Northwestern Electric Cooperative (NWEC), an Oklahoma energy provider to more than 54,000 citizens with over 10,000 members in seven counties, has an IT staff of two who support 50 employees.
In addition to providing safe and reliable service to its members, NWEC is also a link in the nation’s oil and gas energy supply chain. Hardening the security profile of its information and operational technology (IT and OT) is essential.
Like many electric co-ops, NWEC’s IT staff was faced with handling a daily onslaught of cyberattacks and threats on top of its normal IT and OT responsibilities. Electric cooperatives are seen as low-hanging fruit by state-sponsored actors, so the IT department needed a way to identify, assess, and handle those critical cyberthreats. At the same time, routine tasks that keep the co-op’s systems operating smoothly had to be done while maintaining regulatory compliance. Under the best of circumstances, cybersecurity was a time-consuming and daunting task that drained their limited resources. SkyHelm was tasked with enhancing the reliability and cybersecurity of the IT infrastructure that supports NWEC’s power distribution grid. They needed to increase the electric cooperative’s operational efficiency by eliminating manually-intensive and time-consuming tasks.
To effectively address NWEC’s goals and challenges, both parties agreed to develop a solution based on strict criteria. The new services had to:
Automatically build an asset inventory to ensure everything is monitored
Systematically detect and provide alerts concerning anomalies and potential threats
Include round-the-clock security using external SOC resources that could keep up with the abundance of data
Replace manual and sometimes redundant processes with automation capabilities
Seamlessly interface with NWEC’s existing systems
Be scalable and adapt to future development (such as SCADA, radio) and support
SkyHelm implemented its TITAN CyberSuite, a highly-automated cybersecurity solution that allowed the elimination of numerous stand-alone tools while greatly enhancing NWEC’s cybersecurity posture.
“SkyHelm’s TITAN CyberSuite managed cybersecurity proactively monitors our critical infrastructure, integrating a powerful suite of tools into a single ‘security health’ dashboard,” said Curt Cloyd, NWEC IT director. “Suspicious activity and systems health is also monitored 24/7 by SkyHelm’s Security Operations Center, which has intrinsic knowledge of how a cooperative network should behave versus anomalies that might show up from prospective hackers.”
The resulting productivity increase for NWEC’s IT department is undeniable. Staff estimates SkyHelm’s technology saves approximately six to eight hours a week previously spent conducting manually-intense cybersecurity actions. Another estimated two to four hours per week is saved by not having to investigate potential threats the SkyHelm SOC identifies far more quickly. The SOC is also able to verify the level of criticality for those threats to save time chasing false positives.
“This solution has enhanced my productivity in supporting all NWEC departments by automating and consolidating many network security tools to ensure our network, data, and key services are secure from potential external threats,” NWEC’s IT Director, Curt Cloyd said.
If you have questions or would like more information, contact SkyHelm at 1.888.780.8520 or [email protected]. We look forward to speaking with you.
– Curt Cloyd, NWEC IT Director