BECU Hypocrisy on Security

How many times do we consumers sit through a barrage of security questions by banks and other institutions to confirm our identity? BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union) forces a person to answer at least four questions (credit card number plus three other ID questions) before they will ever talk to you about your credit card. They claim all these questions are for my security.

BECU even puts in a blog security tips, such as this one from 2020-10-27 from BECU’s own security officer.

Note the caution about using public WiFi access points and being in public with your credit card number. Mr. Murphy provides good advice.

However, would you hire Sean Murphy for your security officer when the same Credit Union invites a person to send the full card number, full name, phone, and email address by unencrypted email?

That’s just what BECU offers when disputing a credit card charge. On the BECU website is a PDF form used for disputes. At the bottom of the form there is an email address you can send the completed form (and other documents) to, presumably after you have scanned or saved the form into a PDF.

Not only does BECU say you can send the information by unencrypted email, BECU also wants the card holder to send to a non-BECU domain name with no explanation of who is receiving it.

When the phone representatives were asked why BECU is inviting card holders to send sensitive information by unencrypted email, the representatives explained that “the email goes straight to the right deapartment.” This kind of financial bullshit hides the issues that a) the email is sent without encryption and b) that the unencrypted email could be snagged by by someone as it is passes through any number of mail servers, and c) that someone could break into the email account of the sender and find the unencrypted information in the sent folder.

This is the same kind of short-minded thinking by WA Employment Security Department that suggested sending picture ID and Social Security number by unencrypted email.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) 4.2 states: “Never send unencrypted PANs by end user messaging technologies.”

The PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) defines “cardholder data” as the full Primary Account Number (PAN — Credit Card number) or the full PAN along with any of the following elements:

Cardholder name
Expiration date
Service code

Look at the BECU form. It wants the full 16-digit account number AND the cardholder name. Clearly, the form is collecting “cardholder data” and more.

Many institutions clearly advise against and forbid sending and receiving credit card information by email. See the very small list below.

BECU and Sean Murphy should adopt the same security procedures that nearly all institutions adopt regarding credit card information by email. Not doing so demonstrates the hypocritical contradiction in their security procedures.