Cybersecurity Depends on Everyone

October 2018

Technology breaches, including the theft of credit card data and other consumer information, have become increasingly commonplace.

This new reality means that keeping systems secure is not solely the responsibility of information-technology employees. Rather, every individual has a role to play in keeping critical personal and organization data safe from potential breaches.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). Since its inception under leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, observance of NCSAM has helped equip Americans with the resources they need to enhance their online safety and security. Because the human element is often the biggest cybersecurity risk, there are many things that electric cooperative employees and members can do to protect personal data.

Keep your defenses up

• Make sure all computer software –– including your web browser –– has been updated with the latest version. This helps ensure that security patches deployed by information-technology providers can succeed in blocking security threats, including viruses and malware.

• Create a strong password and keep it private. Did you know that it could take up to two centuries to crack a password consisting of 12 characters or more?

• Treat all Wi-Fi networks as a potential security risk. Encrypt sensitive data when using a public Wi-Fi network, and never check financial or other sensitive accounts while on a public network.

Don’t fall for a phish

• Be on the lookout for emails, phone calls and other messages that try to get to secure data. If something seems off, trust your instinct and convey your concerns to a manager or member of the security team.

• Don’t click on links or attached files in emails or texts from senders you don’t know. Instead, report them to your spam filter and delete them. Even if you recognize the sender’s name, check their actual email address and hover over any links before you click to make sure someone isn’t spoofing you!

Co-ops are collaborating

Electric cooperatives have been working together with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) using the Rural Cooperative Cybersecurity Capability Program to better protect their members from security threats. From the smallest co-op with limited technology staff to larger co-ops with more resources, NRECA and America’s electric cooperatives are creating a co-op network that fosters a culture of cybersecurity. Co-op preparations include:

• Monitoring organizational data to ensure identities and financial information are not compromised;

• Implementing rigorous security standards and technology to protect systems;

• Forging close partnerships to protect shared systems; and

• Engaging in active information sharing about threats and vulnerabilities.

To learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit and follow #cyberaware on social media.

Source: The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Arlington, Virginia-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.