A publication of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives

Cutting Edge
Home | Cutting Edge | Beefing Up Cybersecurity

Beefing Up Cybersecurity

Cooperatives play an important role in safeguarding the grid

January-February 2024

Electric co-ops understand the importance of educating all employees on the latest cybersecurity issues. (Photo courtesy of NRECA)

by Jennah Denney, Contributing Writer

Electric cooperatives recognize the evolving cyberthreat landscape that poses disruptions to the nation’s electric grid. As responsible providers of power to consumer-members, co-ops are taking proactive measures to secure the grid.

Cyberthreats, ranging from phishing to compromised passwords, have the potential to disrupt power reliability. That’s why electric co-ops are working to stay one step ahead by continually assessing vulnerabilities, monitoring emerging threats and implementing cybersecurity defense measures. By securing the grid against cyberthreats, co-ops ensure a more reliable power supply, reducing the risk of disruptions.

Electric co-ops are implementing multiple cybersecurity strategies to utilize a defense-in-depth approach, emphasizing concern for local communities and the importance of reliability for the members they serve.

Electric co-ops are committed to keeping your information secure and your lights on. Photo courtesy of NRECA)

Electric co-ops are deploying advanced monitoring and protection systems that continuously analyze network traffic, detect suspicious activity, and alert security personnel to potential problems. Additionally, co-ops regularly practice security audits to identify vulnerabilities, assess risks, and implement necessary updates and patches to safeguard critical infrastructure.

Recognizing that cybersecurity is a team effort, electric co-ops regularly engage with other co-ops, industry organizations, government agencies and cybersecurity experts to share best practices, develop lessons learned and stay up to date on the latest threats. This kind of collaboration enables them to develop robust cybersecurity measures. Electric co-ops also participate in mutual-aid efforts focused on cybersecurity events, such as the Cyber Mutual Assistance Program. By working together, they are stronger and better prepared.

Electric co-ops also understand the importance of educating all employees on the latest cybersecurity issues, which is why they provide regular trainings to inform co-op staff on best practices and the significance of adhering to security protocols. By cultivating an internal culture of cybersecurity awareness, they are improving cyber knowledge and skills for co-op employees.

In addition to internal measures, co-ops are establishing dedicated cybersecurity points of contact so that members can easily identify individuals to discuss any cyber-related concerns.

Co-op members are regularly targeted by energy scammers, whether through false claims or messages sent as emails, or phone scams from people falsely claiming to represent the co-op. By identifying and reporting these incidents, you can help play an important role in keeping co-op communities safe from cyberthreats and scams.

Electric co-ops remain committed to providing reliable power to the members they serve. Their top priority is to keep your information secure and your lights on.

They will continue working hard to strengthen the grid, keep data safe, and ensure the long-term well-being of local communities. In the face of increasing cyberthreats, these proactive measures provide a foundation for a robust and secure electric grid.

Jennah Denney writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.