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Publication: The Kansas Banker, July 2018

KBA July 2018Several months ago, I stumbled across a comic that was a perfect representation of the battle institutions and IT departments face every day. It was a boxing ring, with a ring announcer introducing the participants in the corners of the ring. One corner contained firewalls, encryption, antivirus software, and other layers of data security while the opposing corner contained "Dave," a hapless user wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "Human Error." This comic is both funny, because many of us know a "Dave," and disheartening, because no matter how much money and time are spent on network layout, configuration, and security, the harsh reality is it only takes one user on the other side of the mouse, clicking on the wrong item, to wreak havoc on your network. While incidents are still going to occur, they can be reduced with routine and thorough employee security awareness training.

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Publication: The Kansas Banker, April/May Issue

KBA Cover April, May 2018“The sky is falling.” This is how one security writer described the initial panic experienced by the IT world early this year. Two unprecedented vulnerabilities named Meltdown and Spectre were reported on January 3, 2018.

These two vulnerabilities were and are a big deal because they are hardware vulnerabilities affecting any device with a silicon chip. This includes microprocessors on workstations and servers, mobile phones, tablets, cloud services, and other platforms. There were several matters which made these vulnerabilities seem scarier than other vulnerabilities.

Technical Aspects of the Vulnerabilities

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Publication: Nebraska Banker, March/April 2018

NBA March/April 2018What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

For the purposes of this article, you can think of the IoT as the global network of “things” that are connected to the internet. This includes the obvious things (e.g., smartphones, computers, wearables, etc.) and the less obvious (e.g., A.I. devices, office automation, coffeepots, smart TVs, etc.).

If you work in technology, you should be aware of the IoT, as it is certainly a trendy topic. As a trendy and often misunderstood arena, the IoT has not historically been discussed in-depth during security awareness training. This means that even if you are aware of the dangers presented by the IoT, your employees may not be as mindful.

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Publication: The Kansas Banker, February 2018

KBA February 2018You have probably heard this before now, but the greatest threat to an organization's information security is the people. Attackers are aware of the human element, and they create schemes to exploit us. The best way to combat this weakness is to train and test employees.

The goal of information security awareness training is to create a change in employee behavior and to create a security-minded culture inside your institution. A change in culture will not happen overnight, and it may take longer for some employees to make adjustments to their behavior, but it is possible.

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Publication: The Community Banker, Winter 2017

VACB Winter 2017The thought of reviewing a financial statement can be scary. While financial statements have similar elements, they are far from standardized and can be complicated to understand. Here are six tips to help simplify the scope of financial statement reviews.

Obtain Financial Statements

The first and easiest step in conducting a successful financial statement review is obtaining the financial statements.

Publicly Traded Companies are required to submit audited financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at least annually. The largest and most complex companies submit even more frequently. Often, these financial statements are published online and can be found with a quick web search. I find that searching “[Company Name] Financial Statements” or “[Company Name] Form 10-K” frequently turns up what I need.

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Publication: The Kansas Banker , Oct/ Nov 2017

KBA October / November 2017From our desktops to our phones, we are a connected society. We check email, social networking sites, news sites, message boards, and a large variety of other websites on a daily basis without thinking about the security implications of having billions of devices connected to countless interconnected servers that are run by people we have never met through an Internet infrastructure that was created without security in mind. While this is scary enough to think of from a personal standpoint, it has even larger implications for businesses that store and transmit confidential company and customer data. There are, however, actions that can be taken to help mitigate some of the security concerns that go hand-in-hand with Internet browsing.

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Publication: The Community Banker, Fall 2017

The Community Banker Fall 2017Recently I took my five year old daughter to the doctor for a general wellness check-up and her dreaded kindergarten immunizations. They were the standard immunizations children receive at various points in life. When the nurse was finished, she mentioned that we both needed to get the flu vaccine in a couple of months. I began to think about the flu vaccine. Each fall we hear about it from media, doctors, and pharmacies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine is designed to protect against the three or four influenza viruses research indicates are most likely to spread and cause illness among people during the upcoming flu season. Some years the flu vaccine is very effective since the prediction of flu viruses that would be circulating was right. However, other years the vaccine is not effective at all, resulting in flu outbreaks across the country.

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Publication: The Colorado Banker, September/October 2017

Colorado Banker Sept/Oct 2017It seems that every week a news story appears detailing new hacking activity originating from organized groups with interesting names such as Energetic Bear, Rocket Kitten, Crouching Yeti, Night Dragon and Sad Panda. While these names are colorful, the groups they are associated with are deadly serious. One might think that these groups are interested only in government or military secrets. However, businesses from all sectors are subject to attack. Successful compromises have been detected in areas such as power and water utilities, communications, and in business holding personal identifying information. The motivations behind these attack groups are tied to political, commercial, and security needs. When considering this, it becomes obvious that all businesses and many individuals have information that would be valuable to the groups. Making the problem more complex, many organizations do not realize they are compromised until they are notified by an external source, usually law enforcement.

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Publication: Nebraska Banker, June/August 2017

Nebraska Banker July/August 2017There was a time, seemingly not so long ago, where business cell phones had clunky keyboards, terrible screens, and limited every-day functionality outside of making calls and checking emails. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 changed all of that, combining not only the abilities listed above but also a music player to drown out the cubicle noise in the office, simple games to keep a person distracted from actual productivity, and a decent digital camera which enabled users to fill their storage with photos of their food, children, grandchildren, and pets. While these new features were great for the average consumer and led to an increased adoption of smart phones, they created an additional headache for businesses with regard to balancing device security and user data on small, easily lost, and often personally-owned devices. Users began wanting access to their business email on these smart phones yet still have control over the devices themselves. This issue persists to this day, on phones as well as tablets, and it is imperative that controls are in place to ensure company data is kept safe.

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Publication: The Kansas Banker, July 2017

Kansas Banker July 201In the past, the Board has always been expected to make strategic decisions, choosing what was best for the overall success of their institution.  For most institutions, these decisions were made with little information or regard to cybersecurity.   As threats to our information security evolve, so do examiner expectations for the Board of Directors. 

With the release of the FFIEC’s Cybersecurity Assessment Tool in 2015, we saw specific examiner suggestions for improving Board oversight of an institution’s cybersecurity program and posture in their Overview for Chief Executive Officers and Board of Directors. The picture painted throughout all the suggestions provided is that of a Board who understands cyber risks and makes risk-based decisions.  That picture may or may not be an overwhelming shift for your institution, but I think for the vast majority of us, there is room for growth in this area.  For institutions with a large gap their current Board oversight of cybersecurity versus where they need to be, here are a few things to start with:

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