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Cooperative Cybersecurity

Reduce digital threats by thinking before you start clicking

October 2022

Electric cooperatives are working together to improve the overall cyber landscape.

by Justin Luebbert, Contributing Columnist

As cybersecurity threats continue to grow at home and in the workplace, it’s important to know what we can do, 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. 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.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

A virtual private network adds a layer of privacy protection to your online interactions.

Electric cooperatives are working together and with their local generation and transmission cooperatives, statewide organizations and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the trade association for electric cooperatives. Together, they’re leading efforts to establish relationships, provide tools and share resources to clean up and improve the overall cyber landscape.

You can help, too. Good cyber hygiene is equally important at home and in our personal lives. With internet-connected technologies integrated into many of our homes, whether it be a smart speaker or an appliance, it’s essential to take steps to protect our devices and personal data.

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.

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. Many password managers will let you know if your existing passwords are weak, reused or have been associated with a data breach.

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. Take extra precaution if you receive a text message or email that seems too good to be true or threatens negative consequences for not taking immediate action. 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.

Remember, it’s important to practice good cyber hygiene at home, in the workplace and even on the go. Be vigilant as you connect to outside networks and carefully read emails before clicking or opening links and attachments. Consider using a virtual private network, which encrypts your online activities while you’re working on the go or even at home. A VPN adds a layer of privacy protection to your online interactions by routing your traffic through an encrypted connection.

We all have a part to play in fighting 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.