BY JUSTIN LUEBBERT
As cybersecurity threats continue to grow both at home and in the workplace, it’s important to know what we can do as individuals, how we can work with others and measures we can take to reduce our risk of cyber threats. October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but good cyber hygiene should be practiced year-round.
A collective line of defense
Electric co-ops are guided by seven cooperative principles. One of these principles, “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” has never been more important as it pertains to protecting and defending our nation’s electric grid from cyberattacks. As the grid evolves and new technologies emerge, this creates additional opportunities for threat actors to target our systems.
Electric cooperatives are coming together to fight back and add resiliency to the electric grid. When it comes to cybersecurity, cooperation among cooperatives happens in a multitude of ways.
Electric cooperatives are working together and with their local generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives, statewide organizations and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national trade association for electric cooperatives. Together, they’re leading efforts to establish relationships, provide tools, share resources and training information to harden and improve the overall cyber landscape.
You can help too. Good cyber hygiene is equally important at home and in our personal lives. Just like grid technology continues to expand, so does the connected home.
Here are a few cybersecurity tips you can implement at home:
- Enable multi-factor or two-factor authentication for your online accounts. This extra layer of security allows websites and applications to confirm you’re really who you say you are. The additional authentication may come in many forms, including a confirmation text code on your phone, an email or even a separate authenticator app. By adding this second step, you’re making it a lot harder for hackers to access your accounts. A Virtual Password Network (VPN) can help you secure sensitive online connections.
- Use secure passwords. This means using unique passwords for all your accounts and ensuring they are at least 15 characters long. Randomly generated passwords or passphrases are typically more secure. You might also consider using some type of password manager. In addition to suggesting new, strong and unique credentials for every login, many password managers will let you know if your existing passwords are weak, reused or have been associated with a data breach so you can take action immediately.
- Think before you click. Be careful when clicking links or opening attachments. This is one of the most important ways to protect yourself against scammers and hackers. If you receive a text message or email that seems too good to be true or threatens negative consequences for not taking immediate action or displays a sense of urgency, take extra precaution. If an email looks like it came from a friend or co-worker but it seems odd, pick up the phone and check with the person before opening any links or attachments. In many instances, their email account might have been hacked.
We all have a part to play in combatting cyber threats. Electric cooperatives and their local and national partners will continue working together to advance cybersecurity defenses for all co-op members and the local communities they serve.
Justin Luebbert writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.