Imagine that you break a bowl. Say it sat on the edge of your kitchen counter, got knocked off, and cracked in two. A few dabs of superglue could put it back together and make it usable again, but it would never be the same.
Now imagine that bowl is the trust of your electric co-op members. Sure, if that trust is broken there is a chance you may be able to fix it, but it will never be as strong as it once was. This is one of the many reasons it’s imperative for your co-op to take control of your cybersecurity measures to ensure member data and co-op networks are safe.
When the first electric co-op was founded in Arkansas in 1937, cybersecurity was nonexistent. After all, people didn’t start using the internet until 1983. While protecting online data wasn’t yet an issue, gaining and keeping members’ trust was. Through working to gain their member’s trust for over 80 years, electric co-ops have steadily built up a successful relationship with members, helping them feel a sense of ownership within the co-op.
But that trust can vanish in seconds after a cybersecurity breach.
The Effects of a Cyber Attack
It’s important to consider the effects that a cybersecurity attack can have on your co-op before it happens. You may encounter staff losses and financial hardships, but even worse, your reputation is at risk.
Once your members lose faith, they may demand their co-op leadership be replaced. A political movement could take place resulting in board turn-overs and cooperative leadership replacements.
A perfect example of how a security breach can cause financial hardships can be seen in the cybersecurity attack on Equifax in September of 2017. After hackers gained access to their system, 147 million people’s data was exposed. Eager to compensate their members, a settlement of over $400 million was compensated to customers after an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. When people look back at this attack, do they blame the faceless hackers or do they blame Equifax for not keeping their information safe?
A breach of Equifax scale is unlikely but nevertheless expensive. Aside from the trust issues, if you were required to pay compensation, would your co-op have the ability to recover from a cyber attack after making restitution to your membership?
Even if trust has been broken, there are steps you can take to gain it back.
What’s most important in these situations is honesty. Twisting the truth will only damage your reputation in the long run. Be transparent and clear about the incident. Explain what happened, how it happened, and what you are doing to fix it. Remember, when it comes to cybersecurity attacks, it’s the co-op (not the hackers) who are at fault.
How SkyHelm Can Help
There are steps you can take to prevent the loss of trust. The first step is understanding the cybersecurity posture of your co-op so you know what steps to take on the journey to ensuring your co-op is as safe as it possibly can be. Taking the Rural Cooperative Cybersecurity Capabilities Program (RC3) is a great way to gain this understanding.
Developed by the NRECA, the program was funded by a grant from the Department of Energy to understand the cybersecurity posture of an electric co-op at a specific point in time. Utilizing a framework brought forward by the National Institute of Standards in Technology, RC3 assesses your co-op’s ability to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from cybersecurity attacks. The RC3 assessment gives co-ops a score out of 500. The closer the co-op is to 500, the more secure they are. SkyHelm has helped many co-ops take and understand the output of the RC3 assessment. We helped one co-op improve their score from 126 to 426 out of 500 in just two months!
Whatever your electric co-op’s RC3 score, there is always room for improvement. The only way to prevent a cybersecurity attack is to have the right security measures in place to begin with. SkyHelm specializes in protecting electric co-ops by using our purpose-built cybersecurity platform, TITAN, the only one specifically designed for electric co-ops.
We understand that you may not have a designated IT team at your electric co-op. Monitoring your electric co-op’s cybersecurity is time-consuming. And most team members are already wearing multiple hats. In response to this, we have developed an easy-to-use dashboard that shows the real-time performance and security of your network. Now you can easily see the health of your network on your desktop, tablet, or phone.
TITAN is not limited to real-time network and security analytics. Its vulnerability detection software is constantly scanning your network to find weaknesses that hackers can exploit. This software generates a report that tells you exactly what vulnerabilities exist AND how to patch them. Your network is constantly changing, so once it completes a scan, it starts the process over again immediately. If you need help addressing these vulnerabilities, our security ops team is here to assist you.
By choosing SkyHelm for your cybersecurity needs, you can rest easy knowing your network and your member’s data is safe, and with that, ensure you keep their trust. Get in touch today to see how we can protect your electric co-op from cyberthreats.