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Odds are good that this issue of Credit Union Times contains news of one or more data security breaches, a system outage, fraud ring, or merchant data compromise. Never before have technical disruptions been so visible. Never have members had such little tolerance for “glitches”. Fraud and data security concerns are not new, but the publicity surrounding them has made the art of damage control an important leadership discipline. The days when credit unions had the luxury of days or weeks to respond to warning signs are long past. In the “perfect storm” that can arise from today’s transparency and immediacy, how does a savvy credit union “get it right” when things go horribly wrong? News of the misfortune of others catches our attention each week. Whether the story is a state government misplacing media with sensitive data, a merchant reporting unauthorized access to transaction and cardholder data or a local magnetic stripe and PIN skimming operation targeting your cardholders at gas pumps and convenience stores, we would be wise to learn from the misfortunes of others. Taking these lessons to heart, here are principles that credit unions can use to prepare for the day when bad things happen to good data. oThink Ahead — Thinking ahead and considering a variety of worst-case scenarios is a form of risk management that enables the credit union to respond quickly based upon contingencies in place. These contingencies can include details as simple as the presence of instant issue card machines in branches to assist members who need replacement cards. Having alternate channels available, such as participation in the shared branch network, provides flexibility in ensuring service levels to members. Adequate preparation can transform a bad PR situation into an opportunity to strengthen ties with members. oBuild Goodwill — Make it a priority and a goal within your communications plan to establish good rapport and relationships with key vendors and local law enforcement and community leaders. Building up goodwill in advance enables the credit union to draw upon the support of others in times of need. When faced with unexpected adversity, it is especially important that the leaders promote a positive tone and provide encouragement to staff who are on the frontline restoring member confidence.

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