Manager Connection: Cybersecurity Awareness Month

General Manager Syd Briggs

In today’s world, most of us don’t leave the front door unlocked.

We protect our homes, loved ones, and valuables from intruders with locks, alarms, and other security measures. Cybersecurity is no different. It’s the practice of protecting other valuables such as your identity, banking, health records, and other sensitive information from digital attacks and theft.

In addition to pumpkin-spice lattes, crisper air, and Halloween festivities, October is the time of year we recognize Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

While taking necessary steps to protect our personal information is a year-round practice, at Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, we use this time to share helpful cybersecurity reminders across our team of employees.

Given our increased resilience on internet-connected devices and gadgets, this month, I’d like to share a few cybersecurity tips and let you know how Steele-Waseca is working to boost our own cybersecurity efforts.

According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for strengthening cybersecurity and infrastructure protection, these are the four best ways to keep you and your family safe online.

1. Implement multi-factor authentication (also known as two-step verification) on your accounts. The additional layer of protection makes it much harder for criminals to access your information. Even if a hacker obtains your password, they may be unable to access your accounts if multi-step verification is enabled.

2. Update your software. This is one of the easiest ways to protect your personal data. When downloading a software update, make sure it’s coming straight from the company that created it. Beware of pop-ups that request urgent downloads. Better yet, turn on automatic updates.

3. Think before you click. Most successful cyber attacks start with a phishing email. Don’t take the bait when cyber criminals go phishing. Avoid emails (or texts) that look too good to be true, oddly urgent, poorly crafted or include unusual requests.

4. Create strong passwords, using long, unique and complex words or phrases. Consider using a password manager to save time, work across all devices, protect your identity and notify you of potential phishing websites.

For the young people in your household

Just as you would talk with your children about safety in the physical world, discuss ways to stay safe online. Help them understand the public nature of the internet.

Young people need to know early on, that what is shared online stays online and is difficult (if not impossible) to take back. Just as you would guard your money or valuables, children need to learn to guard their personal information, especially on social networks. As a parent or guardian, help your children learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks and gaming sites.

Keeping the electric grid and your data secure

We’re doing our share on the cyber front. Part of offering excellent service is keeping that service secure and reliable. For Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, reliability means repairing wear-and-tear, upgrading our equipment to withstand storms and severe weather, and using technology and best practices to keep our system secure from cybersecurity issues.

We also work together with co-ops across the country to develop new technologies and infrastructure, learn from each other and keep the grid’s network secure.

While we can’t stop a storm or predict every disruption, as a co-op, we do everything we can to keep the lights on and our members protected. Because if we all do our part, our interconnected world will be safer and more secure for everyone.