SSFCU Rolls Out New Online Banking Platform

Security Services Federal Credit UnionAs the next step in the further evolution of its digital services portfolio, Security Service Federal Credit Union has unveiled myBranch, a completely redesigned online banking platform (formerly known as CompuBranch), to its nearly 190,000 online members. The inaugural release of the platform comes on the heels of  the launch of myBranch Mobile, the credit union’s mobile banking solution.

The overhaul, which has been in development for over a year , represents a distinct step-up with a new design, the ability to pay loans and transfer funds from other institutions, pre-filled deposit account applications and download options in the latest formats for common personal financial management software programs, like Quicken and Quick Books.

It’s a long step from 1996 when SSFCU leapt into the online arena with one of the first interactive banking websites that featured “handy little calculators” called wizbots, up-to-date rates and online loan applications.  “myBranch is our new digital banking convergence platform that will provide members with the same level of self-service no matter what device they choose to use,” says Mike Chapman, Security Service executive vice president and chief operating officer.

myBranch is designed to provide the best online banking experience for desktop and laptop users, while myBranch Mobile, available in iPhone, Android and mobile browser versions and accessible at m.ssfcu.org, aims at the users of  smartphones . The credit union plans to roll out additional myBranch functionality in the coming months.

ABOUT SSFCU
Security Service Federal Credit Union offers competitive, affordable financial products and services designed to meet the needs of its members. Security Service is an industry-leading financial institution with more than $7 billion in assets and 70 locations in Texas, Colorado and Utah. Headquartered in San Antonio, the credit union is among the top 10 credit unions in the nation and is the largest in San Antonio. Security Service strives to be America’s best credit union and provides the true benefits of credit union membership with financial services of the highest quality and value. Learn more at www.ssfcu.org or call 1-888-415-7878.

Social Engineering – It Can Happen To You

Real World Scenarios & Best Practices to Defend Against an Attack

One of the world’s most famous hackers defines social engineering as, “The clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust.” (Kevin D. Mitnick, 2003).

Social engineering is a successful way cyber criminals are infiltrating organizations. Through email, phone, texting and online platforms such as social media, attackers are using manipulative techniques designed to prey on the weaknesses of people and basic human nature.

“Employees are often the weakest link in the daily management of the corporate network security,” said Tom DeSot, Digital Defense, Inc., Chief Information Officer.

Knowledge is power, and an effective way to strengthen the security posture of an organization is to understand what social engineering is and methods to defend against a potential attack.

Two Types of Social Engineering:

Remote Social Engineering:
Cyber attacks performed via the phone, email or online to employees, suppliers and contractors with the intent to obtain information that could be used to gain unauthorized or falsely authorized access to a corporate network, resources or data.

Onsite Social Engineering:
Attacks designed to gain physical access to the premises obtaining records, files, equipment, sensitive information and network access.

Consider the people you meet in the workplace, the emails you receive, the calls that you answer – The official looking gentleman with the tool kit who requested onsite access to conduct system repairs; The phone call from IT asking to verify your employee number; The camera crew outside the front gate filming a corporate commercial; The email from management asking you to click on a link and enter your information to test the strength of your password – All scenarios may have been social engineers at work.

39% of incidents involved a negligent employee.

Social Engineers do not care if you are an entry-level employee or the CEO of an enterprise. These highly trained individuals leverage proven techniques to target all levels within an organization with the intent to gain access to sensitive information, destroy reputations and cost enterprises billions in clean-up and recovery.

Common Techniques Used by Social Engineers

Talks the Talk
A social engineer will take the time to study and learn the ‘corporate language’ of an organization. Acronyms or key phrases, for instance, when spoken to an employee, increases credibility.

Playing You Like a Song
After calling and recording the corporate phone ‘on hold’ music, a social engineer will use this audio to his advantage. By putting an employee on hold using the same corporate hold music, it validates his story that he is calling from a department within the company.

A Good Connection Gone Wrong
Posing as a potential business contact on LinkedIn, a social engineer will use the social media platform to send unsafe links in messages to connections.

Spoofing a Phone Number
Social Engineers will spoof phone numbers to make a different number show up on the target’s caller ID.

Through education and awareness, employees can be the most valuable asset on the frontlines of defending against a cyber attack.

Tips & Tactics to Defend Against Social Engineering Attacks:

  • Be friendly but cautious. A social engineer preys on a person’s willingness help others.
  • Be suspicious of emails asking you to “verify” your account.
  • Do not leave your computer unlocked.
  • Be wary of website addresses with misspelled words, or where numbers are used instead of letters.
  • Type the website address into your browser to view vs. clicking on a link shared via social media or email.
  • Get to know your co-workers and clients and beware of impersonators.
  • Ensure proper credentials of those requesting access onsite and to resources material.
  • When leaving for the day, don’t forget to lock up sensitive data.
  • Remember, social engineers use social media sites to gain inside knowledge. Be careful what you post online about your work practices.
  • Be aware that Out of Office messages can be used for reconnaissance, so keep them brief and to the point.
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls asking about employees or other personal information.
  • Dispose of documents with sensitive data by shredding material according to corporate policy.
  • Avoid completing online forms that ask for personal information such as your date of birth, social security number, or other confidential information.
  • Be wary of alarmist email messages with urgent requests.

Following these tactics and encouraging awareness and vigilance can reduce your organization’s risk and exposure to a social engineering attack.

Submitted by: Larry R. Hurtado, Digital Defense, Inc.

5 Smart Tips for Mobile Devices

If you’re planning on heading out of town – or simply to the coffee shop to work – here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Protect your devices from thieves. All mobile devices should be passcode-protected and loaded with apps that will help you track and find them in case they get lost or stolen. For iPads and iPhones, there’s the free “Find My iPhone”. Android users can try “Lookout Mobile Security”. These apps allow you to remotely wipe the device if it falls into the wrong hands; you definitely don’t want to expose yourself to identity theft or allow someone access to your company’s network and client data. Also, never leave your device anywhere you wouldn’t leave your wallet.
  2. Backup. Mobile devices get lost and destroyed more often than desktop computers because you’re dragging them around from place to place and exposing them to non-gadget-friendly environments; therefore, make sure you are backing up all the data to the cloud. All it takes is a spilled cup of coffee to erase those precious family photos and videos; and most people don’t think about backing up their phone.
  3. Take caution when connecting to free public Wi-Fi. Hackers with routers and readily available software set up rogue hot spots for spying and serving you fake websites. They often name these hot spots something generic such as “Coffee Shop” or “Linksys” to fool you into thinking they are safe. You think you’re connecting to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi, but you’re actually accessing the web through their portal. If you are going to use public Wi-Fi, simply use it for general web surfing, not shopping, banking or accessing critical data.
  4. Turn off sharing. If you use a laptop, you might have it set to share files and folders with other computers at work or home. However, you don’t want those settings “on” when connecting to a public network. When connecting to a public hotspot for the first time, Windows will ask you for a location type; choose “public” and it will automatically reset your settings to turn off sharing.
  5. Carry your own connection. If you’re going to access your bank account, go shopping online or retrieve critical data when traveling, invest in your own personal Mi-Fi connection. If you don’t have one and you need to make an emergency balance transfer or an immediate purchase to save a significant amount of money, it’s safer to use your cell phone. When banking, use your bank’s official app and sign up for any extra security they offer. For example, Bank of America’s SafePass program sends a text message with a 6-digit code to authorize a transaction. The code expires as soon as you use it.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Hill, Tech Sage Solutions

It’s Time to Rediscover Print

With misinformed initiatives floating around, such as Go Paperless in 2013 heavily promoted by big players in the web marketing industry like Google, it’s no wonder marketers are hesitant to invest in print media. The print industry has long battled the false designation as an environmentally destructive entity, when in all actuality they have been one of the biggest proponents of environmental sustainability. It’s time to make that message loud and clear, and Rediscover Print is here to help you do just that.

Contrary to popular belief, roughly 600 million trees are planted every year by the paper and forest products industry, far surpassing the amount harvested. That’s about 1.7 million trees per day and three trees for every one harvested. As a result, there are more forests in the US today than there were 50 years ago. In fact, the paper industry is one of the largest users of low-carbon energy in the world. Nearly 60% of the energy used to make paper in the US comes from carbon neutral renewable resources and is produced on site at mills. From recycling to energy usage, commercial printers are making great strides in reducing their environmental footprint. With the ability to support the marketer’s commitment to sustainability through the use of greener products and processes every step of the way, print is the natural choice for communication.

Understanding the options and strengths of today’s messaging vehicles is crucial to building an effective marketing campaign. That’s why the PIAG Educational Foundation has launched Rediscover Print, a mixed media campaign that offers information and education aimed at helping marketers intelligently incorporate print into the mix for maximum results. The Rediscover Print campaign was developed by the Printing & Imaging Association of Georgia Educational Foundation and is funded by a generous group of annual contributions. The PIAG Educational Foundation is a charitable organization created by PIAG to ensure a bright future for the printing and imaging community through a focus on education. Through Rediscover Print, the Foundation aims to open a dialogue between the marketing and communications community and the print industry. Our goal is to better understand the needs of the marketing industry and to help you become their print media resource. Rediscover Print is the first step in what we hope will become a valuable partnership between the marketing industry and our own.

In a world where our communications have become more digital in nature, we’ve lost sight of the unique qualities that make print so effective – and at times, the smartest choice for delivering our message. While new technologies have given birth to countless new media, the same innovations have also provided advancements in print. The result is a wider variety of price points, creativity, speed and flexibility. Rediscover Print is committed to searching out credible information, case studies, and statistics about print in order to expose marketing professionals to the trends and tactics that help them make a positive impact in their communications.

Rediscover Print is designed to communicate the benefits of print as an essential element of a company’s overall marketing strategy. By understanding the facts about the printing and paper industries’ role in environment, how consumers respond differently to print, and what research confirms about print’s ROI, we hope to create an atmosphere of print friendliness that permeates the decisions of those who hear our message. To learn more, visit www.rediscoverprint.com.

Submitted by: Ray Trevino, Eagle Print

North SA Chamber offices closed Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day

American-FlagIn observance of Memorial Day, the North SA Chamber offices will be closed Monday, May 27, 2013.

In honor of all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation – we salute you.

On behalf of the North SA Chamber board of directors, staff and membership, have a safe and happy holiday week-end.

SACU Bridge for U Scholarship awards $18,000 to students

SACU logoSACU is pleased to announce the six recipients of its 2013-2014 SACU Bridge for U Scholarship, designed to assist SACU members as they move from a two-year community college to a four-year college or university. This year’s scholarship awards totaled $18,000.

“One of San Antonio’s strengths is its solid and accessible community college system. This scholarship is a benefit of SACU membership, providing $3,000 per student to assist our members in ‘bridging’ from a two-year community college to a four-year college or university,” SACU Scholarship representative Juan Antonio Ruiz said. SACU Board of Directors Scholarship Chair Deborah J. McCrary introduced and recognized three of the six winners who attended the credit union’s 78th annual meeting on May 16.

Amy Blanks, member since 2011, from San Antonio; attending the University of Texas at San Antonio; major: psychology.

Silas Espino, member since 2009, fromSan Antonio; attending the University of Texas at San Antonio; major: anthropology

Michaelina Guerra, member since 2010, from San Antonio; attending Texas A&M-San Antonio; major: kinesiology

2013 Bridge for U Scholarship winners & McCrary 78th ann meeting 1960

(photo) SACU Bridge for U Scholarship winners (L to R): Amy Blanks, Michaelina Guerro and Silas Espino. (Not shown: Kyla Barcenas, Ashley Baum and Andrea Rivas)

Unable to attend were:

Kyla Barcenas, member since 2012, from San Antonio; attending Texas A&M-San Antonio, major:  physical therapy

Ashley Baum, member since 2003, from Katy, Texas; attending Texas A&M, major: horticulture

Andrea Rivas, member since 2010, from San Antonio; attending Texas State University; major: visual studies.

SACU established The Bridge for U Scholarship in 2009 and has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships since the program began. The funds can be used to defray the costs of tuition, books and lab fees and other education expenses. It is available annually to students who qualify. Watch for scholarship information through SACU publications. Visit sacu.com in November 2013 to access applications for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Funding for the SACU Bridge for U Scholarship is part of the credit union’s broader commitment to educational programs in the community, including 14 years as co-sponsor for the ExCEL Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching and support for the Team-Up Challenge and High 5 Readers programs through the Spurs Silver and Black Give Back. SACU provides endowments at UT San Antonio, University of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake University and the Alamo Colleges through the Jeffrey H. Farver Endowed Scholarship. It also supports scholarships through the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo sponsorship and provides an employee tuition reimbursement program.

SACU is a $2.9 billion credit union, with 16 locations in San Antonio and one in Houston. As a member-owned financial institution, SACU provides a wide array of convenient services to members through GOTM, the mobile app from SACU, and numerous online services. Members benefit through competitive savings and loan rates and reasonably priced financial services. There are hundreds of ways to qualify for membership at SACU. Visit sacu.com, or call 210-258-1234 or 1-800-688-SACU (7228) for information.

Express-News In-Depth Report on Military Victims

SAEN logoA seven-month Express-News investigation into the pervasive and long-standing problem of sexual assaults in the military shows that victims who report the incidents often are retaliated against and discharged on false claims that they have mental disorders.

“Twice Betrayed,” a three-part report, will publish on May 19-21. It will feature a multimedia package in print and online at mySA.com, with graphics, photos and video interviews of victims telling their own stories.

The report shows:

Many of the victims accused of mental disorders had undergone strict background checks, the rigors of boot camp and several years in the military with no mental health problems. As a result of the psychiatric discharges, victims often become ineligible for health care benefits because the military considers such disorders to be pre-existing conditions. For some victims, the bad mark on their records affects their ability to find future employment.

The tendency to blame the victims discourages them from reporting the assaults, and those who do often must remain in close proximity to their offenders, despite a Pentagon directive to let them quickly transfer to other posts.

According to Defense Department reports, only a small fraction of accused soldiers face criminal investigations, largely because commanders who supervise the accused determine how to handle such cases.

The victims’ testimonials are compelling and heart-wrenching. Don’t miss this exclusive report starting Sunday, May 19.

San Antonio Express-News
Founded in 1865, the San Antonio Express-News is a division of the Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P. The Express-News is San Antonio’s daily newspaper, which also produces a variety of diverse publications, including the bilingual publication Conexión, as well as community newspapers reaching broad audiences throughout San Antonio and its surrounding areas. With its fast-growing web audience, the Express-News also reaches the community with San Antonio’s home page – www.mySA.com and its newly launched premium site, ExpressNews.com.

SACU and KENS TV recognize 19 teachers with the 14th annual ExCEL Awards program

SACU logoSACU and KENS5 recognized 19 teachers for excellence in the public school classroom during the 14th year of ExCEL Awards program for the 2012-2013 school year. Winners selected by their districts represent the best teachers in our schools and, through this program, share their best practices with other educators.

SACU and KENS leaders hosted the winners, their principals and superintendents and their guests at an end-of-year banquet to celebrate the teachers’ successes. Paul Garro, CEO of City Year San Antonio, was the keynote speaker.

“SACU and KENS5 know that a great teacher can impact and inspire students to achieve much more than they dreamed possible,” Laura Johnston, SACU Chief Marketing Officer, said. “We can’t imagine a better way to impact education than to recognize great teachers and help them share the ways they are being highly effective in their classrooms.”

You can see the winners together on KENS5’s Great Day SA in August 2013, to announce the 15th year of ExCEL which resumes in September. Each winner also has an individual web page at sacu.com/ExCEL. On KENS5.com, view the winners’ videos or recognize your favorite teacher with a story and a photo.

Since 1999, the ExCEL program has recognized 266 teachers with awards totaling $269,800. ExCEL celebrates dedicated teachers with a trophy, a check for $1,000 and featured airtime on Eyewitness News at 6. By recognizing exceptional teachers, these educators can share their innovative techniques and others will be able to learn from their examples. Teachers win through collaboration, students win through quality education, and society wins as education improves.

SACU is a $2.9 billion credit union, with 16 locations in San Antonio and one in Houston. As a member-owned financial institution, SACU provides a wide array of convenient services to members through GOTM, the mobile app from SACU, and numerous online services. Members benefit through competitive savings and loan rates and reasonably priced financial services. There are hundreds of ways to qualify for membership at SACU. Visit sacu.com, or call 210-258-1234 or 1-800-688-SACU (7228) for information.

When personal service counts: SSFCU remodels multiple branches at member request

Security Services Federal Credit UnionThe trend in banking these days is self-service…more kiosks, Internet banking, mobile apps. But Security Service Federal Credit Union members are speaking loud and clear. They want on-site, personal service, not necessarily the integration of bricks and clicks.

Before video tellers were all the rage…

When remote teller systems were first introduced by SSFCU more than 13 years ago (1999), they became a prototype for other credit unions across the country. The remote tellers offered increase security, reduced expenses and optimized efficiency, while bridging the gap between full-service and self-serve transactions, providing an alternative to more traditional teller lines.

But as technology improves through more accessible self-service options, SSFCU members made it clear they didn’t need or want the bridge anymore. They wanted personal service onsite with self-service options off site.

So, it’s a refocus on personal service and relationships…

SSFCUremodel

Listening, SSFCU recently completed renovating several branches, getting rid of remote tellers and going back to face-to-face, one-on-one banking. So far, in the San Antonio area, three branches are complete.

With a matching focus on the digital side…

Juxtaposing this move to more personal, relational service in its branches, SSFCU also recently launched its new online and mobile versions of myBranch digital banking services.

“The credit union just hit $7 billion in assets,” says president Jim Laffoon  “While we continue to grow, we never want to lose site of the most important part of our work – serving our members.”

CPS Energy pay performance

cps energy logoA recent story in the San Antonio Express-News trumpeted this astounding figure: the pay for senior executives at CPS Energy has “soared” by 58 percent since 2010.

A wider look at the data shows, however, tells a much different story.

Executive pay has increased dramatically since 2010, because in fiscal 2009, executives did not meet performance goals and so didn’t earn incentive pay. The following two years, two of the strongest in the company’s history, those goals were met, and bonuses, which account for almost one-third of executive salaries, were paid out.

Looking at salaries from 2008 to 2012, senior executives saw their pay increase by 4.5 percent. That’s compared to a 19 percent increase in non-executive salaries over the same period.

CPS energy salaries

This chart, published in the San Antonio Express-News, shows CPS Energy compensation over the last five years.

While 4.5 percent is far less dramatic, and doesn’t make for nearly as shocking of a headline, it’s still important to understand how compensation is structured at San Antonio’s municipally owned utility, and why bonuses were paid the past two years.

For the second year in a row, CPS Energy’s electric reliability is within the top tier of the industry, its employees have increased safety to a record high, and customer satisfaction remains high.

That’s what the San Antonio City Council heard at an April work session from CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby, who also offered an update on the state of the energy industry and the city-owned utility’s overall strategic plan.

CPS Energy is recognized as having the premier credit rating in the industry by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, a position bolstered by a continued focus on cost efficiency and process improvements within the company.

As a result, operations and maintenance costs per CPS Energy customer continue to drop, from $368 to $345 per person, with a goal of $333 per person by 2015. At the same time, employees continue to work more efficiently. That has resulted in a leaner workforce, from a high of almost 4,300 in 2001 to about 3,400 today.

Meanwhile, capital costs decreased from fiscal year 2012, while operations and maintenance holds steady for the next two fiscal years. Because of that, the budget for 2013 did not include a rate increase.

Rates for CPS Energy customers remain some of the lowest in Texas, and the lowest among the largest 20 cities in the country.

Beneby also highlighted CPS Energy’s stepped-up commitment to economic development. The utility’s New Energy Economy partners, including OCI Solar Power, GreenStar, Silver Spring Network and Consert, among others, have made $88 million in investments in the San Antonio region to date, including the creation of 154 jobs and $1.5 million that has been donated to local educational initiatives.

Those partners are on track to meet their commitments to create more than 1,000 jobs by 2018, Beneby said, with investments topping $974 million.

For all these reasons, CPS Energy employees earned incentive pay the past two years.

The utility has had an incentive program in place for 13 years now, to encourage top performance for safety, budget management, low bills, customer satisfaction and care for the environment.

Instead of giving higher base salaries, CPS Energy prefers to have lower base salaries, encouraging strong performance with the opportunity to earn more by meeting company-wide goals.

“Incentives are just one part of a total compensation package that is designed to deliver strong performance rather than guarantee a higher salary,” Lisa Lewis, vice-president of communications and media relations, told the Express-News. “We prefer to put a part of that salary at risk.”

Those bonuses don’t boost salaries beyond the market rate, however.

CPS Energy employees’ salaries are regularly compared to salaries for similar utilities across the region and nation.

A recent study found that including bonuses and benefits, top executives are paid somewhat less than the industry standard for similarly-sized energy companies, while most employees are paid within range of competitive market rates.

Employees do not always meet their annual goals. In fiscal year 2009, only non-executive employees met and were paid for meeting the company’s safety goal that year. Executives didn’t receive incentive pay at all – hence the dip in their salaries, making the increase of the following two years more dramatic.

This year, executives earned a 32 percent bonus; more of their pay is at risk, notes Lewis, because they have the most responsibility for meeting annual performance goals.

Most employees have between 25 percent and 7 percent of their salary at risk. One group of hourly employees has chosen, as part of their working agreement with CPS Energy, to have just one percent of their pay at risk.

Taken together, this year’s bonuses totaled $16.2 million, or 6 percent of CPS Energy’s total labor budget.

It is reasonable for the community to debate whether those bonuses are fair, said Lewis, and she noted that there are different ways to structure compensation.

Some utilities simply guarantee a salary, for example, while others only offer incentive pay to top executives.

“CPS Energy has looked for a way that gets the maximum value for our customers, by incenting our employees to work together to achieve common goals, and by putting part of employees pay at risk, rather than guaranteeing a higher salary. In 2011 and 2012, CPS Energy employees have shown that it can work.”

Read more on CPS Energy Blog