Desjardins gets serious about security

Desjardins Group seems to be on a security kick these days. Not only is the Quebec-based financial institution changing its internal IT equipment for greater protection, it’s also updating its automated teller machines (ATMs).

Earlier this year the credit union signed a $20 million agreement with IBM Canada Ltd. that would see Big Blue provide 600 Wincor Nixdorf ATMs that have anti-skimming and cheque image-capture capabilities.

According to Lindsay Hunt, business unit executive of IBM Canada’s self-service group in Toronto, these features make automated banking that much safer for Desjardins’ members.

The anti-skimming technology essentially senses changes in the magnetic field in front of that ATM, so card-skimming equipment attached to the machine by fraudsters would be detected. This could become important as skimming technology becomes increasingly difficult for ATM users to detect. “There is technology now that we have seen that is about as thin as a piece of ribbon that [fraudsters] can stick over the card slot,” Hunt said.

Cheque image-capture, the second Wincor security feature, scans cheques deposited into the ATMs, verifying the authenticity of each inserted document. This lets ATM operators provide instant cheque cashing, Hunt said. Banks could even go so far as to link pictures of the customer using the ATM to the cheque image for further scrutiny.

“You could choose to route that cheque, as well as a photograph of the customer, directly to a call centre that specializes in cheque cashing, and make your decision in the same manner you would in a live branch,” Hunt said. “You could probably have a more disciplined, higher-quality process with experts at a central site, than you would have with large numbers of tellers having to make that decision down at the branch level.”

So far, however, none of IBM’s customers have installed such a comprehensive system. Hunt said it would require plenty of work on the financial institution’s internal IT and business processes.

Michel Sawyer, Desjardins’ vice-president, development, said his company isn’t using all of the high-end security options on the Wincor Nixdorf devices just yet. But the firm has started installing the ATMs. Desjardins is in the pilot phase now.

“It is going well,” Sawyer said, adding that the credit union still has to analyze the data from the pilot before stamping “pass” on the devices. “They are stable, and appreciated for their look.” He explained that the new machines are replacing some models that have as many as 15 years of service under their keypads.

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