Fortalice Solutions CEO Theresa Payton.

Cybersecurity: ‘This is a problem we can tackle’

Former White House CIO wants to help credit unions outmaneuver cybercriminals.

September 12, 2022

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Cybersecurity: ‘This is a problem we can tackle’

Theresa Payton sees the financial services industry doing a lot right when it comes to cybersecurity. The CEO of Fortalice Solutions would know, as she’s authored several books on the topic, starred on the former CBS reality show “Hunted,” and served as White House chief information officer from 2006 to 2008—the first and only woman to do so.

While at the White House, Payton wished a certain type of cybersecurity and intelligence company existed. She created that company with Fortalice Solutions, which serves the financial services industry.

Payton, who will speak at the 2022 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Conference in Las Vegas, believes cybercriminals will always pursue the financial services industry because that’s where the money is.

“Criminals are constantly finding ways to try and get in between financial institutions and their customers,” Payton says, noting that third-party vendors also are frequently targeted. “Then, if they can't effectively get in that way, why not socially engineer your customers and your vendor suppliers?”

However, she’s seen the financial services industry keep itself relatively protected because of regulation, as well as a duty of care and sense of responsibility to provide members with secure, easy access to their money.

‘You can do a lot to out-think and outmaneuver the cybercriminals.’
Theresa Payton

But no organization is 100% safe. To aid in protection, she says free resources are available to credit unions through the Department of Homeland Security CISA Division and the FBI InfraGard, which will hold in-person briefings and deliver information credit unions can disseminate to members.

The Secret Service, too, offers resources for combatting crime, Payton says. “Make sure those relationships are solid before you have a problem so you know exactly who to call and how to get help.”

Payton tells people entering the field, “I hope you enjoy learning because your job is going to change every day.”

While criminals’ motives have remained constant—playing to people’s emotions, taking advantage of them, and stealing their money—their methods have changed, she says.

“What’s changed is the ability to digitally surveil and come up with tactics to go after everybody,” Payton says. “It’s done at a speed and a scale that is affordable and would frighten most people.”

While combatting criminals is daunting, Payton wants credit union leaders to be engaged, empowered, and inspired, and to believe every organization can make a difference in cybercrime.

“This is a problem we can tackle,” she says. “Nothing is 100% safe, but you can do a lot, even on a tight budget and stretched-thin resources, to out-think and outmaneuver the cybercriminals.”

This article is part of  Tech22, CUNA News’ special focus on innovations and developments in technology. Follow the conversation on Twitter via #Tech22.