusion prevention appliance she learned about at a chapter meeting. And from the vendor viewpoint, “we don’t have a sales force that can efficiently cover the national footprint of credit unions,” says Fadi Kanafani, vice president of sales for Network Box, which sold Community First its security appliance. “We realize we are just one of dozens of vendors trying to make contact with them. CUISPA provides a forum where we can demonstrate our experience and solutions to individuals who have expressed an interest in the technology we provide,” Kanafani says. Meanwhile, Dowell, the CUISPA founder and director, continues to cris-cross the country, talking to new vendors, working to add credit union members and starting new chapters. Seattle, Minneapolis and North Carolina are up next, he says. Dowell generally attends the organizational meetings, after which the groups continue to meet on their own to discuss topics such as two-factor authentication, biometrics, phishing and business continuity. “That last one’s been a big topic for several years, ever since 9/11, and what happened with the hurricanes in Florida just added to that,” Dowell says. “In fact, we’re just now starting three new chapters in Orlando and Tampa, where they’re sharing a lot of information on how to better manage disaster recovery.” Online forums also are being organized to help share the knowledge coming out of individual meetings, and more formal education opportunities and training also are in the future for the group, Dowell says. -

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