Cooperative Cybersecurity

Steve Lentz
Director, Information Technology

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.

Electric co-ops are guided by 7 cooperative principles.  One of these principles, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, is important 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. Electric cooperatives in Ohio work together and with our local generation and transmission cooperative, Buckeye Power, along with our statewide services organization and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association for electric cooperatives. Together, we’re leading efforts to establish relationships, provide tools, and 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. With smart (internet-connected) technologies integrated into many of our homes, whether it be a smart speaker or a connected 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 2-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. 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, threatens negative consequences for not taking immediate action, or displays a sense of urgency, take extra precautions. 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. 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 (VPN), 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 combating 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.