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Community banks to increase security spending, survey finds

Smaller banks place a priority on protecting customer data and plan to spend more on security technology, according to a new survey.

Protecting customer data is the top technological priority for community banks and many of them plan to spend more on security technology, according to a survey by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).

At the community bank level, customer relationships are paramount, so protecting customers' data is mission one.
Cary Whaley,
associate director of payments and technology policyIndependent Community Bankers of America

In the 2008 ICBA Community Bank Technology Survey, released earlier this month, 81% of the 1,280 respondents said keeping customer data secure was their most pressing issue. Fifty-seven percent said they plan to increase spending on security technology over the next two years while 51% said they will increase spending on fraud detection technology.

"At the community bank level, customer relationships are paramount, so protecting customers' data is mission one," said Cary Whaley, associate director of payments and technology policy at ICBA.

The survey, which was conducted in June, also showed that 81% of respondents cited identity theft as their top data security concern. Sixty-three percent said they were most worried about virus attacks, while 61% cited hacker attacks as the top threat.

There was an interesting split when it came to insider threats: 41% of banks with assets of up to $100 million said it was their top security concern compared to 68% of banks with more than $500 million in assets. Also, the smaller banks were more concerned with external hacker attacks than the larger banks (63% compared to 47%).

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"The key reason is there aren't as many employees [at small banks]," Whaley said. "You just know your employees a lot better. You're not only seeing them at work, but after work and at church on Sunday."

The association conducts its technology survey every other year and data security has always been ranked high among community banks' priorities, but this year's survey was more granular, he said.

Compared to the 2006 survey, intrusion detection and prevention security (IDS/IPS) technology has seen a huge uptick in adoption among community banks. Two years ago, 38% of banks implemented IDS while 25% adopted IPS. This year, those numbers jumped to 80% and 73%.

Whaley said he doesn't expect the current economic climate to change banks' plans to focus and spend more on security.

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