Electric cooperatives helped bring electricity to rural America in the 1940s and, today, provide reliable power to more than 40 million people across the country. With more data and information stored online than ever, is your electric cooperative focused enough (or at all) on cybersecurity?
What’s the big deal?
It’s unavoidable – your electric co-op relies on digital data. Member information, passwords, credit card numbers and much more. Nearly every day in the news, you read about large institutions being hacked and losing billions of dollars to data breaches. If your organization is hit once, there’s a higher likelihood it will be targeted again.
What would happen if hackers got their hands on your data?
Nearly every organization acknowledges cyber and member election security, but many may not have a solid strategy and plan that’s kept up-to-date.
The threat is so prevalent, in fact, that the National Information Solutions Cooperative has even launched cybersecurity services specifically for electric co-ops.
When it comes to cybersecurity, what should we focus on?
Your top three priorities, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Cybersecurity Working Group, should be: Protecting sensitive customer data, reliability and productivity.
One area of member data that is often overlooked is election and voter information. Regardless of your methods of voting, members must have confidence in your election security process so they know your results are trustworthy. Any voting techniques utilized by your organization must be independently certified and thoroughly tested. Ultimately, all members should have full confidence that their ballots are confidential and verifiable.
How do we better plan for cybersecurity?
The NRECA offers guides and templates to help you get started on a plan.
When it comes to specific instances such as elections and voter data, do not hesitate to work with a reputable third-party partner. Just know what to look for:
* Top level web hosting and encryption services including data co-location.
* 24/7 monitoring and response with third-party auditing.
* Secure processes and software that is SOC 2 compliant.
In addition to providing online elections, Survey and Ballot Systems can talk you through the extensive security framework necessary to protect your vulnerable elections and member data.
For more information and ideas on how to protect your electric co-op from hackers, contact SBS we’re here to help.