Servus Credit Union: the changing landscape of cybersecurity
Jakub Mamos has always been intrigued by both the security and technology space, especially where the two connected. “I was always fascinated by computers, encryption algorithms and cryptography in general, as well as the overall concept of security. I started my career working for a utility company in data security, working on systems that were still connected to mainframes. I have been very fortunate to work with very smart people within the industry, who helped me to combine technology and security in a meaningful and productive way. Over the years I have progressed from security analyst to security architect, through to private consulting, working for construction and financial companies,” says Mamos. Today, Mamos is the Vice President of IS Risk Management at Servus Credit Union, which he has been working for since 2011 with responsibilities including operating information risk management, cybersecurity, change management and disaster recovery.
Servus Credit Union is a member-owned and community-based financial institution which dates back to 1938. “Servus Credit Union’s primary concern is making sure its members are taken care of and receive excellent financial products and services, as well as committing to sustainability and giving back to the community,” says Mamos. “Our vision is to ‘shape member financial fitness’, which can be applied in multiple ways, be it to help people stay financially fit in terms of planning for the future, saving and maintaining a good credit score, or to help financial businesses maintain security,” adds Mamos. Since joining the company nine years ago, Mamos has seen the institution go through several mergers, consolidating its operations in order to be as effective and efficient as possible while maintaining its core mission and service to its members. “Over the years we have grown - when I started we had just under $10bn of financial assets, now we have over $16.3bn with 400,000 members, which we plan to double in the next few years. We have also evolved new initiatives in regards to innovative technology to provide the most value for our members.”
Within the industry, Mamos has seen cybersecurity evolved many times over the years. “When I started in the industry, the primary focuses were internal matters such as file security, email security and spam. Compare that to today, where we have advanced levels of criminal activity such as phishing, fraudulent transactions and taking over accounts. Therefore it is important for organisations to remember that, while everybody wants to deliver innovations and provide their customers and members the best experience as fast as possible, companies need to ensure that securing those innovations isn’t overlooked,” says Mamos.
Other challenges within cybersecurity that Mamos has faced include the lack of borders with digital clients, “If you wanted to rob a bank you would have to physically be there in order to execute a robbery. With the interconnectivity of different countries and jurisdictions it's much easier to move money around, and while this is a positive for customers, it is important to be responsive in an innovative way to combat criminals and ensure that interconnectivity remains a positive.” To enhance cybersecurity within its own operations, Mamos explains the importance of data. “If you don’t know, then you can’t respond. At Servus Credit Union we are heavily investing in data gathering, monitoring, analysis and automation. We are using a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, advanced analytics and predictive analytics to detect anomalies and stay ahead of potential threats.”
However, Mamos highlights that within the world of technology, people tend to focus on the ‘coolest’ or ‘latest’ technology, sometimes forgetting about the principles. “It’s not that we don’t use innovative technology, but perhaps it is better to call it innovative approaches. Being able to be responsive is something that in this space is unfortunately not a common occurrence. It is important to go back to basics to ensure that the simple things are in place to build a strong foundation for digital transformation.” In addition to this approach, Mamos states that Servus Credit Union is working to truly integrate security within every aspect of the organisation, as well as authenticating all internal communications. “It’s more than just an add on - security provides value in ways that people may not have originally thought. Security technology monitors for potential anomalies in vast amounts of data, and sometimes anomalies are not always security related. Sometime the analysis of data can lead to business opportunities, adding more than just assurance and security to a business.”
When it comes to security management, Mamos highlights the importance of managing the ‘human element’ of cybersecurity. “In our environment, security is people, process and technology, and they all have to work in unison. No matter how good your process and your technology is, you need to invest in people in order to see the biggest value. Which is why we invest in education, working with people and explaining the purpose of a new process or technology to increase the effectiveness of our security.”
Key trends Mamos is seeing within data analytics, Big Data and data governance are the increases in pragmatic approaches. “In today’s economic climate you have to be able to show the value. We have been entrusted with all that data to make security decisions and offer protection, so we need to look beyond assurance, protection and security, to look at how we can utilise it even further. Which I think is where Big Data, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are really important. Data governance is the same in terms of maintaining data, managing it and providing direction in order to enable business disruption, while ensuring you are compliant with rules and regulations.”
When reflecting on the organisation's operations, Mamos highlights that he is “very fortunate to have a core group of partners that I can rely on no matter what. Our partners are an important part of our operations to drive innovation and success.” When forming these partnerships Mamos explains that, although it's a simplistic approach, he looks for companies that “treat people how they want to be treated. “I am very transparent and direct with our partners while maintaining ethics,” he says. Accordingly, Mamos believes that Servus Credit Union’s biggest strengths are “being a diverse, member owned organisation.”