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August 29, 2013

NFA recommends vigilance in the face of growing cyber threats

It goes without saying that the safety of customer funds and information is critical in the futures industry. In recent years, NFA has taken significant steps to enhance customer protection. However, there are other serious threats to customer funds and personal information that aren't as outwardly visible or frequently publicly discussed: cyber attacks.

Experts predict that the already significant number of cyber security threats to the financial sector will rise in the next 18 months. To prepare for this growing threat, NFA has reviewed its policies and procedures and recommends that its Members do the same.

"While many organizations have effective information security plans, it is also important for them to educate all of their employees about the critical role they play in keeping computer systems free from danger," says Steve Earl, NFA's Director of Information Systems. "Cyber security needs to be on everyone's mind. Being alert for deceitful tactics when surfing the Internet, reading email or even answering the telephone should be as natural as looking both ways before crossing the street."

NFA is currently working in conjunction with its advisory committees to issue guidance on cyber security best practices that Members can tailor to their own circumstances. The proposed guidance is expected to be presented to NFA's Board of Directors in early 2014.

In the meantime, NFA has compiled a list of suggestions intended to help Members ward off electronic threats.

  1. Always use strong passwords. If someone can guess your password, your firm's data—and possibly even your bank account(s) is available to them. NFA suggests that strong passwords should always, at a minimum, be nine characters long, contain at least one capital (upper case) letter, at least one lower case letter and at least one number or special character.
  2. Do not write passwords down. Most people who see a note left near a PC or under a keyboard will likely assume that it's a password. Therefore, keep your computer area free of written passwords or other documentation that can be construed as a password.
  3. Shut down your computer when it's not in use. If your computers are off, no one can attack them.
  4. Back up your data often. Regardless of what happens to your computer, having a backup is the only way to ensure you will recover your data in the event of a disaster or breach.
  5. Use up-to-date antivirus software. NFA recommends always using some form of anti-virus software that is designed to protect your firm's computers in case you come across a malicious website.
  6. Use a firewall for your Internet connection. Firewalls—frequently a software-based network security system that establishes a barrier between your internal network and other external networks—are effective at fending off other malicious attacks on your computers.

NFA also suggests that Members visit the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center's website for additional information from other financial services organizations on how to protect against cyber attacks.

NFA is the premier independent provider of efficient and innovative regulatory programs that safeguard the integrity of the derivatives markets.
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